The Bengals are off to a solid 2-0 start this preseason, and though they have had some stings from the injury bug, many other teams around the NFL have been hit worse. The team is heading into the all-important third preseason game, where solid play by the starters is paramount for confidence heading into the regular season. The first-team offense was largely ineffective in limited snaps against the Falcons and at the onset of the game versus the Titans, but they shook off the rust and played well last Saturday.
On Tuesday afternoon, Marvin Lewis addressed the local media to talk about some of these topics, ranging from injuries to how they are preparing for this week's "dress rehearsal" against the Dallas Cowboys. He also talked about some backup players fighting for to make the team's final roster. We are going to give you some of the highlights, but you can catch the entire transcript of the interview at Bengals.com.
On defensive end Dontay Moch's status after his Saturday performance:
Dontay Mochhad a sack on Saturday. When healthy, he has displayed the ability to get to the quarterback. What has he shown you thus far in camp?
ML: "He’s been back and forth between outside linebacker and defensive end. He has produced in these preseason games. He had an opportunity. As we’ve given opportunity other times, it hasn’t been the same. Hopefully he continues to produce when it counts, against people that are more likely to be around on another club’s 53-man roster, to show proof that he can be productive on Sundays."
Another player who had an outstanding performance against the Titans is running back Dan Herron. After his nine carry, 81-yard performance where he also had a touchdown, Lewis lauded the second-year back's progress.
What kind of improvement have you seen from
Daniel Herronthroughout the offseason and into training camp?
ML: "I think Dan has done a really good job. He’s such a hard-working guy, and that’s continued to pay off for him, with getting opportunity. He had a nick or so in camp last year. This year, he’s been healthy throughout, and obviously the rookies (from 2012) had a chance to be part of the whole offseason. Hue (special assistant to the head coach/running backs coach Hue Jackson) has done great job with those guys, getting them up to speed and being able to plug them in."
For those of you who have followed this team under Lewis' coaching tenure, you know how much he likes his players to be special teams contributors. Lewis was asked about this aspect playing a part in younger guys making the team.
For younger players, how critical is the ability to quickly pick up special teams?
ML: "They can make the biggest splash and turn the most heads that way. When you look at it, guys get here different ways, but where you prove your worth is with what you do on Sunday, being part of the 46-man club. That’s important to us."
Is it advantageous to take a player who played a lot of special teams in college?
ML: "Very few of these guys were special teams players in college after their first or second year in school, because most of them have been two or three-year starters. So they haven’t played as much (special teams). Obviously, the college teams have more players suited up on game days. So most times, they haven’t had a lot of opportunity to do that. Maybe one team or so, or sometimes the defensive backs, maybe. Even the linebackers haven’t done a lot (on special teams), because they’re just carrying more people that way."
What is the most challenging thing at this point to teach a rookie about special teams?
ML: "First, the speed of the game. It’s a fast-paced game, and there’s a lot of open-field opportunity. So your hand placement, your feet, your hips and where you belong are all important. The other part of it is that we can’t get penalties. It’s the execution of your job, but it’s the execution of it penalty free and error free. There’s some naturalness that comes in the coverage teams, with the ability to run the field, have good vision and feel, separate off the block, and then finish by making the tackle."
And if you're looking for Lewis to dive into the fullback position, he did so on Tuesday, but just not head-first. He was asked about those last few spots on the roster and how he makes the determinations of who stays and who goes.
When it comes down to those last few roster spots, how much is it between potential down the line compared to what you can do now?
ML: "Well you’ve got to weigh it. Part of it is the 46-man roster. The way I look at it is, if I woke up tomorrow and I didn’t have one of two guys, how would I feel between A or B? Tomorrow and a week from now, who would disappoint you the most if they were no longer on the team and how would that fit going into Sunday? If we had one injury at the position, how would we be? It’s difficult that way. It’s not clear cut."
There’s not a right or wrong answer is there?
ML: "There is none. Players always have a good answer for it and they say it’s a business (Laughs). The business of it is that it’s not really clear cut."
But it is part of a business, too. If you expose guys to waivers, there’s a chance to get them through, but there’s those couple who if you didn’t:
ML: "You may have a chance to get them back. Right."