They are two back-of-the-roster signings that brought former players back into the fold and much appreciated by Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis even if they may not impact Sunday’s game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 12; click here for tickets) at Paul Brown Stadium against the Steelers.
Tight end Matt Lengel, who spent a year-and-a-half on the Bengals practice squad after they signed him undrafted out of Eastern Kentucky, and safety Demetrious Cox, a star of the Bengals’ 2017 training camp as an undrafted rookie out of Michigan State, re-surfaced in the locker room before Wednesday’s practice. Lengel took running back Thomas Rawls’ spot on the roster and Cox grabbed cornerback C.J. Goodwin’s spot on the practice squad when he bolted for Dallas.
Lewis observed Lengel, plucked by the Patriots from the practice squad during the 2016 season, is a big (6-7, 265 pounds) ) and physical blocker on the offensive line that they need with Tyler Eifert on injured reserve and Tyler Kroft’s foot in a boot. Cox, claimed by the Panthers before the Bengals could put him on the squad last year after they released him on Cut Down Day, led all Cincy rookies with ten tackles during the preseason. He spent last season in Carolina and played four games before he moved to the Arizona practice squad this season and got released last week.
“We had plans for him,” said Lewis of their thoughts before the Panthers nixed them.
With the Bengals special teams struggling, Lewis pointed to how important the kicking game is in their roster decisions and weekly active lists. He said it’s a big reason Lengel and Cox are back in the building.
- It looks like running back Giovani Bernard (knee sprain) won’t play for the second straight week. He went to the rehab field carrying a brace. But wide receiver John Ross (groin) is giving it a shot and was on the field stretching at the beginning of practice and marked as limited, Kroft and left guard Clint Boling (hip) didn't practice.
- Greater Pittsburgh native Tyler Boyd, who grew up on the Heinz Field doorstep in Clairton, Pa., leads the Bengals with 30 catches, knows one thing. Bengals-Steelers is a slug fest, but he doesn’t think the new player rules are going to play a role Sunday.
“I think there will be ups and downs too, but whoever is the last man standing is going to win,” Boyd said. “Whoever is going to get hit the hardest is going to lose, so we want to be the team to outwork and outhit them.”
It seems ever since Steelers defensive lineman Keith Gary sprained the neck of the Bengals’ Ken Anderson on one of the most vicious QB hits in memory 35 years ago Wednesday on Monday Night Football, there is always extracurricular buzz around Bengals-Steelers. This year it’s about last year’s blind-side hit by Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict that knocked him out of that game and the next two with a concussion.
“It's definitely a different game now. The NFL changed the game a lot,” Boyd said of the rules. “You can't really hit the guys how you want to. You can't blindside guys, like the hit JuJu had on Burfict. At the end of the day, playing against the Steelers, I don't think guys will care. They are still going to go out to try to kill us and we are going to try to kill them. It's going to be fast, penalties all over the place, but hopefully they catch more penalties than we do. Hopefully we don't get any of them. We hit them clean and let them try to retaliate and let the refs catch them but whoever out-schemes and out-executes is going to win.” ...
- Before middle linebacker Preston Brown signed with the Bengals in March, he had never missed a game with the Bills during his four seasons in the NFL. But since he’s been here he’s missed two games and parts of two others with an ankle injury. He had to sit for a spell late in the first half last Sunday when he re-aggravated his right ankle sprain. He was limited Wednesday, as was pass rusher Carl Lawson (ankle), cornerback William Jackson (knee) right end Michael Johnson (knee)
“It is the most frustrating thing I've ever dealt with in football. When you're starting to feel a little better, you get hit again and you've got to basically just start all over,: Brown said. I'm hoping to maintain this strength. I'm going to five different doctors during the week trying to find ways to activate different muscles, do different things, different therapies to get it right. So hopefully this Sunday I can play the whole game for once.”