8-16-02, 5:10 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ In the wake of tight end Sean Brewer's three-catch opener last Friday night, No. 2 tight end Matt Schobel is making a quieter debut Saturday night against the Colts. Remember, this is the guy from Texas Christian for whom the Bengals gave up their fifth round pick to trade up and get him in the third round this past April.
"Yeah, I'm nervous," said Schobel, who missed the intrasquad scrimmage and opener with a rib cage injury. "I'm just curious to see how I'm going to play. I'm going to try to stick to the rules and fundamentals and hope things work out. I'm trying to be consistent. It seems like you take 10,000 reps a day and it's hard to get everything right all the time. But I imagine it's that way with most rookies."
Especially for a rookie who began playing the position only two years ago. His storyline is closer to Reds all-star outfielder Adam Dunn's than Brewer's. Both went to a Texas college ( Dunn
went to the University of Texas) as quarterbacks and then were switched to tight ends. Dunn opted for baseball, Schobel stuck with tight end, and both are in Cincinnati in the pros.
"I'm a year younger than him and I remember when he signed with Texas because you keep up with other quarterbacks," said Schobel, who grew up an hour from Dunn's home in Houston. "It was kind of hard to give it up. It's fun playing quarterback. I didn't make enough good decisions, but that's old news. It worked out, and I guess it worked out for him. He's making the big bucks."
Tight ends coach John Garrett figures Brewer will play most of the first quarter as the tight end on the line of scrimmage, with Schobel coming in as the "move player," in double tight ends formations.
Then Schobel gets his shot on the line of scrimmage in the second quarter. And that's where Schobel wants to play well. He's perceived as a receiving tight end, but he's about the same size as Brewer, at 6-5, 260 pounds, and figures he should be able to block.
"That's where I'm behind the most," Schobel said. "But it's mainly technique and doing it over and over. I keep trying to tell myself that I've only been playing this position two years. My fiancée asks me how I'm doing every day and I tell her it's a little frustrating because there are so many different defenses."
But Garrett likes Schobel's knowledge of the game, and his quarterback experience is one of the reasons he pushed for him in the draft room.
"He's got good instincts, he knows football," Garrett said. "He's behind on reps because of the injury and we gave him more this week. The blocking really comes down to footwork. Typical first game You want to see his poise and following through his assignments and he's been good with his assignments."
Garrett, a huge baseball fan, has also been watching Dunn this year. Asked the impact if Schobel comes through like that, Garrett said, "It would be huge."
BRATKOWSKI CASE: Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, arrested here early Thursday on suspicion of driving under the influence of intoxicants, had no comment Friday: "I've been asked to not say anything while the case is pending." The club also won't comment while the case is open.
SWEEPS AND DRAWS: RB Rudi Johnson is rewarded for his 100-yard effort last week with the start, but head coach Dick LeBeau said he and Curtis Keaton will play a lot throughout the game. . .
The Bengals have been so impressed with rookie S Marquand Manuel's
ability to pick up the system that he's expected to move over from strong safety to take a few snaps at free safety against the Colts.
"It's not that much different. The two spots are pretty much interchangeable," Manuel said. "It's just different sides and you have to remember what side you're on and then it's like everything is in reverse." . . .
This is a big game for WR Chad Johnson with a depleted corps of wideouts. He'll start at split end, where, according to receivers coach Steve Mooshagian, he is coming off his best week of practice in his two years as a Bengal.
"It's going to help us make our decision on where he best fits in our team," Mooshagian said. "Most of his difficulty has come because we've moved him around to different positions. But he's done well staying put at this one spot, instead of switching with flanker. At flanker, there's more motion. At split, he can just line up on the line and go most of the time and get off the line."
When the Bengals go three wides Saturday, they will look a lot like they did when they beat Detroit, 31-27 last season as they responded to Johnson being out of the lineup with a broken collarbone. Peter Warrick will be in the slot and Ron Dugans will be at flanker. The only difference is that Johnson replaces Darnay Scott, who had a 30-yard touchdown catch in the win over the Lions.