Rookie middle linebacker Germaine Pratt got his first NFL start last month in Baltimore and look for him to get his second one Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) at Paul Brown Stadium when the Ravens come to town. That makes for good symmetry with North Carolina State teammate Ryan Finley drawing his first NFL start at quarterback.
"Great competitor. Great leader. He loves to compete. He'll take advantage of the opportunity," Pratt said this week.
Pratt, a third-round pick, and Finley, a fourth-rounder, went back-to-back during the draft and now they're front-and-center. After Friday's practice Taylor said Pratt could start and that would make sense since the Bengals deployed three linebackers to start last month's game and with the Ravens chewing up teams with the NFL's top-ranked running attack, you figure they'll do it again. Since the Bengals allowed 269 yards on the ground in Baltimore (the most they've surrendered in 18 years), the Ravens gouged the Seahawks' No. 13 rush defense for 199 yards and the Patriots' No. 12 rush defense for 210.
But it looks like the Bengals are easing Pratt into more of a role even when they don't go three backers. He played a career-high 38 percent of the snaps against Baltimore, so keep an eye on how much time he gets compared to veteran Preston Brown. Usually when the rookie quarterback gets a shot, so do other young players.
NET GAIN: Bengals punter Kevin Huber heads into Sunday's match with Ravens maestro Sam Koch with a 41.1 net yards per punt, which would be his best since 2014. Pretty simple explanation, he says. He's hitting the ball better and he's getting terrific play from a trio of gunners: DBs Tony McRae and Brandon Wilson and rookie wide receiver Stanley Morgan.
"The ball is coming off my foot, the gunners are making great plays and we're doing a great job protecting. I'm not feeling any pressure," Huber said. "We've had a lot of plus 50 balls (past midfield) and the guys have done a good job getting out the ball. I've been a lot more aggressive than the last couple of years. The punt team is playing great and special teams has been good generally. I'm just trying to be smart and put us in a good position."
Huber had his plant knee cleaned out before training camp and he figures that has probably helped his leg strength and consistency.
SLANTS AND SCREENS: There were no surprises when Friday's injury report came out: wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) and right guard Alex Redmond (knee/ankle) didn't practice all week and were declared out for Sunday. Green was on the field in sweats and said after the workout he doesn't know when he'll return to practice ...
Regulars at slot cornerback (Darqueze Dennard), rush end (Carl Lawson) and right guard (John Miller) practiced full go all week and are ready after missing either the last or the last few games ….
Although Andre Smith (ankle) has practiced the last three weeks, John Jerry gets another start at left tackle. "We feel confident in both guys," Taylor said. Cordy Glenn (concussion) is questionable and it sounded like he won't play despite what is thought to be his first full week of full practices in three months as they try to make sure he's in football condition …
Rookie left guard Michael Jordan isn't one of those young guys that's going to get a start. Billy Price, another young guy, remains the left guard. "All those guys have to be ready to play at a moment's notice," Taylor said. "Every week we assess who gives us the best chance to win."