AFC North: Emmanuel Lamur

CINCINNATI -- With the Super Bowl now over and the 2014 NFL season officially behind us, the slow march to the next training camp has begun for all 32 teams.

Free agency and the draft are the two big upcoming events for the Cincinnati Bengals and others. In addition to those events, there are meetings team president Mike Brown, head coach Marvin Lewis and other members of the front office must attend as the league ratifies and tweaks some of its many rules.

Yes, it's called the offseason, but there really isn't much "off" to it. Let's take a quick look at some of the key upcoming dates the Bengals have circled on their calendars:

Feb. 16: The first day teams can designate franchise or transition players.
A player typically gets the franchise tag when a team wants to keep him around another year, but isn't ready to commit to signing him to a longer-term deal. Michael Johnson (2013) was the last Bengal to get the franchise tag. There don't appear to be any franchise-tag candidates this year, but receiver A.J. Green could get it next year at the end of his fifth-year option. He's hopeful the Bengals get a longer-term deal done between now and then.

Feb. 17-23: NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
The Bengals and the other teams get to evaluate invited talent as they start whittling down their respective draft boards. They'll get a chance to talk to players whom they may not have seen at the Senior Bowl, and they will get a better look at their speed and strength.

March 2: By 4 p.m. ET, teams must designate franchise or transition players.

March 10: The 2015 league year and free-agency period begins at 4 p.m. ET. Teams must all be under the 2015 salary cap by 4 p.m. ET.
Sometime in the next month or so we'll know what the new salary cap will be. It's currently estimated to be just shy of $150 million per team for 2015. If that's the case, the Bengals are in good shape. According to NFL Players Association records, they are at about $110 million (that does not include the $8.7 million in dead money they'll roll over). With little additional salary-cap room needed, the Bengals can be a little more aggressive than usual this free-agency period, as Lewis has said. Still, don't expect them to go after high-priced potential free agents like Ndamukong Suh.

March 22-25: Annual league meeting in Phoenix.

April 24: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets.
The Bengals have two players whom they have to think about extending tenders to: defensive tackle Devon Still and linebacker Emmanuel Lamur. They are the team's only restricted free agents this year. Neither figures to receive higher-round tenders.

April 29: Deadline for prior clubs to exercise right of first refusal to restricted free agents.
If Still and Lamur hold equal offers from other teams, this is the day when the Bengals have the option of letting them go to those teams, or to keep them. If another team offered a higher-round tender, the player must sign with that team, like Andrew Hawkins did last offseason.

April 30-May 2: NFL draft, Chicago

Four Bengals sick as flu infects team

December, 24, 2014

CINCINNATI -- Four Cincinnati Bengals missed practice Wednesday, being told to stay away because a flu has run amok throughout the team.

The virus has affected different position groups and different corners of the locker room.

Quarterback Andy Dalton was the biggest name player who was sidelined because of it, forced to head home about a half hour before his regularly-scheduled Wednesday news conference. Along with him, tight end Jermaine Gresham, safety Reggie Nelson and cornerback Terence Newman had illnesses, too.

It's the second time a contagious bug has hit the team, following the spread of a stomach bug four and five weeks ago. In all, seven Bengals were hit by that one, including Dalton who got it the night before the Bengals' Week 13 game at Tampa Bay. After taking three IVs before the game and throwing up in the locker room during pregame introductions, Dalton threw three first-half interceptions before tossing a touchdown pass and running for another in the second half.

Along with the sick quartet, the Bengals were unsurprisingly without receiver A.J. Green, too. Although he participated in the stretching period, he didn't go through any other part of the practice as he starts trying to recover from a right biceps bruise. Green suffered the injury Monday night when the helmet of a Broncos defensive back barreled hard into him as he leaped for a high pass.

When the ball deflected off Green's hand, it ricocheted into cornerback's Aqib Talib's hands. Untouched, he got off the ground and ran 33 yards for a touchdown on the Bengals' fifth offensive play.

Green told ESPN on Wednesday that he initially thought he had broken his arm on the hit.

During his news conference, coach Marvin Lewis said Green was "progressing." Lewis added that he thought Green had a shot to play Sunday at Pittsburgh in the unofficial AFC North title game. The winner of the matchup will win the division.

Along with the notes on Dalton and Green, the Bengals also are hopeful that receiver James Wright and linebacker Emmanuel Lamur will return this week. Both missed Monday night's game, and Wright missed the two before that. They both practiced Wednesday, going in limited capacity during the Christmas Eve session.

Unlike most teams the Bengals will practice on Christmas Day. Part of the reason they aren't taking the day off is because this keeps them in a daily rhythm ahead of the big Sunday game. It also made sense that they practice after being done no favors by the NFL schedule-makers.

The same week as Christmas, the Bengals had a Monday night game and a Sunday one immediately after it. Normally they'd have six days of practice between games. They would have had only four if they took Thursday off.

Here's the full Wednesday injury report:

QB Andy Dalton (illness)
TE Jermaine Gresham (illness)
CB Terence Newman (illness)
S Reggie Nelson (illness)
LB Chris Carter (knee)
DE Wallace Gilberry (hamstring)

CB Darqueze Dennard (shin)
LB Emmanuel Lamur (hamstring)
WR James Wright (knee)
CINCINNATI -- If Peyton Manning ends up playing for the Denver Broncos on Monday night, the Cincinnati Bengals could be without one of their best weapons for combating him.

Although he practiced Saturday morning for the first time this week, linebacker Emmanuel Lamur was listed later in the day as doubtful on the Bengals' final injury report of the week.

He could be a game-time decision.

"He's made a lot of progress," coach Marvin Lewis said. "With the extra day this week, obviously that helps a lot."

Lamur had an extra day early in the week to rest his sore hamstring, and he will have time even early Monday to get it treated several hours before the game if need be.

"It wasn't real severe, and we shut him down right away," Lewis said of the injury.

Lamur was run from last Sunday's 30-0 win against the Browns because of the issue.

If Lamur is ruled unable to play, the Bengals likely will use a combination of backups Marquis Flowers, Chris Carter and Nico Johnson at the "Sam" linebacker position he occupies in the base defense. When Cincinnati shifts into nickel packages as it likely will do often against the Broncos' multi-receiver and tight end sets, safety Taylor Mays likely will come off the bench and shift into Lamur's role as the cover linebacker. Despite playing the "Sam" in base, it has been Lamur's responsibility to defend tight ends in passing situations this season.

Last season, with Lamur out for the season, Mays moved down into a linebacker role. He was covering tight ends in a similar capacity before suffering his own season-ending shoulder injury in Week 8.

In addition to watching Lamur, eyes will be on Manning before Monday's game, too. After fighting through a thigh injury and an illness this week, the quarterback was listed as questionable on the Broncos' Saturday injury report.

Here is Cincinnati's full injury report*:

WR James Wright (knee)
LB Lamur (hamstring)

QB AJ McCarron (illness)

WR Brandon Tate (illness)
OL Mike Pollak (knee)
CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Achilles)
DE Carlos Dunlap (calf)
TE Jermaine Gresham (toe)
DE Margus Hunt (ankle)
CB Terence Newman (ankle)
OT Marshall Newhouse (illness)

Receiver A.J. Green was taken off the injury report. He's healthy after dealing with an illness this week.
CINCINNATI -- In their first practice of the week, the Cincinnati Bengals got tight end Jermaine Gresham back from a toe injury that forced him to miss last Sunday's game at Cleveland.

Gresham was in and out of practice last week after picking up the injury in one of the week's workouts. He tested out the toe before Sunday's game and, for the most part, looked pretty good. But he apparently didn't feel good enough.

He told coaches and trainers he was in too much pain and was thus declared inactive.

On Thursday, he not only was active, but he participated fully alongside defensive end Margus Hunt and cornerback Terence Newman. Hunt returned after missing four weeks with an ankle injury. He was injured in the Week 11 game at New Orleans and was quickly placed into a walking boot and crutches. Newman practiced after also being inactive last Sunday due to his own ankle injury.

Of concern Thursday was the absence of A.J. Green. The Pro Bowl receiver was sent home after the Bengals' morning walk-through because of an illness. It is believed he'll be OK to practice Friday, and his status for Monday night's game against the Denver Broncos isn't in doubt.

While there doesn't appear to be any issue with Green this week, the same can't be said just yet about linebacker Emmanuel Lamur and receiver James Wright. Neither practiced, but they did participate in rehab and conditioning exercises on the side of the practice fields. This was only the second time Wright has gone through rehab drills in the nearly three weeks he has missed with a knee injury. It's a promising sign that he could be activated this week if the Bengals are comfortable with the injury's progress.

Lamur hurt his hamstring in the second half of the 30-0 win over the Browns on Sunday.

Here is the complete Thursday injury report:

WR A.J. Green (illness)
LB Emmanuel Lamur (hamstring)
WR James Wright (knee)
OL Mike Pollak (knee)

CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Achilles)
DE Carlos Dunlap (calf)

DE Margus Hunt (ankle)
CB Terence Newman (ankle)
TE Jermaine Gresham (toe)
CINCINNATI -- Emmanuel Lamur has played basketball.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Graham
AP Photo/Rogelio SolisWith his size and athletic ability, Jimmy Graham will be a tough challenge for the Bengals' defense.
 But there's a reason he's now a football player.

His sporting profession won't matter much at the Superdome on Sunday, though, but he probably still might have to pull out a few hardcourt tricks as he spends much of the afternoon covering New Orleans Saints pass-catching phenom Jimmy Graham. The tight end who spent four years of college playing Division I basketball is a veritable matchup nightmare.

Graham's 56 receptions this season tie him for seventh in the league among all pass-catchers. His seven touchdowns is tied for ninth.

Lamur did't want admit that he would be doing his share of boxing out and leaping while trying to prevent jump-balls downfield, but he did concede that he will have arguably the biggest challenge he's had in a year full of them.

"He's Graham," Lamur said, smiling as he was asked about what made the tight end so special. "He's like a dinosaur. He's so big. He's a tall guy."

At 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, Graham is slightly bigger than most tight ends. Pound-for-pound, most defensive ends and many outside linebackers would be ideal to cover him. But then factor in Graham's penchant for going up for jump balls downfield. Maybe that's when a safety would be best to cover him. But then again, he is 6-foot-7, 265 pounds.

Even with his T-Rex-like size, Graham runs like a greyhound. His long, purposeful strides get him in the back of a secondary quickly, meaning cornerbacks could be good options for covering him. But again, he's 6-foot-7, 265 pounds.

"You don't want to get in those situations," said 5-foot-11 Bengals cornerback Leon Hall, one of several defensive backs who could spend a play or two on Graham. "He's a big body so if you get up on him, a lot of the time, it would be jump-ball type of situations where he can reach up for the ball and you can't reach your short arms in there. You have to play a little differently. I can't say exactly how, but you have to be smart."

Because of his combination of athletic ability, size (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) and recent experiences, Lamur is the best option for consistently playing Graham. After covering the likes of Dennis Pitta, Delanie Walker, Rob Gronkowski and Greg Olsen, Lamur has already gone through a pass-catching tight end gauntlet.

But he has struggled. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the four tight ends caught a combined 28 passes for 339 yards, three touchdowns and 18 first downs with Lamur on the field. Only one 11-yard, first-down pass was caught by Olsen with Lamur not in the game.

Lamur, playing in his first full season as a starter, still believes he has discovered the best way to play such challenging receivers: be just as physical as they are, if not more.

"You have to put a hand on those guys," Lamur said. "You can't let them get free releases. That's where they make their bread and butter. You just have to have collisions."

With respect to defending Graham specifically, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther broke it down even simpler.

"He's got to cover him," Guenther said. "Point blank."

As expected, no A.J. Green for Bengals

October, 19, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- We've known for a week that Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green would miss the Cincinnati Bengals' game this week at Indianapolis, but it is now official.

The fourth-year wideout was on Cincinnati's list of inactives for the Bengals' 1 p.m. ET game Sunday against the Colts. It will be the second straight game Green has missed. He also missed all but six plays of the Bengals' Week 2 game against the Falcons.

In Green's place will be Mohamed Sanu, the third-year receiver who has caught 13 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns as Green's replacement so far this season. Overall, Sanu has caught a team-high 27 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns this season. He's expected to continue to be the Bengals' top receiving threat without the superstar Green, who has been trying to battle through a toe injury since the season opener.

Green initially picked up the injury to his right big toe during the first quarter of the Bengals' Week 1 win over the Ravens. He fought through the injury and finished the game before shutting it down just six plays into the next contest.

He's hopeful to return next week when the Bengals host the Ravens.

Along with Green, the Bengals also are without linebackers Rey Maualuga and Emmanuel Lamur. They had been expected to sit this week after suffering injuries in the fourth quarter of last week's tie with the Panthers. Maualuga has a serious left hamstring injury that coach Marvin Lewis anticipates will keep him out a few weeks. Lamur's shoulder issue doesn't appear to be as serious, and the team is hoping he'll return next week.

Maualuga will be replaced by second-year player Jayson DiManche, and Lamur will be replaced by Vincent Rey.

While Green, Maualuga and Lamur were deactivated, the two players who were signed this week to help absorb their losses were activated. Receiver Greg Little and linebacker Nico Johnson were part of the 46-man gameday roster, but neither is expected to play. They simply haven't had enough time to digest their respective playbooks. Little and Johnson will only see action if the Bengals are placed into emergency scenarios that call upon one or both having to play.

Here is the full list of inactives for Sunday's game:

Bengals inactives
WR A.J. Green
LB Rey Maualuga
LB Emmanuel Lamur
DT Brandon Thompson
CB Chris Lewis-Harris
OT Tanner Hawkinson
DE Will Clarke

Colts inactives
CB Darius Butler
LB Victor Butler
OG Lance Louis
OL Khaled Holmes
OT Jamon Meredith
DT Kelcy Quarles
DT Arthur Jones
CINCINNATI -- Kevin Zeitler has practiced for two straight days.

That's more practice time than he's had with teammates in more than a month, meaning signs are good that the Cincinnati Bengals right guard will play Sunday at Indianapolis.

"It felt good [Wednesday] and it still feels good today," Zeitler said, referring to his right calf, just before Thursday afternoon's practice.

Zeitler has been bugged by the calf since Sept. 14, when he hurt it blocking for Giovani Bernard on a goal-line touchdown run against the Falcons. The injury didn't require surgery, but he was on crutches for several days and went through a long rest and rehab process.

On Thursday, Zeitler was simply trying to see how well the leg responded to getting worked out on back-to-back days. It was the second consecutive practice he participated in full capacity.

"If I can get through that practice completely healthy," Zeitler said, "that'll be just reassuring. It's just getting back with everyone and getting all those habits that I took all of training camp to develop before taking the last four weeks off."

Before getting hurt, Zeitler had started strong. He was good in the running game and slightly better protecting the pass. Pro Football Focus gave him positive grades in both the games he played in, giving him a plus-1.9 overall grade in the half he played against Atlanta.

Zeitler's focus this training camp was to "get back to what I know I can do." He said he was a little dismayed by what he believed was a struggle-filled season in 2013, and get back to building from a strong rookie season in 2011. To do that, he's going to have to get his muscles trained to doing what they had been before the injury.

"I thought I was doing well the first one-and-a-half games, but now that you've been off for like four weeks, some of that muscle memory disappears," Zeitler said. "It's just a matter of getting your body to do what it knows how to do again."

Below are a few other players who are hopeful to play Sunday. Here's a look at Thursday's injury report:

Did not practice
WR A.J. Green (toe)
LB Emmanuel Lamur (shoulder)
LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring)
OG Clint Boling (veteran's day off)
OT Andrew Whitworth (veteran's day off)
DT Brandon Thompson (knee)

Limited practice participation
S George Iloka (groin)
OT Andre Smith (shoulder)
DE Wallace Gilberry (eye)

Full practice participation
OG Kevin Zeitler (calf)
CINCINNATI -- It came as little surprise, but the Cincinnati Bengals were once again without Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green when practice resumed Wednesday.

The fourth-year wideout didn't even make it on the field during the open portion of the day's workout.

He was spotted briefly walking through the Bengals' locker room, though, where he made a beeline for the training room. In the few seconds he was in the locker room, he wasn't seen wearing the black boot on his right foot that he had previously worn. He was wearing the boot before Sunday's game against Carolina and had it on last Friday, one day after seeing an area foot specialist.

Green has been dealing with an injury to his right big toe since the first week of the season, but he aggravated it last Wednesday as the Bengals practiced for the first time for the Panthers. He barely made it out of the stretching period before getting carted off the practice fields and back into the stadium for evaluation. As a result, he didn't play against the Panthers. Mohamed Sanu took his place, catching 10 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown.

Just after Sunday's game, ESPN's Bob Holtzman reported that Green told him he didn't anticipate playing this Sunday when the Bengals travel to Indianapolis. He had been told to expect to be off his foot for two weeks.

Along with Green, the Bengals also were without linebackers Rey Maualuga and Emmanuel Lamur, who suffered serious injuries in the 37-37 overtime tie. Maualuga has a left hamstring injury that was so bad he needed to be carted off the sideline in the fourth quarter Sunday. It's likely he will miss multiple weeks.

Lamur also left the game in the fourth quarter after picking up a left shoulder injury. He had worn a sling Sunday and Monday, but he wasn't wearing one Wednesday when both the locker room and practice were open.

The Bengals did see two previously injured players practice fully Wednesday. Running back Giovani Bernard, who had a right shoulder issue following a hard shot from Luke Kuechly that forced him briefly out of Sunday's game, practiced without limitation. Bernard was apparently so healthy that he didn't even end up on the injury report. Also practicing fully was right guard Kevin Zeitler. The starting lineman was hurt in Week 2 but appears poised to make a return this week depending on how his leg holds up in practices.

Here's Cincinnati's full injury report:

WR Marvin Jones (ankle -- went on IR Tuesday)

WR A.J. Green (toe)
LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring)
LB Emmanuel Lamur (shoulder)
DT Brandon Thompson (knee)
OT Andrew Whitworth (veteran's day off)
OL Mike Pollak (knee)
DE Wallace Gilberry (eye)

S George Iloka (groin)
OT Andre Smith (shoulder)

OG Kevin Zeitler (calf)
CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals announced Wednesday that they filled their final open roster spot with linebacker Nico Johnson, a former Kansas City Chiefs practice squad player.

A fourth-round 2013 draft pick, Johnson spent all of this season on the Chiefs' practice squad after spending all of last year on their active roster. He comes to Cincinnati one day after the Bengals made a series of roster moves that included waiving linebacker Khairi Fortt, one week after he had been signed.

The addition of Johnson also comes amid a rash of injuries at linebacker. Emmanuel Lamur and Rey Maualuga were run from the fourth quarter of Sunday's 37-37 overtime tie with the Panthers. Lamur suffered a left shoulder injury on the third-to-last play of regulation. With time in the quarter expiring, had he been able to get up, Carolina might not have had enough time to get its offense back to the line in order to spike the ball and stop the clock for a game-tying field goal try.

Since Lamur stayed on the ground, the clock stopped and the Bengals were forced to use a timeout. It gave the Panthers a chance to spike the ball on the clock restart, and to have Graham Gano kick a field goal that sent the game to overtime.

Maualuga's hamstring injury came earlier in the quarter, and was apparently so bad he had to be carted off the sideline.

There is no word yet exactly how much time either will miss, but there is a belief internally that Maualuga could miss multiple weeks. With the middle linebacker gone, the Bengals needed to add depth in the form of an interior linebacker. Johnson played inside linebacker in Kansas City's 3-4 defensive scheme.

Johnson also played in seven games last season for the Chiefs and had one start. The Alabama product also recorded 15 tackles and three special teams tackles this preseason.

W2W4: Panthers vs. Bengals

October, 11, 2014
CINCINNATI -- Three storylines to watch Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals host the Carolina Panthers at Paul Brown Stadium:

Replacing Green: It has been the biggest issue involving the Bengals this week, and with good reason. Once A.J. Green left the practice field early Wednesday because of an aggravation of an old toe injury, it became clear he probably would be absent Sunday. His teammates are now charged with trying to account for him not being on the field. Who will be the one who rises up and becomes big playmaking star? The Bengals spent the offseason lauding themselves for the high volume of playmakers in their system. But with Green joining tight end Tyler Eifert and receiver Marvin Jones on the shelf, the number of key skill players has been greatly diminished. Watch for running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill and receiver Mohamed Sanu to be the biggest difference-makers.

Defending the run: The Bengals' rushing defense last week could best be summed with the following word: "atrocious." Indeed, there have been better days for the unit. New England rushed for 220 yards, including 112 of those yards on six plays. The other 108 came on another 40 carries. While the Bengals were mostly good against the run, they had some glaring missed tackles and a few misfits as they slipped into incorrect gaps for run support. It was primarily on those six plays in which the missed tackles and poor gap support and gap angles were the most costly.

Part of the issue stemmed from "Will" linebacker Vontaze Burfict being out with a concussion. In his place, Emmanuel Lamur was charged with calling plays for only the second time in his career. With the Patriots quick-snapping Lamur and the rest of the defense, the Bengals barely had time to get plays set before the Patriots were running. With Burfict back this week, the Bengals ought to get their calls in more efficiently and smoother this week, even if the Panthers quick-snap them. Burfict knows the defense a little better and can anticipate plays slightly better than Lamur. If the rush defense improves, you can thank Burfict for some of that.

Keep an eye on punts: In the event Sunday's game is close, it could be decided by special-teams play. So keep an eye on two of the Bengals' special-teams units in particular. When it comes to punt coverage, Cincinnati has been one of the best, routinely pinning opposing return teams deep. According to ESPN Stats & Information, punter Kevin Huber leads the NFL in percentage of punts inside the 10 and inside the 5. A whopping 25 percent of his punts (that's four of his 16 total) have been stopped inside the 5-yard line. At one point across the second and third games of the year, he had three consecutive punts that were downed on the opposing 4, 1 and 2. While you have to credit Huber for some of that, also tip a cap to his coverage team, including gunners Darqueze Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick in particular has consistently stopped returners as soon as they touch the ball.

With respect to the Bengals' punt return unit, chew on this stat: Returner Adam Jones hasn't had a fair catch since Nov. 2006, when he was at Tennessee. He's returned 82 straight punts without waving for a fair catch, meaning he'll be looking to take one back Sunday.

PFF reviews the Bengals' Week 5 loss

October, 6, 2014
CINCINNATI -- The New England Patriots, for better or worse, are now in the Cincinnati Bengals' rearview mirror. But before we completely move on from Sunday night's game, let's take a quick peek at some of the ways our friends at Pro Football Focus analyzed and examined Cincinnati's Week 5 game.

As always, take the grades and notes you see below with a certain grain of salt because they can end up being amended. Bad grades also can sometimes simply be the product of particular schemes, coverages or formations a team happens to employ in a respective week based upon the opponent.

Here are a few Bengals grades and notes following Sunday's 43-17 loss:

  • It seemed like just about anything that could go wrong for the Bengals on Sunday did. But to its credit, the Bengals' offensive line held up much better than what may have been originally perceived, according to PFF. In pass protection, the group held its own with veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth leading the way with a plus-1.4 pass-blocking grade. Whitworth also had a plus grade in run blocking, collecting a 1.2 grade there. He was the only offensive lineman with a positive run-blocking grade.
  • As well as Whitworth played on the left side of the line, the right side struggled, according to PFF's evaluation. Right tackle Andre Smith, right guard Mike Pollak and center Russell Bodine all had run-block grades below minus-2.0.
  • Behind A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu, who both played more than 50 snaps, James Wright received the most at receiver, totaling 22 snaps.
  • The running back snap breakdown went as follows: Giovani Bernard (44), Jeremy Hill (12). It was tough to get the balance the Bengals wanted in the running game because they were down by so much so early. The Bengals were down immediately 14-0 before starting to come back, briefly.
  • Quarterback Andy Dalton was barely pressured. He received pressure on just seven of his 27 dropbacks.
  • With Darrelle Revis covering him, Green was targeted five times. On those passes, Green caught three for 64 yards, helping bolster his claim that he didn't think Revis shut him down.
  • The Bengals threw seven passes that traveled 20 yards or more downfield, the most they have attempted in a single game all season. Entering Sunday's game, 63 percent of Dalton's passing attempts had traveled 15 yards or less in the air, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
  • New England targeted Cincinnati's linebackers all night, attempting 15 passes in their areas of coverage. Vincent Rey allowed six catches on six targets and Emmanuel Lamur allowed three on six targets.
  • Lamur also was credited with just one missed tackle by PFF (although from my personal recollection, I can remember him missing at least three) and received his lowest overall grade of the season: minus-5.0. He now has a minus-4.2 overall grade this season. Only Robert Geathers and Domata Peko have worse overall grades from PFF.
  • Cornerback Leon Hall also had his struggles. He allowed five catches on eight targets and missed three tackles.
  • Defensive end Wallace Gilberry recorded the Bengals' highest grades in overall play, play against the pass and play against the run. He had a plus-3.8 overall grade.
  • Defensive tackle Geno Atkins played 51 snaps, recording two tackles and a quarterback hurry.
CINCINNATI -- It appears that for the fourth consecutive game the Cincinnati Bengals will be without receiver Marvin Jones after he was listed as doubtful on the injury report the team provided on Friday.

Jones was joined under that designation by linebacker Vontaze Burfict and offensive guard Kevin Zeitler. Defensive tackle Brandon Thompson was listed as out. He, Zeitler and Burfict were all injured in the Bengals' Week 2 win over the Falcons.

Burfict, who has been under concussion protocol since suffering a head injury in the game against Atlanta, practiced for the first time in two weeks. He was limited, along with Margus Hunt, A.J. Green and Robert Geathers. In addition to participating in some of the light conditioning and stretching exercises at the start of practice, Burfict also went through a series of exercises on one sideline inside Paul Brown Stadium while his teammates were going through position drills during the open portion of the practice.

It was promising that he went through some measure of activity Friday, but the doubtful listing, coupled with the fact he'll still have to clear the concussion protocol Sunday morning means it isn't promising that he'll play in the Bengals' game at New England.

Without Burfict, the Bengals will turn for a second straight game to Vincent Rey, who filled in admirably against the Titans in Cincinnati's Week 3 game. Rey had three tackles in the win, including one on the very first play. After the game, Rey said that Burfict told him to make sure he recorded a stop on the first play and his mind would be put at ease.

The timing of Jones' injury couldn't be worse for the third-year standout. He had just returned from a broken foot that sidelined him for about a month and a half. Two days into returning to practice, he experienced an ankle injury that he has been slow to get beyond this week. The ankle injury popped up during Monday's practice and hours after he had just told reporters how glad he was to be able to get back to playing.

Here is the Bengals' full Friday injury report:

DT Brandon Thompson (knee)

WR Marvin Jones (ankle)
LB Vontaze Burfict (concussion -- limited practice participation)
OG Kevin Zeitler (calf)

DE Margus Hunt (shoulder -- limited practice participation)

DE Robert Geathers (toe -- limited practice participation)
RB Rex Burkhead (knee)
S George Iloka (abdomen)
LB Emmanuel Lamur (concussion)
OG Mike Pollak (knee)
LB Sean Porter (hamstring)
WR A.J. Green (toe -- limited practice participation)
CINCINNATI -- Hours before Sunday's game, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict let Vincent Rey in on his secret to success: get to the ball on the first play.

"It'll settle you down," Rey said, relaying the injured Pro Bowler's message to him.


With Burfict spending the afternoon under concussion protocol after suffering his second head injury in as many games the previous Sunday against Atlanta, the Bengals were forced to send Rey out to replace him.

He filled in quite nicely.

Rey finished with four tackles, including one on the first play of the game from scrimmage. As the Titans tried to execute a first-down run, Rey flowed right into the spot where running back Shonn Greene was trying to go and stopped him for no gain.

"I just happened to be there," Rey said. "The running back kind of fell, and I got on him. That did settle me down."

While Rey isn't as vociferous on the field as Burfict and isn't as intimidating as the starting weakside linebacker, he still packs a more-than-adequate punch as a backup. The former undrafted player out of Duke began making a name for himself in Bengals stripes on special teams, where he thrived through his first three seasons. Then last season, in Year 4, he earned the respect of Bengals fans after starting three straight games in the middle of the season, replacing middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.

Rey had 30 tackles, three sacks and an interception in those three games.

As one of the Bengals' smartest defenders, Rey is given the most opportunities to play all three linebacker positions. He knows each of the spots and has performed well in those positions throughout his career. He is viewed as a sort of a utility player at the position. When one starter goes down, regardless of what spot he plays, in comes Rey. And if he's on the field when Burfict and Emmanuel Lamur aren't, then Rey makes the calls in the huddle and presnap adjustments at the line.

Rey was credited with one of the four positive grades Pro Football Focus gave Bengals defenders after Sunday's 33-7 win over Tennessee. He had a plus-1.2 overall grade and a plus-1.3 grade against the run, according to PFF. The website also rewarded him with two quarterback hurries on the 49 snaps he played.

While it's clear Rey played well individually, he was quick to credit his teammates for performing well in Burfict's absence.

"When a guy like Vontaze is out, we all have to pick up the slack for him, not just one guy," Rey said. "We all raise our game."

Despite how well Rey played Sunday, Cincinnati hopes its defense will be at full capacity in 12 days when it travels to New England for a Sunday night game that comes after this week's bye. There is an expectation that the bye will give Burfict additional time to work through the symptoms of the concussion and eventually clear the protocol ahead of arguably the biggest game of the first half of the Bengals' season.

Bengals Camp Report: Day 6

July, 30, 2014
CINCINNATI -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Cincinnati Bengals training camp:
  • There's only one place to begin Wednesday's practice report: with the fireworks. Twice, members of the offense and defense had to be pulled apart as emotions and tensions ran high outwardly for the first time. First, linebacker Emmanuel Lamur and offensive guard Clint Boling came to blows at the end of a goal-line drill. Lamur was seen grabbing Boling's face mask as pushing and shoving ensued around them. A.J. Green then came in, appearing to help calm and subdue Lamur in the back of the end zone. The linebacker misinterpreted the Pro Bowl wideout's actions and swung a punch at him. Fans who saw the blows started shouting, "No! Not on A.J.!" Later, linebacker Marquis Flowers and center T.J. Johnson exchanged words briefly, but that scuffle was stopped quickly before it became anything bigger.
  • After practice, Lamur walked up to a grinning Hue Jackson and gave the offensive coordinator a hug. Lamur also exchanged a jovial fist-bump with Boling as he walked off the practice fields. When Lamur was asked to comment on the near-brawl, he simply said: "It's over." Defensive end Wallace Gilberry said it's just a sign the Bengals are ready to get to their first preseason game next week at Kansas City. "We're ready to hit somebody else, but at the end of the day, we're a team first and foremost," Gilberry said. "Coach [Marvin Lewis] hates it, but it gets us fired up."
  • Flowers, a noted trash-talker, told me he doesn't want to rein in his on-field actions too significantly, but he added that he wants to monitor what he says and does a little better. In addition to all the smack he was talking to his offensive counterparts, the rookie began practice with a pop when he gave receiver Cobi Hamilton an unexpected forearm shiver as Hamilton ran out of the backfield in a low-speed drill. The hit was so hard, it sent Hamilton to the turf instantly, caused fans nearby to gasp and made noted hard hitter Vontaze Burfict holler his support. "I've got to watch it," Flowers said. "I thought the run was coming at me, but obviously I didn't want to do that. I just wanted to tag off. We don't want nobody on the ground, but at the same time, I was just trying to protect myself."
  • Flowers said that after his interview, he was headed straight to Hamilton's locker to apologize. Flowers' actions probably are best chalked up to first-day excitement. After beginning camp on the active physically unable to perform list, he was medically cleared along with defensive tackle Geno Atkins earlier in the day. While Flowers had a chance to mix into some of the team drills, Atkins was noticeably absent. The bulk of his work came just before practice, when the team walked through position-specific drills. For now, the Bengals plan on taking things slowly with Atkins.
  • Mohamed Sanu was the clear MVP of Monday's practice, passing the football, catching it and running with it out of the backfield. He didn't do all of that Wednesday, but he still began the workout in a unique way, taking the ball on a pitch from Green on a double reverse. The Bengals also tossed in a flea-flicker during their opening drills. Plays like that are all to show those watching that Jackson's offense has the potential to showcase several bells and whistles this season.