Right tackle La'el Collins missed his second straight practice with back soreness Thursday, but head coach Zac Taylor said he expects him on the field at Friday morning's practice "and we'll see how it feels," for Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) against the Jets in New York.
Taylor terms it "back soreness," and doesn't know if it is definitely related to the back problem that he first had in between spring ball and training camp and took him out of the first month of the preseason.
With Isaiah Prince on injured reserve, Taylor indicated it would be Hakeem Adeniji or D'Ante Smith if Collins can't go, but Taylor said after Thursday's practice he feels good about Collins' prospects of playing.
JOE LEADING BIG SIX: When Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow threw his 50th touchdown pass Sunday in Dallas, he was the seventh fastest in the history of the NFL to do it in his 28th game and he tied former Bengal Carson Palmer.
The next closest Bengal is Jeff Blake with 45 touchdown passes in his first 28 games. At this career juncture, Burrow leads over the Bengals Big Six (Burrow, Blake, Palmer, Andy Dalton, Boomer Esiason, Ken Anderson) in most of the categories. He's thrown for 1,157 more yards than Palmer, thrown 30 more passes than Blake, completed 84 more passes than Palmer and has thrown fewer interceptions than any of the six but Ken Anderson (23-22). His 97.8 passer rating is seven points better than Palmer and his 67.8 completion percentage is three points better than Palmer. Burrow's yards per attempt of 7.7 is tied with Esiason for longest.
BURROW'S BLUEPRINT: Burrow has lost three straight games just once in his career and he's been pretty clear this week about how he thinks his offense can avoid another one Sunday.
First quarter points on first-and-10. No penalties.
Five of the 11 penalties have been false starts on the offense, four on the offensive line
"You're not going to be able to play vertical if you're down by 14 points," Burrow said. "Defenses are too good, the scheme is too good, coaches understand how to eliminate that if they want to."
Burrow mentioned the run game several times and that's been almost as mystifying as the pass game. Opposing defenses have played enough zone that running back Joe Mixon leads the NFL in carries with 46, but he's averaging just three yards per carry and that includes a 31-yard run.
After practice Wednesday, offensive line coach Frank Pollack said zone defenses like the version of the Tampa Two the Cowboys used last Sunday can be difficult to run against because of the activity of the linebackers and secondary.
"Rod Marinelli, a long-time defensive coordinator and one my favorite guys, always said the best run defense is Tampa Two," Pollack said. "There's a lot of variety to that. They move, they pirate. Some teams play hard-ball corners or knife corners, edge-setters who present like they're pressed, but they're coming. They're just reading the run. They pirate linebackers. Just more movement in a variety of things. We've been getting a lot of Tampa."
Mixon, who has one more carry than Tampa Bay's Leonard Fournette, is on pace to set the Bengals record with 391 carries, 30 more than Rudi Johnson's record set in 2004, and 99 shy of his own record of 292, set last season.
"The biggest thing," Burrow said, "is we've got to start stronger and not beat ourselves because then the check downs are not when we're down 11, 14 points. Checking the ball down is a positive for the defense. We need to get back to being able to run the ball, play-action. Check downs are great (when) we're playing from a lead."
FLAG WATCH: Last season the Bengals were the NFL's least penalized team. With 11 this season they are middle of the pack and four ahead of last season. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has noticed the three offsides calls against his guys, one each from each position group in linebacker Germaine Pratt and slot cornerback Mike Hilton in Dallas and left end Sam Hubbard in the opener.
"We were the least penalized team, but we are finding some penalties this year," Anarumo said. "Putting them back in third-and-5 where you don't get a chance to rush on third-and-5 because the ball is getting out. Third and 8, third and 10, third and 12, you get a chance to get a sack."
ASIASI POISED: With tight end Drew Sample headed to injured reserve, it looks like Devin Asiasi is going to become the first of the Bengals' three cutdown waiver claims to be active on game day at MetLife.
Asiasi, a third-year player who was a third-round draft pick of the 2020 Patriots out of UCLA, has played just a dozen snaps since that rookie season because of injury. His last game as a rookie came against the Jets in a 28-14 win at New England he played 35 snaps and he says he doesn't see much difference in the Jets scheme even though head coach Robert Saleh got the job a few weeks after that game.
"It helps to be familiar with how the front and the linebackers play," said Asiasi, who says he's pretty comfortable with a playbook he received three weeks ago. "It's coming together. I think the biggest thing is repetition and going out on the field and being able to see the defense and how they react to certain things."
Sample is a tough loss because he's a good blocker and the Bengals are looking to shore up their protection and getting that running game going. Although tight ends coach James Casey is left with two guys behind starter Hayden Hurt who haven't played very much, he thinks they have the talent to take advantage of the opportunity.
Mitchell Wilcox, a 2020 undrafted free agent, has played 105 snaps at tight end, 21 this season and 19 last week when Sample got hurt. A core special teamer from the Super Bowl team, Wilcox is trying to get a niche.
"He's still here for a reason," Casey said. "He's got talent."
During the 2020 draft, Casey was drawn to Asiasi's physicality and his 6-3, 260-pound powerful frame that he thinks matches up well on the edge.
"He's one of those well-rounded guys I like. He can run routes and catch it as well as block. You can put him in the game and he can do more than one thing," Casey said. "He's smart and he cares about it, which is the biggest thing. I think he'll surprise some people with his speed and movement."
Although running back Samaje Perine had Sunday's block of the game when he replaced Sample on the two-point conversion and kept Cowboys sack ace Micah Parsons clear of Burrow, he can't be a tight end every snap.
"You have to have that length," Casey said. "It's no coincidence tight ends are in the 6-3, 260 range. They've got to be able to block the edge. If they're not, they're not going to hold up to those guys every play."
Asiasi said he not only feels comfortable in the playbook, but also in the locker room. Special teams captain Michael Thomas has made it a point to come by and talk a few times about what might unfold for him in the kicking game and Burrow frequently talks to the tight ends as a group.
"Good kid. Confident kid. All these guys rally to him, so that's a real good thing," Asiasi said. "The thing I really like about these guys and this team is they all seem to look out for each other, help each other, in the tight end room, the special teams room, whatever it is."