Slants and screens: Tez staying in middle; J-Smooth roughs up punt; Four Corners Defense

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Vontaze Burfict came to the Bengals five years ago as a middle linebacker but rose to NFL prominence as an outside linebacker. He's always been the middle linebacker on passing downs but now that it appears Kevin Minter (elbow) is going to be out a second straight game, he's going to stay in the middle on all downs after the defense again cleared the way for another win Sunday.

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has no plans to take him out of there any time soon.

"Now he's just playing MIKE, and that's what he loves," Guenther said Monday after watching tape of the 24-23 victor over the Colts. "Some teams will try to get him out of the box, get him out of the way and run it the other way, so now they can't out-formation us to get him out of the mix of things."

J-SMOOTH: Third-rounder Jordan Willis has been as advertised. He's got a sack, a blocked punt, and a cool nickname hung on him by fellow defensive lineman Chris Smith.

 "J-Smooth," for his smooth pass rush moves.

But there was nothing smooth about his blocked punt, nearly three years to the day safety Taylor Mays got the Bengals' last one on Nov. 2, 2014 against Jacksonville.  Willis simply bull rushed safety Matthias Farley setting up as the personal protector.

"We talked about it it all week as a possibility," said Willis, who lined up inside. "The coaches told us that the two blocked punts in the NFL this year came when the center blocked away and the PP was right there."

 As Willis manhandled Farley back to the punter, he reached up his right hand and got it for career block No. 1.

FOUR CORNERS DEFENSE: Guenther also said he has no plans to tweak the rotation all through the defense, particularly at cornerback where they're getting strong play from slot man Darqueze Dennard and outside corner William Jackson as well as the starters. On Sunday, Dre Kirkpatrick led the Four Corners Defense with 84 percent of the snaps. Dennard played 73 percent, Adam Jones 59 percent and Jackson 55 percent.

Dennard has been terrific. On Sunday he was a big reason the Colts' T.Y. Hilton did nothing and his 10 tackles were huge.

"He's been playing pretty damn good all through," Guenther said. "He played good against Green Bay. He played great against Buffalo. The thing he's doing a good job of – we're getting a lot of three-receiver runs where he's got to fit in the box and put him in there with the big guys and he's physical enough to hold up in there."



Cincinnati Bengals host Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium in week 8 of the regular season.


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