AFC North: AFC North

CINCINNATI -- Vontaze Burfict finally spoke to reporters on Tuesday, but it was what he didn't say that warranted a headline.

For the first time since before he reportedly agreed with the Cincinnati Bengals last week on a contract extension that was said to pay him more than $20 million, Burfict fielded questions about the suddenly troubling extension and the apparent stalemate that has happened since.

When asked if he wanted to comment about the talks that have been stagnant since Wednesday's reports about the agreement, the linebacker whispered, "No comment."

Asked if he was ready for the extension to reach a resolution, Burfict answered once more with a "no comment."

A locker away, listening to the whole pre-practice interview session, veteran cornerback Terence Newman chimed in: "I know I would like for him to get it resolved."

Burfict isn't answering any questions about the apparent extension debacle, and no one else involved in the situation really is, either. The Bengals aren't addressing the extension until it's finalized, and so far attempts to reach his agents for comment have been unsuccessful.

Last Friday, coach Marvin Lewis seemed to take exception with the way news of the pending agreement was publicized. In his only comments on Burfict's contract impasse, Lewis said at that time that the deal "is not signed off."

It still isn't.

"I would guess we expect him to sign," Lewis added. "Obviously the agent believes he has a deal. We didn't release it."

Burfict switched representation in February, hiring Paradigm Sports to help him get his second deal.

As he enters the third and final season on his rookie deal, the Pro Bowl linebacker is scheduled to make $570,000. Last week, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the agreement Burfict and the Bengals reached would have paid him $7.6 million this season on the first year of the new deal.

With 298 career tackles in 32 regular season games, Burfict has been arguably the Bengals' best defender since he has been in Cincinnati. He had a league-high 171 tackles last year. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has often praised his football intelligence and credits Burfict for knowing the system better than any other player on the team.
Most significant move: Few of the Cincinnati Bengals' cuts were very surprising, but quarterback Matt Scott's release might have been the most significant because he had been viewed as the No. 3 quarterback on the roster behind Andy Dalton and Jason Campbell. Tyler Wilson, fresh off concussion protocol, reverts into that role. When Wilson was signed after an injury to Campbell two weeks ago, it appeared the writing was on the wall for Scott, a mobile quarterback who doesn't fit the Bengals' scheme as well as the others. Although he played well during the Week 1 loss at Kansas City, Scott completed only 45.5 percent of his passes and was sacked five times in the three games he played.

Sharp should find a home: Kicker Quinn Sharp's release had been expected after he was signed in the offseason to help keep starter Mike Nugent's leg fresh throughout training camp and offseason workouts. While Nugent is the starter and has the more accurate leg of the two, Sharp's power is one of his more impressive traits. In Sunday night's preseason game, hours before he was cut by the Bengals, Sharp went 2-for-2 on field goals with one of them a 51-yarder. The Oklahoma State product should help someone's team this season desperate for a kicker.

What's next? The Bengals aren't technically done with this round of moves. They could end up sending two of their Tuesday cuts, J.K. Schaffer and Lavelle Westbrooks, to injured reserve Wednesday. Both were cut via the waived/injured designation and have until Wednesday to be claimed by another team. If neither is claimed and they clear waivers, they will be added to Cincinnati's IR. It's also worth keeping an eye on safety Taylor Mays, rookie linebacker Marquis Flowers, stand-up defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Dontay Moch, receivers Cobi Hamilton and James Wright and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the Bengals cut to 53 on Saturday.

Bengals' cuts: QB Matt Scott, DT Larry Black, S Isaiah Lewis, K Quinn Sharp, WR Ryan Whalen, CB R.J. Stanford, TE Kevin Brock, WR Jasper Collins, LB J.K. Schaffer, CB Lavelle Westbrooks, LB James Davidson, WR Alex Neutz, WR Jeremy Johnson, OT Curtis Feigt, WR Conner Vernon, P T.J. Conley, DT Zach Minter, OG Chandler Burden.
The Cleveland Browns trimmed their roster to 76 players on Tuesday. Teams have to get down to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Most significant move: The release of wide receiver Anthony Armstrong isn't exactly a shock, but it does show where the Browns are when it comes to the wide receiver position as they await word on the suspension of Josh Gordon. Armstrong is a veteran with knowledge of Kyle Shanahan's offense, and he stood out in shorts in the OTAs and minicamp. But in training camp he leveled off, and as time went on it was evident he was not going to be a major contributor. The development of a young player like Taylor Gabriel made this decision easy.

Running away: Running back Edwin Baker started at the end of the 2013 season, but he didn't make it past the first cuts in Cleveland. That's a sign of the way the Browns viewed the running backs of last season, and of the reality that they have added Terrance West through the draft. Baker's cup of coffee in Cleveland might, though, give him a chance with another team.

What’s next: The decision on Gordon lingers. The Browns' final two moves took the roster to 76, which indicates the team expects -- or at least hopes -- to hear something before the deadline (a few hours away as of this writing). A suspension of Gordon would take care of that last spot.

Browns moves: Waived DB Royce Adams, RB Edwin Baker, OL Randall Harris, DB T.J. Heath, DL Cam Henderson, WR Jonathan Krause, OL Ryan Lee, LB Caleb McSurdy, OL Keavon Milton, LB Keith Pough, WR Tim Smith, OL Jeremiah Warren, TE Martell Webb. Contract terminated: WR Anthony Armstrong. Placed on injured reserve: OL Michael Bowie, LB Darius Eubanks.
CINCINNATI -- The great purging of players from the Cincinnati Bengals' roster has begun.

On Monday afternoon, the team announced it had waived four players and terminated the contract of another in an attempt to start getting the roster a little closer to Tuesday's 75-man limit, as stipulated by NFL rules. By Saturday, that roster will be trimmed all the way to 53. Currently, the Bengals sit at 81.

The five cuts announced Monday were defensive tackle Larry Black, safety Isaiah Lewis, kicker Quinn Sharp, receiver Ryan Whalen and cornerback R.J. Stanford. As the veteran of the group who had been signed out of free agency this offseason, Stanford was the only one of the five whose contract was terminated. He automatically becomes eligible for free agency while the others must first clear waivers before getting picked up.

None of the cuts ought to be viewed as surprises. Each of the five were left off our latest 53-man roster projection that was published Monday, even if some of them had shown flashes of good play throughout the preseason.

Black's departure will be disappointing to many locally who primarily remember the Cincinnati native for his brief appearance on last year's HBO "Hard Knocks." Lauded by coaches all of last training camp, Black's season came to an immediate halt when he suffered a serious ankle injury in a camp practice. The entire sequence, including Black's emotional phone call with his family after receiving the season-ending diagnosis in the training room, was shown on the show's opening episode. Black had returned this preseason hoping to build on the quality play he had showcased just before the injury.

He was unsuccessful, though. Black didn't appear in Sunday night's Week 3 preseason game at Arizona despite not being listed on the pregame not-expected-to-dress list.

Lewis was an undrafted rookie free agent from Michigan State. The safety had trouble standing out in a crowded secondary. The same went for Stanford, who was a bubble cornerback at best. He did himself no favors Sunday night when he was burned by speedster John Brown on a 30-yard touchdown pass that went down as the Cardinals' only touchdown of the game. The play before, Stanford had been called for defensive pass interference on a pass that sailed well over his and Brown's heads.

Whalen was a sixth-round 2011 draft pick of the Bengals, but he never really clicked. His most prolific season was 2012 when he appeared in a career-high nine games and caught a career-high seven passes. He came into this camp with an injury and, as expected, had difficulty cracking a crowded receivers' room.

Sharp was expected to be cut when he was signed in the offseason. He was added specifically so the Bengals could enter training camp with multiple kickers, in an effort of keeping Mike Nugent's leg fresh throughout the summer. Sharp's strong leg -- he had two field goals on two tries Sunday night, including a 51-yarder -- could make him a highly sought after kicker entering next week's openers.
CINCINNATI -- After a minor health scare Sunday in Phoenix, Cincinnati Bengals president Mike Brown is progressing comfortably back home.

A team spokesman told on Monday that Brown's "minor medical situation" is trending toward resolution, and that the 79-year-old should be resuming his daily duties shortly.

"Everything continues to progress the way we had expected," the spokesman said. "He should be back at his desk soon."

The Bengals still aren't saying what exactly happened to Brown on Sunday morning in Phoenix. The only details they have allowed are that he underwent treatment in Arizona, where he was with the team for Sunday night's Week 3 preseason game against the Cardinals. Out of precaution, it was decided that he wouldn't attend the game, and would travel immediately back to Cincinnati.

"The good thing is everyone acted very quickly to get things headed in the right direction very fast," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said late Sunday night, following his team's 19-13 win. "We're happy that, hopefully, everything is going in the right direction and hopefully he'll get back with us very quickly."

Brown has owned the Bengals and served as team president since 1991, when his father and team founder, Paul Brown, died. An innovator of the game as it's known today, Paul Brown won seven championships as coach of the Cleveland Browns before establishing the Bengals in 1968.

Late last month, Mike Brown hinted at his forthcoming exit from football when he admitted that his daughter, executive vice president Katie Blackburn, has had a growing role in the team's daily operations. It has been under her guidance that recent multiyear and multimillion-dollar deals with Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins and Andy Dalton have been signed the last two summers. Earlier this month, Dalton signed a six-year contract extension that will pay him up to $115 million.

"Oh, you can tell I'm getting old," Mike Brown said in July. "When you get old, your children get impatient with you. Just the way it works in life. I have been blessed to have been able to work with my two kids and my father. That's something that is unusual in America these days, and I realize that roles change. My role changed with my father, just as Katie's role with me changes.

"One time I went up. Now I'm going down and that's just the way it is."
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Injuries marred the final minutes of the Cincinnati Bengals' 19-13 preseason win over the Cardinals on Sunday night as three Bengals were carted off University of Phoenix Stadium's field in the fourth quarter alone.

Coach Marvin Lewis didn't have any updates on the injured in the locker room after the game, but he did acknowledge that having to deal with the injuries was "the only negative part" of the night. His defensive starters played well and for the third straight preseason game didn't allow a touchdown. His offense played turnover-free football, and his reserves held their own and played well enough to preserve the win.

Throughout the physical game several Bengals needed medical attention, but it was the injuries to James Wright, T.J. Johnson and Trey Hopkins that caused a series of stoppages and had fans hushed. All three were on the ground for several minutes and needed assistance getting off the field after getting banged up late in the ballgame.

All three also find themselves on the bubble, needing every opportunity they can to make the team.

First, it was Hopkins, the undrafted rookie free agent from Texas. He went down with 12:35 remaining in the game after a couple of players rolled on top of his leg. For some time, trainers evaluated his right leg before a cart came onto the field and he was loaded on it. The Bengals later announced that he had a right shin injury. Hopkins was spotted immediately after the game walking through the locker room with his leg already inside a boot.

As if that moment wasn't enough for the Bengals, two plays later, seventh-round draft pick James Wright required a cart when he went down awkwardly at the end of an attempted touchdown reception. While trying to make the 15-yard catch in the back of the end zone, he took what appeared to be a blow to the head from safety Curtis Taylor's forearm before going down hard to the turf. Instantly after his head hit the ground, Wright's body locked up.

A few minutes went by before medical personnel got him to sit up before helping him onto the cart. He was not strapped onto a stretcher.

On the next drive, running back Cedric Peerman received what appeared to be a serious leg injury but walked off on his own power after getting some treatment on the field. On the drive after that, Johnson went down with an undisclosed issue. Like Hopkins and Wright, a cart eased the offensive lineman into the locker room.

In addition to those injuries, linebacker Vontaze Burfict and defensive tackle Devon Still went down in the first half with hamstring injuries.

When asked if Burfict would be available for the season opener in two weeks, Lewis simply said, "Yes."

The Bengals won't have much time to rest the injured before their preseason finale. With days off Monday and Wednesday, they will only practice Tuesday before Thursday's game at home against the Colts.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It has been seven months and 20 days since the Cincinnati Bengals' first-team defense has given up a touchdown in a game of any kind.

Yes, the offseason occupied a good chunk of that time, but the broader point is this: In roughly four and a half quarters of play this preseason, the Bengals' starters on defense have yet to allow an offensive player to cross a goal line.

Vontaze Burfict
Matt York/Associated PressVontaze Burfict and the Cincinnati defense has been nearly inpenetrable in the preseason.
"I didn't realize that until you told me, honestly," safety George Iloka said to a reporter from inside the Bengals' locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium late Sunday night.

Iloka and the rest of Cincinnati's defensive starters had just wrapped up another touchdown-less performance that aided in the Bengals' 19-13 win over the Cardinals in their third preseason game. The lone touchdown Arizona scored came in the third quarter, long after Cincinnati's first-teamers had left the field at halftime.

As Iloka adjusted the buttons on his white-trimmed navy Ralph Lauren suit jacket, he flatly added that he and the rest of the Bengals' starters can't read too far into the relative success the unit has had to this point in the very early season.

"We know the real test comes in the season," Iloka said. "That's when it counts. It's good and it's good for your morale, but the Baltimore Ravens are a whole other animal."

To be clear, he wasn't insinuating that the Cardinals' offense can't compete with the Ravens'. He was referring to the Bengals' season opener at division-rival Baltimore on Sept. 7.

Cornerback Terence Newman was one of the defensive players who played well at just the right moment Sunday.

After getting burned twice by receivers who sprinted by him only to get overthrown by Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, Newman had the play of the night for the Bengals when he picked off a pass and returned it 54 yards for a mid-first-quarter touchdown. There appeared to be confusion between Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who proceeded to run a Go route while Palmer thought he was going to cut it off and finish the route underneath.

Newman, who guessed wrong once on one of the previous overthrows, stopped on this particular pass, guessing that Palmer was going to dump it short. When Palmer did, he threw the ball right into Newman's hands.

"It wasn't like I did anything," Newman said. "Just an errant throw on his part."

When Newman saw linebacker Rey Maualuga and defensive end Robert Geathers dart in front of him to block, he said he knew he would get into the end zone. He did so, untouched.

The 54-yard return was the only touchdown the Bengals had in the game. It, and four field goals, were just enough to hold on for the win.

Only two plays really bugged the Bengals' first-team defenders after the game. Cardinals running back Andre Ellington broke one run for 24 yards early in the second quarter, and Fitzgerald exploded for 44 on a slant that was thrown into a soft spot in the Bengals' coverage. Other than those two plays, the Bengals felt good about their overall performance. When Fitzgerald had the big pickup, Iloka said he and his teammates were stunned.

"We were telling ourselves, 'Really?'" Iloka said.

Remove those two plays and the Cardinals would have netted negative yards in the first half. Without those 68 yards, they would have been at minus-10 through the first two quarters.

"It's the preseason," Newman said, giving a reminder not to think too deeply about these numbers. "We need to keep that up when it gets super serious. When we have actual wins and losses on the table."

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It took the Cincinnati Bengals three tries, but they finally walked away with a preseason win Sunday night when they knocked off the Cardinals 19-13 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

While the preseason primarily is about the players and their ability to impress coaches in order to earn spots on the 53-man roster, it is also about generating some cohesion, confidence, rhythm and momentum for the entire team entering the regular season. That's the main reason why coaches and players alike were desperate this week to claim a win after two fruitless attempts to start the preseason.

Thanks to the win, momentum was generated. Confidence? Perhaps it was instilled, too. Only time will tell. As for cohesion and rhythm, it seems the Bengals still have some work to do in those areas. At times Sunday they seemed very out of sync both offensively and on special teams. The no-huddle offense that was so fluid last week against the Jets was syncopated against the Cardinals. At times the first-team offense hummed smoothly along. At others, it had trouble getting settled into its normally quick tempo because of penalties and apparent issues with communication.

Here are a few more thoughts on the Bengals' preseason game Sunday:
  • We might as well extend the story line of Cincinnati's arrhythmic starting offense a little further. Here are two occasions when quarterback Andy Dalton didn't seem on the same page with his receivers. Once at the end of the first quarter, A.J. Green opened up to his left after running wide open into the flat. Dalton, seeing Green break open, threw over his right shoulder, clearly expecting the wideout to turn a different way. The pass fell incomplete and stalled a drive on third down. In the second quarter, tight end Jermaine Gresham cut off a route that Dalton proceeded to throw 15 yards downfield. The quarterback expected Gresham to extend the route. Some of the miscommunication could be attributed to the Bengals' mixing of lineups. Backups were inserted as early as the second play of the game as they rotated with starters for individual evaluation purposes.
  • In addition to their sporadic issues with rhythm, the Bengals had difficulty figuring out where and how to run the football early. Starter Giovani Bernard began the game dedicated to bouncing the ball to the edge. Those carries largely proved worthless. Of his 10 first-half carries, five went to the left and right edges. They gained just 3 yards. The other carries in the middle of the field resulted in 14-yard gains. Those runs came around the same time late in the second quarter when rookie Jeremy Hill came in as a backup. All four of his first-half carries went between the tackles. They amassed 23 yards. Power-run football is part of what offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's new offense hinges on, and it's clear the Bengals were better Sunday doing that than when they went away from it.
  • Field position also was an issue for the Bengals who couldn't seem to get out of the shadows of their own end zone. Of the 10 drives they had, seven started at their own 20 or inside it. Of those, four began inside the 10-yard line. With poor field position, the Bengals' starters had trouble moving the football and converting third downs. They were 4-for-15 on third down.
  • As it has for most of the preseason, the Bengals' defense was sound. The starters primarily played through the second quarter, allowing just one Arizona field goal in their time on the field. The base first-team defense has now allowed just four field goals in its three preseason games. Among the defenders of note: defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who saw extended action for the first time this year after returning from an ACL injury from last season.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A hamstring injury forced Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict's night to come to an end after just one series Sunday in a preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Following the early first-quarter injury, the Bengals announced that he wasn't expected to return. He had two tackles before leaving the game.

Burfict's injury comes at the end of a week in which he didn't participate in the final three practices. He was held out of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday's workouts after falling ill. Coaches said he had the same stomach virus that others, such as running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, have battled in recent days.

In addition to barely practicing, Burfict's week also featured news that he had agreed to a four-year contract extension that would pay him about $20 million. The reports may have been premature, though. Burfict still hasn't signed his contract, and the Bengals have yet to make the extension official.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Rex Burkhead headlined the 11 Cincinnati Bengals who were listed under the "not expected to play" designation before Sunday night's Week 3 preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Green-Ellis was sidelined late in the week with a stomach virus that head coach Marvin Lewis said is spreading around the team. Burkhead injured his right knee in last week's game against the Jets. No official diagnosis was given on Burkhead's injury, but Lewis hinted Wednesday that the back competing for playing time wouldn't be sidelined long.

Along with Green-Ellis and Burkhead, cornerback Darqueze Dennard also isn't expected to play. He was seen at the start of pregame warmups going through conditioning drills. Tight end Tyler Eifert and wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher also are out. Dennard suffered a hip injury during his only play last week. Sanzenbacher's injury wasn't disclosed, but he got up rather slowly after delivering a hard tackle on a punt return in the second half of last Saturday's game.

Eifert's injury wasn't disclosed, but he has been dealing with some lingering discomfort in his shoulder. He missed the organized team activities and minicamps in the spring, as well as part of this summer's training camp sessions, because of his sore shoulder.

Right offensive tackle Andre Smith also isn't playing after suffering a concussion early in training camp. He has been cleared to practice for a little over a week, but he apparently has not gotten to the point where he can play. He mentioned earlier this week that he had hoped to play so that he can start getting his conditioning in regular-season shape.

Smith has not yet played in the preseason.

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict, the Arizona State product who didn't practice the last three days, is expected to play.

Eifert will be replaced in the starting lineup by rookie H-back Ryan Hewitt. Smith will be replaced by Marshall Newhouse.

Here's the full list of Bengals not expected to play:

CB Darqueze Dennard (hip)
QB Tyler Wilson (head)
QB AJ McCarron (shoulder)
WR Dane Sanzenbacher (undisclosed)
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (illness)
RB Rex Burkhead (knee)
CB Lavelle Westbrooks (hip)
TE Tyler Eifert (shoulder)
WR Marvin Jones (foot)
LB J.K. Schaffer (head)
OT Andre Smith (head)
Wide receiver Steve Smith showed how many ways he's going to help the Baltimore Ravens in Saturday's preseason game against the Washington Redskins.

 He caught six passes for 80 yards in one half of work, and nearly each reception highlighted why the Ravens signed him one day after the Carolina Panthers released him in March.

This is how Smith is going to strengthen some of the Ravens' weaknesses in the passing game:
  • Smith fought threw four tacklers to turn a short pass into a 30-yard gain, illustrating how his determination exceeds his size. Ravens receivers had trouble breaking tackles last season. The Ravens averaged 4.89 yards after first contact last season, which was 24th in the NFL.
  • Smith's diving, 24-yard touchdown grab from Joe Flacco at the end of the first half is the type of clutch catch the Ravens need. The Ravens only had five touchdown catches in the last five minutes of a half last season. Only seven teams had fewer.
  • His eight-yard catch on a slant route converted a third-and-5 in the first quarter. That high-percentage throw will be a staple of the Ravens' offense this season, and Smith will be a frequent target on third downs. Since 2002, Smith has the seventh-most third down catches among active receivers (208). Last season, the Ravens ranked 20th in the NFL in third-down conversions (36.4 percent).

"I think he saw a little bit of everything," Flacco said. "He catches the ball great. When he gets to it, he catches it. He runs with the ball well. He’s strong, he’s powerful, he’s quick, [and] he’s fast, so he can break tackles. He’s going to help us out a lot. We’re getting on the same page; every day we’re getting better and better. I think this was a big step with him.”

Throughout his career, Smith has talked about carrying a chip on his shoulder. His determination now comes from proving himself with a new team. Smith spent the first 13 years of his NFL career with the Panthers.

"People are always going to say, ‘OK, it’s great what he did over here, but he’s not there any more. What’s he’ s going to bring to the table?,'" Smith said "So that’s what I want to do is show what I bring to the table.”

The Ravens, though, insist he has nothing to prove to them.

"How many times have we seen him, over the years down there, make a catch? Take that wide turn out of a break and make yards or bounce off tacklers," coach John Harbaugh said. "If you tackle him high, tackle him low, he’s strong, he can bounce out of tackles. And then to go make that catch in the end zone at the half, that’s kind of vintage Steve Smith. So, it was great to see that.”
CINCINNATI -- In no particular order, the following are six Cincinnati Bengals you'll want to pay attention to during Sunday night's preseason game at the Arizona Cardinals (8 p.m. ET).

QB Andy Dalton: Pay close attention to how much Dalton plays against the Cardinals in this "dress rehearsal" type of preseason game for him and other starters. Coach Marvin Lewis said this week that he wasn't going to cap the number of quarters Dalton would play. He instead wanted to see how quickly he hit a limit of snaps. It's likely we'll see Dalton late into the second quarter, and he might even sneak into the third quarter, too, if the snaps are within Lewis' range. More important to the Bengals than how much Dalton plays is how well he performs. The team is hopeful he can continue to showcase some of the impressive play that has defined his strong preseason start.

RB Jeremy Hill: Lewis and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson have both said they believe their rookie running back can play with the Bengals' first-team offense, and they mentioned that they would like to get him more reps with that unit Sunday. That doesn't mean Giovani Bernard won't be getting first-team reps, too. It just means the starting tailback might end up getting a little extra rest this week so that Hill can share a few more opportunities earlier in a preseason game. In the first two preseason games, Hill was the third back on the field, replacing Bernard's previous replacement, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. With Green-Ellis battling a stomach virus and fellow backup Rex Burkhead trying to recover from a knee injury, Hill should have several chances to augment his running backs-leading rushing average of 5.8 yards per preseason carry.

C Russell Bodine: With Dalton expected to be in the game a little longer, look for Bodine to have more reps with a less fluid offensive line. In the first two games, the rookie center remained on the field for a few series after Dalton exited, as he also snapped to backup quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Matt Scott. He also snapped with different rotations of linemen lined up next to him. In this game, he'll probably see more consistent action with the starting linemen dand Dalton as the group continues to fine-tune its timing and rhythm. He's been cleaner in recent weeks. The snap issues that bugged Bodine in training camp faded a bit last week.

DT Geno Atkins: The Bengals' Pro Bowl defensive tackle and heralded pass rusher will be making his 2014 debut against the Cardinals, trying to help put heat on Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer, a former Bengal. Atkins has gone through team drills all this week, according to coaches. He's also looked good in them. Lewis said Friday that the lineman has looked like his old self, exploding off the line and maneuvering his way into the backfield. Atkins will be playing for the first time since tearing his ACL last October at Miami. As the Bengals prepare for the regular season, it's important for Atkins to get steady reps in a preseason game in order to boost his confidence in the surgically repaired knee. Definitely keep an eye on how he looks, and how conditioned he appears to be.

LB Marquis Flowers: Sunday's game will be a homecoming for Flowers, who will be playing his first professional game miles from where he grew up. The Phoenix native was drafted by the Bengals in the sixth round in May after starring at the University of Arizona. Also see how he responds to the defensive situations he'll be part of late in the ballgame. Although listed as a linebacker, Flowers also played safety in college and has been noted for his coverage skills. As the Bengals continue harping on the need to find quality backup players, don't be surprised if Flowers continues getting respectable minutes. He played 30 snaps on defense and 13 on special teams last week against the Jets.

CB Chris Lewis-Harris: Lewis-Harris could play a sizable role this week as the Bengals fight through a few injuries in the defensive backfield. Rookie Darqueze Dennard doesn't seem likely to play after missing every practice this week with a hip injury. Had this been the regular season, he probably would end up gutting out the injury. With Dennard out and Dre Kirkpatrick an uncertainty after missing Friday's practice with a stomach virus, the Bengals might be giving a few reserve corners additional playing time. Lewis-Harris would be among those to benefit.
Joe Flacco wasn't pleased with the Baltimore Ravens' results on fourth down in Saturday's preseason game against the Washington Redskins. He did, however, believe it was the right decision to go for the first down both times.

 On the opening drive, the Ravens were stopped on fourth-and-1 at midfield when an unblocked Redskins linebacker hit running back Bernard Pierce in the backfield. Then, on the last play of the first quarter, the offensive line got no push on fourth-and-1 at the Redskins' 11-yard line and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro was stopped for no gain.

Flacco made it clear that he supported the aggressive decision-making of coach John Harbaugh.

"When you’re an offensive guy, and you’re on the field, you want to stay out there," Flacco said. "You want to score points for your team, and going for it on fourth down in those situations is giving you the opportunity to do that. That’s all you can ask for as a quarterback.”

Harbaugh said the decisions to go for it on fourth down were "without question" easier because it was the preseason.

"But, the numbers and percentages, pretty much says, ‘Go for it,'" Harbaugh said. "It’s pretty overwhelming a lot of times. As a coach, you’ve got to make a gut decision on how you feel about it. We’ve gone for it a lot over the years. I think if you look at the track record, we’re pretty aggressive on fourth down. So we like to do that, and we like to have confidence in our guys being able to get there.”

It does seem like Harbaugh has gone for it on fourth down many times over the years. But the numbers say otherwise.

Since Harbaugh became coach in 2008, the Ravens have attempted the fourth-fewest fourth downs (71) in the NFL. Their conversion rate of 46.5 percent ranks 22nd in the league.

How have the Ravens done on fourth-and-one? Under Harbaugh, the Ravens have converted 61.3 percent of those situations (19 of 31), which ranks 22nd in the NFL. There are 10 teams who have a conversion rate over 70 percent on fourth-and-one over that span.
CINCINNATI -- Giovani Bernard is still the Cincinnati Bengals' starter at running back.

That's been a fact most of the offseason, and it doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon.

But Sunday night, when the Bengals visit the Cardinals in the all-important third preseason game, the one that starters typically play a little longer in, Bernard may be one of the few first-teamers who sees some of his opportunities trimmed a tad.

That's because the Bengals hope to put the ball in rookie Jeremy Hill's hands while he has first-unit blockers and the starting quarterback handing off to him. Hill will get his share of first-team snaps -- the first time that has happened in a preseason game.

Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson hinted Thursday at that being a possibility, and on Friday, head coach Marvin Lewis all but confirmed the plan when asked if Hill might see more playing time.

"Probably, likely, yes," Lewis said.

Hill has practiced with Cincinnati's starting offense, but he hasn't yet appeared in a game with the group or spent significant time with it. As the Bengals try to finalize the shape of their roster and its rotations, they plan to give the rookie more opportunities to contribute.

"We're excited about Jeremy," Lewis said. "He's come in here and he's been such a great runner of the football, rusher of the football. But to be able to do it consistently on this level and to get a chance to do it [against] a really good football team ... we expect big things out of Jeremy this year, so you get to see a good glimpse of him this week."

Jackson said Hill was "worthy" of playing more regularly with the starting unit.

The Bengals selected the LSU product in the draft's second round in May. Since his arrival, he has been used in varying roles as a backup to Bernard.

In the first two preseason games, veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis -- whose job Hill is believed to be close to taking -- has gotten game action before the rookie. Both have appeared after Bernard finished with the rest of the starters at the beginning of the games. With Green-Ellis out most of this week with a stomach virus that has attacked the team the past two weeks and Rex Burkhead nursing a knee injury, Hill could see extensive action with the backup offensive units too.

Through two preseason games, Hill has nine carries for 52 yards. His 5.8 yards per carry average leads the team's running backs.