Thursday, September 15, 2011
Wake-up call: Differing reports on Dalton
By Jamison Hensley
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton was limited in practice Wednesday, which caused speculation on the status of the second-round draft pick. Dalton is officially listed with a right wrist injury, which explains why he didn't throw and handed off using his left hand during the media-viewing portion of practice.
Joe Reedy, of the Cincinnati Enquirer, reports there is "cautious optimism" that Dalton will start Sunday at Denver. But Geoff Hobson, of Bengals.com, described Dalton as "questionable at best."
Ross Tucker, former NFL player turned analyst for ESPN.com, posted on Twitter this morning that Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is "optimistic" about Dalton practicing today and playing on Sunday.
Hensley's slant: The Bengals shouldn't rush Dalton back. His backup, Bruce Gradkowski, has led six fourth-quarter comebacks in 20 starts, including Sunday's 27-17 win over the Browns. He should also have a familiarity with the Broncos' defensive personnel after playing the past two seasons in Oakland.
- RAVENS: Wide receiver Lee Evans is back in a protective boot for a left ankle injury. He wore the same boot leading up to the preseason finale, but he practiced all last week. Hensley's slant: Even though Evans didn't make a catch in the season opener, his absence would be huge Sunday at Tennessee. The Ravens would have to start either David Reed, who is coming off suspension, or Torrey Smith, a rookie who is coming off a rocky preseason.
- STEELERS: Ben Roethlisberger vowed to use the no-huddle offense Sunday against the Seahawks after struggling to score one touchdown in the season opener. Hensley's slant: The Steelers should be vowing to commit more to the running game. Pittsburgh ran the ball only 10 times in the first half of the season opener despite averaging 6 yards per carry.
- BROWNS: With right tackle Tony Pashos out again with an ankle injury, the Browns will try to block Colts pass-rusher Robert Mathis with the rotation of Artis Hicks and Oniel Cousins. Hensley's slant: The Browns have to make sure their banged-up offensive line doesn't lead to a banged-up Colt McCoy. Neither Hicks nor Cousins will be able to handle Mathis one-on-one, so Cleveland has to double him by putting a tight end on the right side or chipping a running back there.