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News » Cincinnati Bengals Inside Slant 2008-08-05

Cincinnati Bengals Inside Slant 2008-08-05

Cincinnati Bengals Inside Slant 2008-08-05
First-round pick Keith Rivers, the projected starter at weak-side linebacker, is one of two draft picks in the entire league unsigned as of Aug. 3. He missed the first week of camp. The other unsigned player is Jacksonville defensive end Derrick Harvey, taken one slot ahead of Rivers, at No. 8.

In Rivers' absence, journeyman Brandon Johnson is starting and making the most of his opportunity.

Another major question entering camp was Chad Johnson. The five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver had a high-profile offseason, campaigning through the media for either a new contract or a trade from the Bengals, a team, he had said, which was not committed to winning.

Johnson, who had arthroscopic ankle surgery June 18, has behaved himself so far. No outbursts, though he continues to boycott most of the media, save ESPN. Johnson, who has been working with strength coaches on his own, returned to practice Monday.

Even after just a handful of training camp practices, the Bengals offense looks poised to move up in the top 10 of NFL rankings. It's a machine with almost too many gadgets. It's already purring like a sleek import with quarterback Carson Palmer at the wheel.

The defense, however, is a work in progress. It's a used car to which coordinator Mike Zimmer and his staff are working to affix some spare parts from other teams. Its only imports are a couple of former Canadian League players, linebacker Rashad Jeanty and backup safety Kyries Hebert.

The offense, which ranked 10th last season at 348 yards a game, is loaded.

Palmer is among the league's elite. The line, as long as it stays healthy, is deep; it's in a position to weather an injury to a key player. Willie Anderson is a backup. They're versatile.

The defense should be better under Zimmer's direction. But it's been a tough week.

"Some good, some bad," was Zimmer's assessment of Week 1.

The stars defensively are young cornerbacks Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph, two former first-round picks. Unfortunately for Zimmer, the team's two major offseason acquisitions to help the defense -- rush end Antwan Odom and first-round linebacker Rivers -- are not on the field. Odom sprained his left foot in the first practice Monday morning but is expected to be back to full health for the opener Sept. 7 at Baltimore.

In the middle of the defense, New Orleans castoff Dhani Jones has found a home. He'll be expected to direct traffic of a young defense. Of the projected 11 starters, seven have two or fewer years of NFL experience.

The two halves of the team have displayed different personalities so far in camp as well. The offense is cool and professional, almost corporate in its approach and execution. The defense has behaved decidedly more collegiate. Zimmer and defensive assistants have instilled a rah-rah spirit. A big play by a defender in an 11-on-11 drill is met by a bigger response from teammates and coaches.

CAMP CALENDAR: The Bengals returned to practice Monday, and will work daily through Saturday. They will travel to Wisconsin for the preseason opener Aug. 11 (Monday night) against the Packers. Camp breaks Aug. 15.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 5, 2008

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