Less is more when it comes to the Bengals defensive line rotation.
Just ask the first man off the bench in Wallace Gilberry after he played less than half the snaps in the win over San Diego last Sunday. Gilberry took 28 snaps, or 46 percent of the plays, and logged a huge sack and forced fumble in the first quarter. He now has one sack this season after having 1.5 all last year despite playing 840 snaps, or about 73 percent of the plays. In the previous two seasons he had 14 sacks on just 836 plays.
"Nobody wants to play less," Gilberry said this week. Some may want to do that. I'm not going to beg to differ because it does show. But at the same time it's always good to be out there making an impact for the whole game."
For the first time since right end Michael Johnson departed after the 2013 season and since right end Will Clarke arrived in the second round of the 2014 draft, the rotation against the Chargers was more balanced in the style of 2012 and 2013, when the Bengals racked up a total of 94 sacks. They had a league-low of 20 last season and Gilberry is all in.
A lot of guys would be grousing about the return of Johnson or the drafting of Clarke or both, but Gilberry remains one of the highly-regarded locker-room elders that has defined these last five seasons for the Bengals.
"Will Clarke needs a lot of work. A lot of work," said Gilberry, since, of course, Clarke sat right there at his locker and could hear every word. "He doesn't brush his teeth in the morning. If he brushed his teeth in the morning, this area would be a lot friendlier."
His needling of the kid done, Gilberry ventured into his play.
"He's gained the trust and confidence of the coaches," Gilberry said. "He put on weight during the offseason (15-20 pounds to get to 290) and you can tell. He's strong against the run and he's listening to the coaching and he understands what they want."
On Sunday Clarke played the most of his career with 18 snaps and ended up with half a sack while left end Carlos Dunlap added 1.5 and tackle Geno Atkins one. It was their first four-sack game since they had four against the Vikings at the end of the 2013 season.
Johnson (50), Dunlap (48) and Atkins (44), were the bellwethers against San Diego just like they were in '12 and '13.
"It plays a part," Gilberry said of the rest. "A lot of it is adjusting your mind and conditioning. Last year I felt fine through the whole year. I could have been in better condition. I didn't expect to play as much as I did. This year it's a totally different situation. I got myself in tip-top shape, but we added another D-lineman when Mike came back and Will and it's allowing us to be even fresher up front. Hopefully those sacks will come in bunches as they say. But if not, we're off to a great start."
REPORT SAYS WHIT BACK: No confirmation on either side from the ESPN report that Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth and the Bengals have agreed to a one-year, $9 million extension through 2016.
But with the Bengals preparing for Sunday's game in Baltimore (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), the earliest something would emerge officially is after the appointment at M&T Bank Stadium.
With the Bengals drafting Cedric Ogbuehi in the first round back in April, the Bengals figure to have their left tackle of the future and on Dec. 12, 2016, Whitworth turns 35.
If Whitworth plays in the remaining 30 games between now and the end of the 2016 season, he'll have played the fourth most games by an offensive lineman in the history of the franchise at 168. That would be behind only Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz (185), right tackle Willie Anderson (181), and center-guard Bruce Kozerski (172).
With Ogbuehi still rehabbing from ACL surgery and not eligible to practice until Oct. 19, it's unclear at what point he would be ready to take over the position. Whitworth, Profootballfocus.com's No. 1 pass-protecting tackle last season, is obviously the man the rest of the way and they can slowly break in Ogbuehi next season.
BIRTHDAY WEEK: Sunday's head coaches share a birthday and on Wednesday while they prepared to play each other, the Bengals' Marvin Lewis turned 57 while the Ravens' John Harbaugh turned 53. They've faced each other 16 times, but this was the first time their birthday fell during a week they faced off.
Forget Father Time. Lewis had to worry about left end Carlos Dunlap. At the end of stretching exercises before Wednesday's practice, Dunlap gave Lewis an ice water shower. But the most surprising thing to Lewis was the role of cornerback Leon Hall, the quiet nine-year veteran.
"I can't believe Leon was his straight man," Lewis said. "He came over, asked me a question and got me distracted."