Middle linebacker Preston Brown has never missed one of his 65 NFL games, but the Bengals may not know until Thursday night's game against the Ravens (8:20 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) if he's available as they check out the ankle he injured in the first half in Sunday's win in Indianapolis.
It was another ankle injury that dictated defensive coordinator Teryl Austin go with second-year man Hardy Nickerson instead of veteran Vincent Rey for the bulk of Brown's snaps that included the last drive. Rey played 23 snaps on special teams against the Colts, but none from scrimmage in his first game back since spraining his ankle in the pre-season opener. Austin said Monday morning it's unclear if it will be Rey or Nickerson if Brown can't go.
"I think Hardy was more ready to go in for this game and we'll see how it shakes out this week if one of those guys has to play, who will be ahead of the other," Austin said …
According to profootballtalk.com, the NFL said that Bengals safety Shawn Williams' ejection for hitting Andrew Luck in the head is an unnecessary roughness penalty rather than a violation of the helmet foul. Austin is trying to make sure that flag and the two roughing the passer calls on left end Carlos Dunlap don't get repeated.
"I don't think it was meant with any malice. I just think our technique has to be better. If our technique is better maybe there is an opportunity to avoid having to be judged by New York," Austin said of the Williams play.
As for the Dunlap calls …
"That's the one that's a little bit harder because you don't practice that with our quarterback. What you've got to be able to do is when we make contact with the guy be able to take him down and move him to the side or move ourselves to the side," Austin said. "It's an unnatural move when you are trying to tackle a big guy. We just have to work at it because those are the rules and we have to be able to abide by the rules or if not we are going to continue to get these."
Austin wasn't too sure about the unnecessary roughness call cornerback William Jackson picked up defending Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton on a five-yard slant for a touchdown. Hilton got inside Jackson and Jackson tried to break it up going over the back.
"To me, that's a bang-bang play. I don't think William was trying to lead with his helmet or anything," Austin said. "I think he was trying to make, get to the point and break the pass up. But they called it, so I don't, that one I don't think. … That was one where they were throwing a slant and we're trying to break on the slant and try to get there and there's a collision. I didn't see any malice in that one, but again, I'm not the league office."
Here's why Austin has always been popular among his players. Asked if Jackson should have been closer to Hilton, Austin, a secondary coach for three different Super Bowl teams, took the blame.
"I may have gotten a call in a bit late, they were on the ball and our guys were just getting out there so I'll take that one for me," Austin said. "I won't put that on William. Our guys are scrambling there and I've got to do a better job."
According to prootballfocus.com, the Bengals blitzed Luck 11 times on Sunday. It wasn't very often that Austin's two predecessors, Mike Zimmer and Paul Guenther, reached double-digit blitzes. Different ways to skin a cat. In one of Zimmer's last Paul Brown Stadium games as defensive coordinator in 2013, Luck pitched four TD passes without getting sacked, but barely averaged seven yards per attempt with the same idea. Don't give up a big one
One of those secondaries Austin coached won a Super Bowl in Baltimore and how many times have we said this since Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis ran the Ravens defense at the turn of the century? On Thursday the Bengals face the NFL's top-ranked defense in the wake of Sunday's 47-3 dissection of the Bills.
"It looks like a typical Ravens team," Austin said. "They're going to run the ball, they're going to pound you, be physical, take shots down the field. On defense they held Buffalo to three points. I'm sure they're probably playing defense like they know it over there."
Jessie Bates, the Bengals' first Opening Day rookie starting safety since Tremain Mack in 1997, passed Austin's inspection. Bates was one of three defenders to play all 82 snaps.
"He was in the spots he was supposed to be and he did a good job communicating and he did a good job tackling back there. So I thought he did all the things we thought he would do," Austin said. "You're right, when you lose a veteran presence next to him and you put he and Clayton in there and they hadn't worked a whole bunch together because it's usually Shawn and Jessie. So I thought they both did a good job in terms of adapting and making sure they got the communication right and playing well."