Notes, Quotes

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 1:08 am.

–In Week 2, A.J. Green wasn’t targeted on the final drive of a disheartening 13-9 loss to the Houston Texans. Less than a day later, offensive coordinator Ken Zampese was axed. Bill Lazor replaced him, but it was tough to put his stamp on the offense in season. Based on comments made by Green during preseason, he is pleased with Lazor’s game plan, which is a nice change for the 29-year-old, who referred to last season as crummy.

“He puts us in the best situations,” Green told reporters after a 30-27 preseason win over Chicago. “Last year, he really didn’t have his hand stamped on his offense but having an offseason under his belt really helped. The communication with all the receivers, all the players, he asks us what we need to work on and what we like and what we want to run Green was targeted 145 times, the third-highest amount in his first seven seasons. He wound up with 75 receptions on 1,078 yards, the third and fourth-lowest totals respectively in those categories.

–By all accounts, his rookie season was a disaster for wide receiver John Ross, the Bengals’ first-round pick out of Washington. He was injured before training camp, even before getting drafted ninth overall and then fumbled on his first touch as a Bengal in Week 2 and didn’t record a catch. Then he was inactive for eight of the next 10 games and wound up ending a frustrating season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. An effective preseason has put him second on the depth chart behind Tyler Boyd, who is replacing Brandon LaFell.

“I don’t have a goal. I don’t want to sit here and say that I want 2,000 yards receiving or 100 touchdowns, Ross told reporters early in training camp. I just want to contribute in the best way possible. I want to be an x-factor. I want to be someone who, when they need a spark, they can look at me and say ‘let’s go.’ Throw me the ball and let me spark us up.”

–The backup quarterback competition was won by Jeff Driskel, who beat out Matt Barkley. Barkley then injured his knee in Thursday’s preseason finale and Saturday the NFL Network reported that Barkley suffered a grade 3 strain of the medial collateral ligament. Barkley was placed on injured reserve. Driskel had a strong finish to exhibition play by overseeing scoring drives on three of five possessions and going 14-for-20 for 116 yards and a touchdown.

“It was a bummer to see Matt Barkley go down early in the game, but that’s part of it,” Driskel said. “I hope he’s well. I thought early, I was taking what the defense was giving us. They were playing some deep zones and there were a lot of check-downs early. We took advantage of some good field position and were able to punch it in at the end of the half. It was a good situation for us to learn from. Sustaining an injury in the last preseason game is something Driskel knows all too well. He suffered a broken thumb in Cincinnati’s final preseason game a year ago and spent the season on injured reserve. He has never appeared in an NFL game. Of course, being Andy Dalton’s backup means the most action is in practice. The only backup quarterback to appear in a game in the Dalton era is AJ McCarron, who started three games in 2015 when Dalton broke his thumb.

–Based on what Cincinnati’s 53-man roster looked like at Saturday’s deadline to trim the roster, there will be more youth this season, a continuation of last season. A year ago, the Bengals began the season with an average age of 25.45, the youngest in the Marvin Lewis era. This year, the Bengals currently have a roster whose average age is 25.22. Of course, that could change between now and kickoff in Indianapolis when management peruses the waiver wire.

–If the name Hardy Nickerson is familiar to Bengals fans, you might be thinking of the elder Nickerson, who was a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1987 to 1992. While the elder Nickerson entered the league as a fifth-round pick, the younger Nickerson made the team as an undrafted free agent last season. He wound appearing in 14 games and started two games at middle linebacker. Nickerson will start the season behind Preston Brown on the depth chart.

—Linebacker Preston Brown is the third middle linebacker in three years for the Bengals, who signed him to a one-year contract. Brown led the league with 144 combined tackles last season and quickly developed a bond with Vontaze Burfict early in training camp, though it wasn’t through popular video games such as Fortnite, which are the rage among athletes in all sports.

“It’s just fun,” Brown said of Burfict. “He’s so smart out there on the field. He’s like another coach out there. He’s always talking and communicating.”

Any chemistry that the duo develops won’t be known until October since Burfict will serve a four-game suspension, but Burfict is looking forward to it. “Hell yeah,” Burfict said when asked if he and Brown will make each other better. “I will help Preston, and Preston will help me.”


–Quarterback Andy Dalton: If a revamped offensive line can live up to the aspirations and results from preseason, Dalton’s performance should return to normal and his numbers should be on par from the first five seasons.

–Center Billy Price: Cincinnati used its first-round pick on Price and all indications are that Price is ready to step in after some issues with snap counts early in preseason.