Skip to main content

Quick Hits: Hart Deals With Illness But Signs OK: Mixon Steps Up To Treadmill 

Bobby Hart, here in the opener, didn't practice Thursday because of illness.
Bobby Hart, here in the opener, didn't practice Thursday because of illness.

_Right tackle Bobby Hart missed Thursday's practice with an illness, but all signs point to him playing Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Carolina. It's a little bit more unclear with two defensive starters when right end Michael Johnson (knee) and middle linebacker Preston Brown (ankle) were limited for the second straight day.

_Both running backs who were limited Wednesday went full Thursday as starter Giovani Bernard (knee) and Thomas Rawls (cramps) prepped for a Carolina defense that allowed 170 yards on 5.3 yards per carry Sunday in the 31-24 loss in Atlanta. Back-up slot cornerback Tony McRae (knee) also went from limited to full.

_Two guys definitely out for Sunday are running back Joe Mixon (knee) and rookie center Billy Price (foot). Five days off his scope and Mixon is looking chipper and optimistic. He says he simulated running Thursday with a stint on the zero-gravity treadmill: "Feel great. Doing some striders and getting in a little conditioning."

_Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has 100 yards rushing to lead his team, which means he not only has more yards than his own running back (Christian McCaffrey's 87), but also more than Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (92), New England running back Rex Burkhead (86) and Eagles running back Jay Ajayi (85).

It is also means Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is emphasizing tackling the brute strength of the 6-5, 260-pound Newton. But he also has to make sure they don't run afoul of the "roughing the quarterback," craze that has hit NFL officiating. Bengals strong safety Shawn Williams isn't the only guy wondering what he has to do. (See Matthews, Clay).

"We just have to keep coaching it and try to abide by the rules," Austin said. "There is nothing else to say other than we're trying not to get a penalty."

_Last year the Bengals finished dead last in the NFL in number of offensive snaps. After the first two weeks of this season the Bengals are 25th even though offensive coordinator Bill Lazor likes up tempo. But he's looking more at results than number of plays. And they're there because the Bengals are averaging more than a yard per play than they did last season with 5.9 compared to 4.8.

"The key is just how many scoring plays," Lazor said this week. "When you said pace of play, I was thinking more where we're snapping the ball, which we're tracking with the play clock when we snap the ball. To me the number of plays doesn't matter. I worked for a coach once who said he was hoping to lead the NFL in scoring plays. Let's hope at the end of the game Coach (Marvin) Lewis is telling us to slow down."

But Lazor likes it brisk and he wasn't happy with the pace of play at points during the Thursday night win over the Ravens.

"I didn't like it for the entire game. I thought we were a little slow out of the huddle at times," Lazor said. "We talked about some of our third downs where we didn't get out of the huddle as quickly as we should have. Third downs in the NFL you have to make some correction and adjustments and if you want to add some shifting and moving to put pressure on the defense you really have to get out. So I think it's still something we have to improve. There were times during the game we went no huddle and I thought our pace was better and we did take control. But it's hard to maintain that for a whole game. We just have to create a culture with players. This is how were going to play whether we're in the huddle or no huddle. Either way, let's put pressure on the defense."