Wilson still seeks first sack

10-30-02, 6 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Reinard Wilson mirrors the Bengals' defensive woes. Their leading sacker from last season who has no sacks this season feels like he can't get into a rhythm because he's not getting the same amount of snaps he got last year.

"I figure I was getting about 20 a game last year and now it's about 10 or so," Wilson said this week. "It's tough getting into any kind of groove when you got a little cold on the sidelines."

His role hasn't changed. He's still playing mainly on third down. After racking up a career-high nine sacks last season, Wilson signed a three-year deal back in March for a $1.5 million average. But he's believed to be getting about $2 million this year, and, yet, no matter how much the check, you can't dictate passing downs.

The Bengals are still using him only on passing downs as a pure pass rusher, but they had just seven snaps of third-and-four or longer last Sunday. The Titans' three touchdown passes came on first-and-10, second-and-four, and second-and-seven. Wilson has always wanted to play more in the base defense, but he says, "I'm not complaining, I'm just looking to make the most of what I get."

But no one has. Justin Smith, Wilson's tag-team partner who had 8.5 sacks as a rookie last year, has one. The team that had a club-record 48 sacks last year is barely averaging one a game.

The problem in the previous six games is that the Bengals were never within 14 points at halftime and teams were content to

run the ball, leaving the pass defense virtually on the bench for half the game. Still, defensive coordinator Mark Duffner figures they only ran their nickel pass-defense package 10 fewer times to that point than compared to last season.

And when they did have a chance to get to the quarterback last Sunday when the offense gave them the lead for the first time this season, Wilson couldn't pull down Titans quarterback Steve McNair.

"I had a chance at him and he got out of the pocket one time I know of," Wilson said. "Plus, the Titans got back into the game quicker than we though they would. You figure we were going to have a lot of chances to keep going after them because we had that 14-0 lead, but then they got back into it. I figure I had about 11 snaps and had some pretty decent rushes."

"We have to do a better job with our one-on-one moves," Duffner said. "That's really the bottom line. And when you get there, you have to make the play. We haven't done that. Our numbers aren't where we want them to be."

Duffner said the Bengals are seeing more "maximum protection," than they saw last year. Teams are doubling the ends more, but Wilson says he's had so few chances he doesn't think he's received much of that.

"It just seems like I was on the field more last year," Wilson said.

Duffner said, "We're still using him every third down in our nickel package, but the situation of the game dictates it. But we all have to get there no matter how many chances we get. You can't let chances slide by."

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INJURY UPDATE:** The Bengals fear backup LB Armegis Spearman might be out several weeks with a severe high ankle sprain he suffered on last Sunday's opening kickoff. They won't know for sure until later in the week, but that is a spot they really can't afford another blow. Starting left outside linebacker Steve Foley

has been on injured reserve all season. . .

Even though TE Sean Brewer's return has been delayed by several weeks and possibly for the rest of the season, don't look for the Bengals to sign another tight end. Which means they are going to be with just one tight end, rookie Matt Schobel, for much of the rest of the season. Some are wondering if Brewer is ever going to be durable. He spent his entire rookie year on injured reserve with a groin problem last season and then suffered a cartilage tear in his knee in the third game this season. He returned to practice last week after arthroscopic surgery, but tore another spot in the cartilage and had to be scoped again Monday. . .

The Bengals think they will have CB Jeff Burris (hamstring) back for practice Wednesday and CB-S Mark Roman is expected back after missing last week with lingering concussion symptoms. . .FS Cory Hall (ankle) and WR Danny Farmer (toe) probably won't see much practice time early in the week, but the Bengals hope they can play this Sunday. . .

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