BY GEOFF HOBSON
No one questions that first-round pick Peter Warrick is giving it the old college try. In fact, he may be trying too hard to find that magic he had in college as he struggles with a case of the drops.
So maybe it's fitting Bengals receivers coach Steve Mooshagian went back to his college coaching days Wednesday to help Warrick find the handle.
Mooshagian once had five NFL receivers on the same Fresno State team, including former Bengal David Dunn. After watching Warrick drop 10 balls in his first eight games, Mooshagian recalled what he did for a crew that caught 94 percent of their catch-able balls.
"A series of hand-eye drills," Mooshagian said. "We teach our guys, 'Catch, tuck and run.' Peter is doing, "Run, tuck and catch.' It's just a matter of catching it first."
Mooshagian's goal Wednesday was to get Warrick thinking the first half of the season is over. The last eight games are a clean slate. Then Mooshagian took Warrick to a goal post on the practice field and put him behind it for a series of simple drills in which he whipped the ball near the pole on its way to Warrick.
In one drill, Mooshagian has Warrick standing behind the post on either side to catch his throws. In another, Warrick runs in place when the ball is thrown by the post. In another, Warrick starts with his back to the coach, takes a few steps, and turns behind the post to catch the ball. In another series, Warrick again starts with his back to Mooshagian, and then runs a crossing pattern behind the post.
"You treat the pole like a defender," said Warrick, still wondering how he dropped last Sunday's crossing pattern in Cleveland that could have been a five-yard throw and a 29-yard touchdown run.
"You've got to watch the ball all the way. Moosh can throw it hard, so I've got to be careful. I'm just trying too hard. I'm running before I've got it. I need to catch it, put it away and run, but I'm doing the opposite."
Wednesday was a breeze. On Thursday, Mooshagian plans to make Warrick wear a helmet because he's drilling the ball.
"I like to throw them because most guys hit the pole," Mooshagian said. "I like to get close to him and throw it as hard as I can and just graze the post. He has to see the pole before he finds the ball. He has to train his eyes to find the ball with a blur."
It's strange, but Mooshagian gives high grades to Warrick for everything but catching the ball. He says Warrick is the best blocker he's ever had and says he's a B-plus runner.
"He's always in good position," Mooshagian said. . .
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"All his drops have been easy balls," Mooshagian said. "He's made all the tough catches. Take away the drops and he gets an 'A' for what he's done all-around and the catching is going to come."
Besides running and tucking, Mooshagian says Warrick's other problem is how hard he comes back for the ball.
"His body is out of control so that he's unable to adjust," Mooshagian said. "Adjust to the ball that's not so much an errant throw, but is outside the framework of his body."
Warrick is keeping his cool. The Bengals tried to get him the ball in a variety of ways in Cleveland, but Mooshagian thought quarterback Akili Smith rushed a reverse handoff that resulted in a fumble and 13-yard loss.
Warrick says the toughest adjustment from Florida State to the NFL isn't even on the field. In college, the game plans hardly changed so you just practiced. Here, there's a new game plan every Wednesday.
"It's going to get worked out," Warrick said. "I'm young, but I don't want to keep using that as an excuse. I just need to let the game come to me. It will get turned around."