The question of the day Wednesday had to be how could a team that had a veteran quarterback the past two seasons with the full complement of OTA sessions break out of the huddle as if it were groping for the door in a middle-of-the-night fire alarm with a bevy of penalties for delay of game and false starts?
And how could the same team with a rookie quarterback this year score on its first three series of the season and commit nary a false peep in said rookie's first NFL half without one OTA?
On the road?
A lot of the credit has to go to offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese, but said rookie Andy Dalton got a lot of kudos, too, on Wednesday.
"Heads up to the youngster. Dalton did a great job of getting us in and out of stuff, getting us in the right checks, said left tackle Andrew Whitworth. "We have said all along we've told people that is what he is great at. He's great at orchestrating the offense and putting you in the right places. As a young guy you can tell he is calm and cool and knows when things are coming. That's the good part about him. I'm sure there's things he can do better and things we can do better but it was a great job of eliminating penalties, executing well and that gives us the ability to play the style of football we want to play where we are not having first and 15s, first and 20s, lots of penalties; we have a chance to go play physical football, which is the style of this football team. "
In 2010, the Bengals cut their NFL-high 15 delay-of-game penalties to three. But how many times did quarterback Carson Palmer have to call timeout before the play clock expired? And their 24 false starts in 2009 and 22 in 2010 were third and fourth in the AFC, respectively.
Running back Cedric Benson thinks there are some differences.
"I think they're just getting (the play) in faster. I'm sure Jay knows what he wants to call before the whistle is blown on the (previous) play," Benson said.
On a day former Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco was getting ripped for not knowing the New England playbook, it was recalled that he also had problems with pre-snap penalties in Cincinnati.
"Because you had some challenges out on the edges you had to deal with; you don't have those anymore," Benson said without naming names from the previous seasons. "(Now) guys line up and generally know what they need to do and what the task is on each play."
What Dalton did Sunday was historic. The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy discovered that not even Palmer, Ken Anderson or Boomer Esiason had led the Bengals on three straight scoring drives to open a season on the road.
"That's one thing that we're trying to do – get the play in quick and getting it called quick so we have a lot of time to see what the defense is doing," Dalton said. "So we were able to do that, and it gives you an advantage when you're up there."
INJURY UPDATE: Not dressed was left end Robert Geathers (shoulder) while safety Taylor Mays (knee) worked on the side and outside linebacker Dontay Moch (foot) watched the linebackers. Guard Otis Hudson returned to his first practice since injuring his knee in the first week of training camp and was listed as limited. Also limited were left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) and defensive linemen Frostee Rucker (illness) and Michael Johnson (groin).
Whitworth left the stadium Sunday wearing a boot, but he said it was just a precaution. And it looks like the sack ace he was going to match up against this week, the Broncos' Elvis Dumervil, won't be able to go with his injured shoulder.
LIFT OFF: Running back Cedric Benson loves to do extra work in the weight room. After meeting the media for his weekly Wednesday confab, Benson headed to a regularly scheduled lift. But he was going to head back in there after practice, then hit it twice more Thursday, and one more time Friday. And he'd already been in there Monday and Tuesday.
"With as much as I'm going to get the ball this year," he said, "I need to get in there as often I as I can."
But he loves it. Benson also loves the fact he's leading the NFL with 25 carries and that he's a got a good enough relationship with Gruden that the OC can tweak him about how much he wants the ball.
"He's a jokester. Great sense of humor. I can't remember the last time I had that type of a relationship like that with an offensive coordinator," Benson said. "That's good. When you're a focal point or a big factor in an offense or on a team, you always want to have a relationship with your coordinator because he's the one calling the plays and coordinating the plays and you always want to be on the same page. I think we've got a pretty good relationship thus far and I enjoy the guy."
Benson is looking for his first back-to-back 100-yard efforts since 2009, when he sandwiched the bye week with big Paul Brown Stadium games against the Bears and Ravens. With the Broncos right where they finshed last year against the run after the Monday night mauling by the Raiders (next-to-last in the league), it is not far-fetched.
It would be Benson's third back-to-back 100-yard game in Cincy and that's not to be underestimated.
Rudi Johnson only went back-to-back twice, in 2005 against the Browns and Lions, and 2003 against the Texans and Chiefs. And the great Corey Dillon did it just four times. Benson would do this one with both on the road and the last guy to do that was Harold Green in 1991 in Dallas and Buffalo.
JENNINGS UP: It looks like cornerback Kelly Jennings is going to make his Bengals debut in Denver with the release of cornerback Rico Murray to make room for tight end Donald Lee.
(Is anybody going to be surprised Thursday if Murray resurfaces Thursday on the practice squad?)
Jennings practiced for the second time Wednesday since getting over his hamstring problem that didn't hamstring the trade with Seattle late in the preseason. He knows he's here to help on third down, specifically to cover outside receivers.
The Bengals lost a special teams guy in Murray, so it remains to be seen if they put Jennings on special teams or if they give safety Chris Crocker a break from playing the slot corner like he did last Sunday in Cleveland and move cornerbacks Leon Hall or Nate Clements into the slot and either Jennings or Morgan Trent outside.
Either way, even though Jennings says this defense has a higher learning curve than the one in Seattle that has been simplified for youth, he can play as many snaps as the team wants.
"All that said, I just need to cover the guy in front of me," he said. "Or just look over at the safety and based on his checks I can kind of tell."
It's not Jennings' first rodeo. In his sixth season, he played on three division winners in Seattle and liked the looks of the win in Cleveland. He supposedly went from one rebuilding job to another, but he's not buying that after three weeks of watching defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer in action.
"Great defensive coach that he is, you have to play it correctly and learn the defense. I don't see it as rebuilding, I see it as getting in the middle of a great defense," Jennings said. "How you respond in the fourth quarter shows what kind of team you have."
KEL-LEE CLONE? Guys like Jennings and newly-signed tight end Donald Lee are driving up the experience of the roster. They are the 14th and 15th Bengals with at least six years experience. Lee is in his ninth season and the last game he played in was the Packers victory in the Super Bowl.
He figures he played about a dozen snaps that night in Jerry Jones' palace and said, "It was a dream come true. I wish every player could experience it. It was like magic."
Lee didn't have a catch, but that's not why the Bengals got him. With the decision not to bring up Chase Coffman from the practice squad to be the third tight end, they clearly were looking for a better blocker and they think they've got it in the 6-4, 248-pound Lee.
(How long is Coffman for the practice squad now?)
Lee isn't the killer blocker that the Bengals lost when Reggie Kelly opted to wait for another offer rather than return to the Bengals at what was believed to be the minimum or close to it. Kelly ended up in Atlanta and, ironically, the man he recruited to replace him at Mississippi State is here now in the person of Lee.
"That's my guy," Lee said. "One of the nicest guys I've ever met ... he's one of the reasons I went there. So nice and laid back and always very positive."
Lee sounds like a team guy right out of the Kelly mold, but if he's not the blocker his guy is, then he's more than willing to do it if that's what the team wants. He's not a neophyte to catching. In his first 11 seasons, Kelly had 194 catches for 1,750 yards and five touchdowns. In his first eight seasons, Lee had 198 balls for 1,875 yards and 19 TDs.
Lee is one of three Bengals to play in a Super Bowl along with Benson (Bears loss to the Colts) and safety Gibril Wilson (Giants win over Patriots).