Cincinnati Bengals: NFL

CINCINNATI -- They were fathers, sons, husbands, movie actors, police officers, football players.

And pioneers.

When Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Bill Willis and Marion Motley walked onto fields in Los Angeles and Cleveland in the fall of 1946, they became the first African-Americans to play professional football in the post-World War II era. That was important, because 13 years prior, due to a "gentlemen's agreement" at the 1933 NFL owners meetings, African-Americans had been effectively barred from playing the game, just as they had been a half century prior in baseball.

With the civil rights movement on the horizon and Jackie Robinson's integration of Major League Baseball still nine months away, September 1946 was a pivotal time in the direction of America's future.

What does any of it have to do with the Cincinnati Bengals? More than you might think.

On Tuesday night, the Bengals and the EPIX movie channel hosted a screening of a new EPIX original documentary called "Forgotten Four: The Integration of Pro Football." The documentary was produced by Emmy award-winning producer Ross Greenburg, and chronicled the stories of Washington, Strode, Willis and Motley. Washington and Strode played in 1946 for the L.A. Rams, who had just moved that year from Cleveland. Willis and Motley were members of the Cleveland Browns, which had just joined the All-America Football Conference.

That was the same Browns team coached by the venerable Paul Brown, the man who later founded the Bengals and who the Bengals' stadium is named after.

Brown's son, Bengals president Mike Brown, makes several appearances in the film. Once he said of his late father: "It never occurred to him that anyone shouldn't have a chance."

While much of the documentary is about the sacrifice and courage that it took for the four to break one of the many societal constraints that divided the country at the time, it also has a heavy dosage of Paul Brown.

It was Joe Horrigan, vice president of communications for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who used the term "enabler" in the film to describe Paul Brown, applying it in the same context that is used by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. On the actual Underground Railroad system that enslaved African-Americans took in the 19th century to escape the South for free states like Ohio, there were people along the way known as "enablers." They were whites who wanted to see slavery end, and who had the social capital to aid the formerly enslaved by either hiding them from slave captors, or helping them get to other stages of their journey north.

In the march for pro football integration, Paul Brown was the "enabler" Willis and Motley needed to have a chance to play. He apparently enabled former Bengals assistant Jim Anderson, who was hired by Paul Brown as the Bengals' first African-American coach in 1984.

"The words you heard those people say about Paul Brown," Anderson said after the screening, "were the same words he said to the Cincinnati Bengals. I could really see the footprint of Paul Brown on these guys."

Willis and Motley played integral roles in all four of the AAFC championships the Browns won between 1946-49. Motley, an Ohio native who played college football at Navy for Paul Brown, was the team's leading rusher each of those seasons. Even after Cleveland joined the NFL in 1950, he led the franchise in rushing two more times. Both he and Willis were later enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Washington and Strode are not in the Hall of Fame. The main reason appears to be that Strode, battered physically and mentally by abuse he received from teammates, only played one season. Washington lasted just three seasons before knee issues forced him to retire. Age may have played a hand in that, too. His first season came six years after he had graduated from UCLA, where he played with Strode and the eventual baseball pioneer Robinson.

As well-regarded as Paul Brown is as an innovator of the technical side of football -- the offensive draw, the West Coast offense and helmet radios are just some of what he's credited with bringing to the game -- this is one part of his legacy that has gone overlooked.

It's why one Cincinnati resident after the screening said to the crowded theater: "This is why the name on our stadium should never change."
CINCINNATI -- Tuesday's late-morning practice was barely one minute old when rookie cornerback Darqueze Dennard was engulfed by a media crush.

As one of the first young Cincinnati Bengals out of the post-practice huddle, Dennard was ripe for the reporters' picking. With his first 11 training camp workouts officially behind him, the interested parties were curious to get his thoughts entering the most important game of his young professional career.

"That first game is important for a rookie," Dennard said.

[+] EnlargeDarqueze Dennard
AP Photo/Al BehrmanRookie CB Darqueze Dennard has veterans and coaches singing his praises.
Indeed it is. First games are all about getting comfortable with the speed of the game at its most elite level. They also are about beginning to learn officials and their tendencies, and to start charting which coverage techniques work best against which receivers.

As important as Dennard's first action in Thursday night's preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs might be, he really shouldn't feel any pressure. Before he even boarded the plane for Kansas City, Dennard already was held in high regard by his head coach -- the man who has the final say on any playing time he might earn.

"Darqueze Dennard, in my eyes, has been very impressive thus far," Marvin Lewis said in Cincinnati just last week.

He reiterated that belief Thursday morning when chatting with Bengals radio play-by-play announcer Dan Hoard at the team hotel in Kansas City. Hours before a preview show advancing the 8 p.m. ET kickoff, Lewis told Hoard that Dennard was "the best rookie corner I've seen," according to a tweet Hoard posted.

It's not hard to believe. Although the transition to the NFL continues for the first-year corner out of Michigan State, Dennard has looked like he belonged from the day he arrived in Cincinnati. He has taken the advice he has been given and built upon it. He has looked sharp in coverage during the open practices, and even better at jumping routes and deflecting or intercepting passes when they have come his direction.

Dennard's play so far has peaked 12-year veteran Terence Newman's optimism.

"If he stays on this path, the sky's the limit for him," Newman said of Dennard. "I've seen a lot of DBs come and go. And I've seen a lot of them come in [from college] and they've had good press technique."

But few like Dennard.

Before he was selected 24th overall, the 2013 Thorpe Award winner had been praised around the draft community for his ability to go everywhere on the field that his receiver went. If his receiver put on a double move, Dennard was known to stay right on his hip, barely biting on the fake. If the receiver ran all the way across the field without drawing a throw, Dennard was right in his face for every step. His man-press cover skills were his most touted playing trait, and a large reason why he was coveted so early in the draft.

"I was told that one of his inadequacies was possibly playing the ball down the field," Lewis said. "And sometimes I think college corners get knocked for that, particularly if they were a physical player in college. But one of the things that’s impressed me so much is his ability to track and play the football on vertical throws.

"If you want to be a great corner at this level, you have to have those capabilities, and he’s shown those thus far.”

Dennard was taken aback last week when he heard his teammates and coaches were proud of his progress so far. He anticipated growing pains this year and has been surprised to hear that the people in charge of his playing time haven't noticed many of them. When he does need something corrected, he usually fixes it on the second try, Lewis said. Occasional discussions with veteran cornerbacks like Newman, Adam Jones and Leon Hall have helped.

"Having those guys around me and listening to them and to hear their rookie stories and how they came about, just doing that, I'm already putting it in my mind just to expect the worst," Dennard said. "That allows me to be prepared for anything I have to go through."

If Dennard really has reservations about his rookie season, he hasn't voiced them, Newman said.

"He doesn't have many questions, so when he asks you a question, sometimes it's like, 'Oh wow, he's really asking a question?'" Newman said. "But that's what I like about him. He doesn't seem like he's too big to say he doesn't understand what's going on."

The rookie also isn't too big to shirk a compliment. When told by a reporter last week that Lewis said in a news conference he was impressed by his play, Dennard smiled and paused before responding.

"Really? That's my first time hearing that," Dennard said, adding, "I'm honored. I'm just honored he even said that about me. But I've just got to continue to get better, as always, and find my niche to help the team win."

It's still a long camp, but the early returns on this first-round investment seem to be paying off for Cincinnati.
CINCINNATI -- In no particular order, here are five Cincinnati Bengals you'll want to pay attention to on the defensive side of the ball during Thursday night's preseason opener at the Kansas City Chiefs:

1. DT Brandon Thompson. A third-year player from Clemson, Thompson enters the Bengals' preseason opener as a starter at defensive tackle with Pro Bowler Geno Atkins continuing his slow return from ACL surgery last November. Although Atkins has been cleared medically to practice, he hasn't participated yet in any 11-on-11 drills and hasn't been part of any contact since his official return last week. Atkins won't play against the Chiefs, but Thompson will. The former backup ought to get his share of action in Thursday's game, too, likely playing deep into the game. Larry Black and LaKendrick Ross are among the players who could cycle in and replace him in the Bengals' base defense late, but don't be surprised if Thompson lasts into the second quarter.

2. CB Darqueze Dennard. Of course you have to keep your eyes on the Bengals' first-round draft pick, right? With veterans Leon Hall, Terence Newman and Adam Jones likely to see very limited playing time, Cincinnati probably will be turning to Dennard early and often. The rookie could get in as early as the late first quarter. You may want to pay attention to Hall's few reps, too. This will be his first live, game-speed action since last October when he tore an Achilles. With the Bengals likely using a vanilla game plan on both sides of the ball, expect Dennard to be tasked with doing what he does best: attempt to shut down receivers with his patented man-press coverage. Dennard's man coverage skills made him a first-rounder. Since the Bengals have been running more man-cover defense in training camp, coaches have remarked about how much looser and better Dennard has played.

3. CB R.J. Stanford. Not expected to get quite the same early playing time as Dennard, Stanford still should see a large share of action when he dresses Thursday night. A fifth-year corner noted for his special-teams skills and versatility, Stanford has been a bit of a surprise addition in Bengals camp this year. The veteran has gotten his share of reps covering some of the team's best receivers, and he's handled his own. If Cincinnati's cornerbacks were ranked by how well they have performed in camp, Stanford could be among the top 3-4. Stanford's veteran coaching skills have been noteworthy. Since an afternoon when he surprised receiver Cobi Hamilton with a deflection on what had looked like a surefire first-down catch, Hamilton has performed better. Stanford was among those who gave the wideout a quick tutorial after the pass breakup. Before that, Hamilton had been going through a rough camp, dropping most everything that came his way. He's been much more impressive since.

4. LB Marquis Flowers. An outside linebacker who played safety in college, Flowers might be best compared to fellow Bengals linebacker Emmanuel Lamur. They play the same position and will be asked to fulfill many of the same roles. When it comes to playing style, though, Flowers might be best compared to Bengals weakside linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Both talk a lot of trash Both can hit hard. Both are former Pac-12 defensive players who feel they have a lot to prove. While tackling might be a concern for some defenders who haven't done much of it in camp, there are no worries with Flowers. His very first play of preseason practices was a hard forearm shiver that leveled Hamilton in a non-contact 7-on-7 drill. They know he can hit. Keep an eye on his playing time. He figures to be on the field often in place of Lamur, whose playing time might be monitored somewhat closely these next four weeks. Lamur suffered a serious shoulder injury in the preseason finale last season.

5. LB Jayson DiManche. Back in a fight for a roster spot this year, DiManche is among the Bengals defenders who will want to perform well in these next four games. He made the team last year and was a valued addition to its specia- teams units, but the depth at his position keeps him in a true battle. Another linebacker in a fight for a job is local product J.K. Schaffer. The second-year player hasn't had the best luck so far. For more than a week he's been under concussion protocol, forcing him to miss valuable practice time. Like Flowers, DiManche ought to be on the field often. He'll primarily be playing the strongside linebacker position in relief.
CINCINNATI -- By now you've probably read about how the Cincinnati Bengals structured Andy Dalton's contract in a way that works well for both him and the team.

Dalton has a chance to make as much as $115 million over the life of his six-year contract extension. He's at least in line to see $96 million if he remains with the organization through 2020.

It's a deal that also provides relatively easy outs for the team if it ever feels beyond 2015 that it wants to move on from him because his performance didn't meet the expectations it set forth. The agents to whom I've spoken see it as a team-friendly contact, but they also can see where Dalton didn't get fleeced. The $25 million Dalton stands to make in the first two years of the deal is about what had been expected. For a player viewed as arguably a second- or third-tier signal-caller, Dalton's extension has been viewed by player reps I've talked to as a win. Most wish the guaranteed money he received went beyond the first three days of the deal, though.

Dalton is slated to make $17 million of guaranteed money. He earned a $12 million signing bonus when he signed and will claim a $5 million roster bonus for this season on Thursday. He also has $100,000 coming Thursday for a roster bonus that was part of his rookie deal.

When it comes to awarding guaranteed money early, this is part of the Bengals' contractual practices. They typically give whatever guaranteed money they're awarding up front, while increasing base salaries as the deal continues. Some teams backload contracts with guaranteed money or offer de-escalators and decreasing base salaries. It's a way the Bengals feel they are exercising a measure of loyalty and trust in the player and his agent.

Dalton was set to have a cap value around $1.7 million this season before the deal was struck. Now he'll make just more than $9 million, while averaging $16 million during the life of the deal.

Courtesy our friends at ESPN Stats & Information, here is that year-by-year breakdown of Dalton's contract:

Base salary: $986,027
Proration: $2,973,036
Roster bonus: $5,100,00*
Workout bonus: $0
Cap Value: $9,059,063
Cash Value: $18,086,027
Dead Money: $12,573,036
Guaranteed Money: $5,000,000
Cap Savings: -$8,53,973
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $1,086,027
*He makes an additional $100,000 reporting bonus from his previous contract.

Base salary: $3,000,000*
Proration: $2,400,000
Roster bonus: $4,000,000
Workout bonus: $200,000
Cap Value: $9,600,000
Cash Value: $7,200,000
Dead Money: $9,600,000
Guaranteed Money: $0
Cap Savings: $0
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $7,200,000
*He can make up to $3 million with escalators involving playing time, making the playoffs and advancing in the playoffs.

Base salary: $10,500,000*
Proration: $2,400,000
Roster bonus: $0
Workout bonus: $200,000
Cap Value: $13,100,000
Cash Value: $10,700,000
Dead Money: $7,200,000
Guaranteed Money: $0
Cap Savings: $5,900,000
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $10,700,000
*He can make up to $3 million with escalators involving playing time, making the playoffs and advancing in the playoffs.

Base salary: $13,100,000*
Proration: $2,400,000
Roster bonus: $0
Workout bonus: $200,000
Cap Value: $15,700,000
Cash Value: $13,300,000
Dead Money: $4,800,000
Guaranteed Money: $0
Cap Savings: $10,900,000
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $13,300,000
*He can make up to $3 million with escalators involving playing time, making the playoffs and advancing in the playoffs.

Base salary: $13,700,000*
Proration: $2,400,000
Roster bonus: $0
Workout bonus: $200,000
Cap Value: $$16,300,000
Cash Value: $13,900,000
Dead Money: $2,400,000
Guaranteed Money: $0
Cap Savings: $13,900,000
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $13,900,000
*He can make up to $3 million with escalators involving playing time, making the playoffs and advancing in the playoffs.

Base salary: $16,000,000*
Proration: $0
Roster bonus: $0
Workout bonus: $200,000
Cap Value: $16,200,000
Cash Value: $16,200,000
Dead Money: $0
Guaranteed Money: $0
Cap Savings: $16,200,000
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $16,200,000
*He can make up to $3 million with escalators involving playing time, making the playoffs and advancing in the playoffs.

Base salary: $17,500,000*
Proration: $0
Roster bonus: $0
Workout bonus: $200,000
Cap Value: $17,700,000
Cash Value: $17,700,000
Dead Money: $0
Guaranteed Money: $0
Cap Savings: $17,7000,000
Post-June 1 Cap Savings: $17,700,000
*He can make up to $3 million with escalators involving playing time, making the playoffs and advancing in the playoffs.
Thanks in large part to the latest collective bargaining agreement and changing customs at various levels of football, you very seldom will see teams devote full practices and weeks at training camp to working on their tackling.

Gone are the days of seeing teams spend several consecutive days practicing live drills that require their defenders to tackle offensive players. Now, you rarely see teams even sneak in two or three such practices before they play their first preseason game.

Aside from a rather lively six-play goal-line drill at the end of a practice last week, and two practices at the close of their first week of camp, the Cincinnati Bengals haven't enacted much true contact entering their preseason opener Thursday night at Kansas City. They have regularly thudded -- made contact with ballcarriers without bringing them to the ground -- but they haven't really tackled much, excluding a few stray forearm shivers and times when they struggled slowing their momentum before running into another player.

Despite the lack of true hitting, the Bengals are confident in their tackling. They think they will be fine when they have face the Chiefs.

"It's always an adjustment," coach Marvin Lewis said about tackling in the first preseason game. "We put an emphasis on it on defense to make sure. Ball security and tackling are two things during the first preseason game that hopefully you don't get surprised by."

Lewis also joked about the few times this camp when they have had "some tackling that's not supposed to be tackling." He was referring to the forearm rookie Marquis Flowers gave receiver Cobi Hamilton on a low-contact 7-on-7 exercise at the start of one recent practice. Hamilton, not expecting the blow, fell instantly to the turf. Vontaze Burfict also has had his share of unintentional tackles, running hard into rookie tight end Ryan Hewitt, and receiver Jeremy Johnson.

One defender who isn't too worried about the adjustment he'll be making Thursday night is rookie cornerback Darqueze Dennard.

"I like to tackle," he said. "I like to lay the wood, pretty much."

When it comes to tackling in this game, his focus has been and will continue to be having sound technique.

"You've got to practice right throughout the week and go through the mechanics of it," Dennard said. "Really, tackling is all about the mechanics and looking at the right things and shooting and rolling your hips. So we've done enough of that."

Smart to hold McCarron? In case you missed it Tuesday night, here is an update on another rookie, quarterback AJ McCarron, who hasn't participated in a single practice snap since training camp opened nearly three weeks ago. McCarron said he's simply resting his throwing shoulder, per orders from Lewis and team president Mike Brown.

After dealing with arm tightness during the spring and some lingering soreness from his college days, McCarron has been shelved in hopes of getting the arm back to some semblance of restored health. McCarron says his arm feels fine, even after attempting about 60-70 throws after each practice.

Is holding him out a smart move? Absolutely. There is no reason to rush him onto the field, and there really is no need to rush his return to health. This gives him more time to keep learning the playbook and developing his role as a backup. It's clear after starting quarterback Andy Dalton's contract extension this week that the Bengals are banking on Dalton being the starter for many years to come. But in case it doesn't work out with Dalton, they still have a backup in the next few years they will be able to turn to in McCarron, once Jason Campbell retires or moves on.

It's possible McCarron could spend the season under some injury designation that would keep him on the roster and prevent him from being poached by another team. It's also possible the Bengals try to add him to their practice squad, gambling that he won't get snatched away by another team. Or, they can just clear him medically and add him to the roster.

My vote is for either Option 1 or 3.

Whatever move the Bengals ultimately make, it is wise to spare the rookie for now.
CINCINNATI -- AJ McCarron said Tuesday afternoon that he feels fine and his throwing shoulder feels even better.

So why then hasn't the rookie quarterback participated in a single one of the Cincinnati Bengals' practices so far this training camp?

Because apparently his bosses don't want him to.

"Mr. Brown and Coach Lewis just want to give me a lot of rest," McCarron said, referring to team president Mike Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis. "I'm just doing what they say."

[+] EnlargeAJ McCarron
Aaron Doster/USA TODAY SportsAJ McCarron hasn't practiced since June.
McCarron's comments came after Lewis held a mid-week news conference earlier in the afternoon.

The fifth-round draft pick came to Cincinnati with a little arm tightness back in May, causing him to miss time at the beginning of organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp. He eventually practiced before the spring practice session ended in the middle of June, but he hasn't since then. When the Bengals announced their pre-training camp injuries, McCarron ended up on their active non-football injury list with a right shoulder injury. He remains there.

McCarron couldn't pinpoint specifically to what the arm tightness can be attributed to, but it seems that it may simply be a case of soreness from his final college season that needed to be worked completely out. That at least appears to be the Bengals' thinking, as they've shut him down through the first two weeks of camp. When the team starts the preseason at Kansas City on Thursday night, McCarron won't get behind center. Only Andy Dalton, Jason Campbell and Matt Scott will take game reps.

Dalton is only expected to see one or two series.

When asked if he could have been overused at Alabama, McCarron, a two-time national championship game starter, said he wasn't sure.

"It was probably a number of things," he said. "If you've thrown your whole life, you're going to eventually have a sore arm at some point."

McCarron added that like many others before him, he played through his share of injuries while in college.

"That's what I wanted to do. I wasn't going to come out," McCarron said. "It probably wasn't the best for [the shoulder], but that's just what I wanted to do. Nobody made me go out there and play. I wanted to keep playing."

For now, McCarron is participating in a controlled throwing program with head trainer Nick Cosgray. Each day after practice he's been on a side field attempting somewhere between 60-70 throws to Cosgray. The throws seldom travel much farther than 20 yards at this point, but the idea is for him to deliver them with the same velocity and mechanics that he would in a game situation.

McCarron said he hasn't had any issues with the shoulder following those throwing sessions.

The only issue he has had involves the disappointment of being unable to practice.

"The frustrating part is because you're a competitor and you want to compete," McCarron said. "But other than that, again, it's Mr. Brown and Coach Lewis' call. Whatever they tell me to do, I'm just trying to do it to the best of my ability and then show them that I'll do whatever. When my time comes, my time comes."
CINCINNATI -- Russell Bodine is a rookie. That is a fact.

And like most rookies, the Cincinnati Bengals center is going to go through a few growing pains during his first training camp. That, too, is a fact.

It also happens to be a fact that the fourth-round pick has started a rather troubling trend that his offensive coordinator would like to see end as soon as possible. Multiple times this training camp, Bodine and quarterback Andy Dalton have struggled to cleanly connect on their snaps.

"It's something he has to overcome," offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said. "We drafted him to play center, and we think he can, but he still has to go demonstrate it in a game and continue to do it better in practice."

There are no more practices until Saturday for Bodine to hone his snapping skill. His next chance to prove that he's a better snapper than he has shown thus far will come Thursday night when he sets up in front of Dalton and possibly other quarterbacks during the preseason opener at Kansas City. Currently getting reps with the first-team offensive group, Bodine appears in line to start at the position this season.

But he won't be starting if his problems persist and become even more problematic.

"We have other candidates," Jackson said. "We're a little banged up right now so we'll keep working through it and coaching him up."

The player getting the majority of the backup repetitions so far this camp has been Trevor Robinson. T.J. Johnson also is an option at the position, as is Mike Pollak, the veteran who hasn't worked out at center yet this camp. The time he has spent practicing -- he's been mostly limited through camp with a knee injury -- has been at left guard, playing behind starter Clint Boling.

Dalton told reporters last week he and Bodine needed to communicate better with one another, and go through a few tweaks to get the problems fixed.

"It's going to get eliminated," Dalton said. "We can't have that. That's the easiest thing you do on the football field is get the snap."

Jackson isn't against using competition to get the snapping troubles to get cleaned up.

"I'm not going to just watch the ball go over somebody's head all the time. We're not going to do that," Jackson said. "But at the same time, we have to give him an opportunity. He needs to fix it and we need to help him fix it. If we can't fix it, then we have to do whatever we have to do."
CINCINNATI -- As the Cincinnati Bengals get going with Day 11 of training camp, here are three items we are going to be watching:

Tracking Dalton. Now that their quarterback has gotten paid, the Bengals will need Andy Dalton to remain every bit the calm, confident and focused signal-caller he has been to this point in camp. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has been mesmerized by Dalton's performance so far, and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese credits the fast routes Cincinnati's receivers have been running as a reason his star pupil has looked so smooth early. A couple of Bengals veterans, most notably offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, mentioned Monday that the challenge now facing Dalton will be avoiding complacency with the six-year contract extension now complete. Whitworth doesn't think Dalton will fall into that trap. "It will be hard for him to really take the time and enjoy this," Whitworth said. "He's got a lot of work to do and a lot of guys to lead." We'll be watching to see how Dalton continues to conduct himself post-signing.

Rookie watch: James Wright. If you've been following along on this blog and on Twitter (@ColeyHarvey) since June, you know I'm a fan of Wright. The seventh-round receiver was a special-teams standout at LSU. He also played receiver there, but because of the way the Tigers' offense operated, he hasn't caught a pass since 2012. But you could barely tell from watching him at Bengals practices. He's been one of the most consistent rookies in camp and finds himself in a truly intriguing battle for the final receiver spot with Cobi Hamilton. I've been watching Wright all camp, so I'll be paying attention to him again on Tuesday.

Morning practice: The Bengals' string of afternoon and evening practices comes to an end Tuesday as they hit the practice fields for an open late-morning session. Excluding Wednesday's walk-through before they get on the plane to Kansas City, this practice will be the Bengals' last before beginning preseason play. They visit the Chiefs for an 8 p.m. ET Thursday tilt. Tuesday's should be a balance of some game prep and a large share of talent evaluation. Practice begins at 11 a.m. ET.
From the moment news about Andy Dalton's contract extension hit social media Monday morning, a logical follow-up question was raised: Does it mean A.J. Green is next?

It's possible. But if the Cincinnati Bengals thought they had a fight on their hands trying to convince Dalton to agree to the terms of this six-year extension, convincing Green to commit to a similar long-term deal could be more challenging.

[+] EnlargeGreen
AP Photo/Don WrightA.J. Green's next contract will likely pay him at least $16 million per season.
By the time Green signs -- whether it's this year, next year or two years from now -- the Bengals will have a number of other big-money contracts sitting on their roster too. Either they'll have to start getting rid of veterans sooner than they'd like in order to make space, or they'll have to start drawing up bargain deals like Dalton's that are designed with other players in mind. While that's a good proposition for the team, a player might feel he isn't receiving fair market value for his position.

Based on early details about the structure of Dalton's new contract, it appears on the low end ($16 million per year) that he'll be making what many believe he's worth. It's still a figure that's dramatically lower than some of the league's elite. Although, if he meets certain game-play criteria, he could be in the $19 million per year range, and just below what the league's top quarterbacks are making. The Bengals created a performance-based deal that gives them real flexibility in the event they want to sign others soon.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Bengals had just more than $23 million in cap space for 2014 before Dalton's extension. That means after his signing bonuses and base salary, they will have about $6 million more to use before hitting the cap. There's still room to sign linebacker Vontaze Burfict even though there isn't a big rush to do so. The former undrafted free agent could get a restricted free-agent tag slapped on him next offseason, and then an unrestricted free-agent tag the year after if he hasn't yet agreed to a long-term deal.

Since Green arguably is a top-3 receiver, and considering the two highest-paid NFL receivers are currently making just north of $16 million annually, it's hard to see the Bengals using their remaining cap dollars this year on him. The receiver that's No. 3 on the current money list, Percy Harvin, makes $12.9 million per year.

"My body of work speaks for itself," Green said Monday. "Whenever my time comes, it happens. That's one thing I don't think about."

A source told ESPN Insider Adam Caplan that Dalton will receive $22 million in the first six months of his deal. That reportedly includes a signing bonus and a roster bonus that equals $17 million, and that will be paid before the Bengals take the field in Thursday night's preseason opener at Kansas City. In all, Dalton stands to make $25 million through the first two years of his contract.

As Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn and other members of the front office have explained to reporters over the years, the franchise doesn't like front-loading too many contracts. You won't often see de-escalators in a Bengals contract, and you especially won't see them to the degree the 49ers crammed those into Colin Kaepernick's contract.

The Bengals also like to make sure a player's guaranteed money gets paid at the start of a deal. Just look at their most recent big contracts. Defensive tackle Domata Peko's base salary increases on the two-year extension he signed earlier this offseason, and his guaranteed money gets paid this season. Geno Atkins' base also increases year-to-year, and his guaranteed money was paid last summer in the form of a $15 million signing bonus. Carlos Dunlap's base also will steadily increase, and his $12 million guaranteed hit his pockets last summer when he signed, too.

In those respects, Dalton's deal follows the Bengals' pattern.

But where the franchise deviated with Dalton's deal is in the pay-to-play aspect of it. It has been reported that Dalton's contract has clauses that would essentially earn him bonuses based on where in the playoffs he leads the Bengals, and how much he plays per year. It's language similar to Kaepernick's controversial deal, and it's language that could allow Dalton to earn him anywhere from $96 million to $115 million over the life of the contract (that partially explains the $16 million and $19 million per year difference). Like Kaepernick and the 49ers, if the Bengals aren't pleased with Dalton's play after Year 2, this new deal reportedly allows them ways of getting rid of him each year.

But don't hold your breath on that happening. The sour ending to Carson Palmer's time in Cincinnati still lingers. They don't want to go through that again anytime soon.

Which leads us back to Green.

Veterans are valued by the loyal Bengals front office. Peko's extension is a clear example of that. But if the Bengals want to keep players like Green, Burfict and others, they soon may have to shift their thinking. Older players soon may not be as safe as they once were.

Soon there might not be enough money to go around for everybody.
CINCINNATI -- When Cincinnati Bengals president Mike Brown told reporters two weeks ago that he liked the way his "Steady Eddy" starting quarterback played, he was telling the truth.

That became evident just after 10 a.m. ET Monday, when ESPN NFL Insiders Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan reported that Andy Dalton, the much-maligned Bengals quarterback -- who was often criticized for being anything other than steady -- had signed a six-year, $115 million contract extension that will keep him in orange and black stripes through 2020.

That is, it would seem, as long as he continues to perform to the front office's liking.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
Rob Carr/Getty ImagesAndy Dalton has guided the Bengals to the playoffs in all three of his seasons, but he has yet to win in the postseason.
"Andy has earned his place here; he has gained the confidence of the coaches and the players and the management of the team," Brown said at Monday's news conference. "We're betting big on him because we believe in him."

Brown gave additional reasons during the team's recent kickoff luncheon as to why he and so many others around Paul Brown Stadium like Dalton.

"He's Steady Eddy," Brown said. "He competes. He doesn't do stupid things. We might not outshine everybody. We are the turtle in the race, if you will, but don't count us out. We are going to keep on chugging. That's what he does for us. He keeps us focused. He makes us a winning team. I don't discount that. I hold that in high regard."

Yes, it's true, the Bengals are a regular-season winner with Dalton at the helm. He has gone 30-18 and reached the postseason in each of the three seasons he has played since getting drafted 35th overall in 2011. He also has guided his team to two winning streaks of four games or more in his career. During last season's four-game midseason streak, Dalton threw for 300 yards or more in three of those games.

When you consider that the Bengals had been to the playoffs only twice in the 20 years before Dalton's arrival, his regular-season success becomes even more noteworthy.

It is that success (and perhaps the fact there aren't a lot of options out there at quarterback) that is perhaps the biggest reason the Bengals clearly feel they can trust him, even if the structure of his contract might tell a different story. Those details aren't yet public, but it's possible some parts of Dalton's new deal mimic Colin Kaepernick's. Along with his comments above, Brown admitted during the kickoff luncheon that he liked the way the San Francisco 49ers structured Kaepernick's recent deal.

"There's always something that cuts for the team or cuts for the player," Brown said. "In Kaepernick's case, there's some things we like."

Kaepernick's contract is a pay-for-play type of setup that allows the 49ers to opt out after this season if Kaepernick doesn't meet their measures of success. The six-year, $121 million agreement might look great on the surface, but it has been characterized as a team-centric, bonus-laden deal.

Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn, who handles contract negotiations these days and was the chief operator on Dalton's deal, said the Bengals didn't use Kaepernick's deal as a measuring stick.

"In all honesty, while we discussed [Kaepernick's deal], we had started down a path at that time and we pretty much stayed on the path that we started down," Blackburn said. "It had some similarities, coincidentally, a little bit of what you saw in the Kaepernick deal, just in little ways. But you can probably say that about all the deals."

With the decade of disappointment, the 1990s, still as much a part of the fabric of this city as its famous chili, there are reasons the Bengals would want to protect themselves in case Dalton does struggle, something he has done at times during his career.

The 26-year-old's biggest drawback has been his performance past Week 17. The Bengals are 0-3 in his postseason trips, which include six interceptions and just one touchdown. He also has posted an 18.1 career playoff QBR that stands in stark contrast to the 51.5 QBR he has lifetime in the regular season. Numbers like that have had some in Cincinnati wondering whether an extension of Dalton's four-year, $5.2 million rookie deal ought to have come before this season, or ever.

It will be incumbent upon the Bengals to continue to protect the player who in April called himself the face of the franchise by keeping pieces like A.J. Green (who will play out a fifth-year option next year) and linebacker Vontaze Burfict (whose own contract negotiations stalled last week) around him.

He certainly appears to be the face now. It doesn't matter how the money comes Dalton's way, the message has been sent. The Bengals trust their quarterback. Now it's time for him to put up and shut the rest of us up.

"I expect this team to play better, I expect myself to play better," Dalton said Monday. "Regardless of what happened with the contract, I expected to go into this year with that same attitude."

He has the Bengals convinced. It's time to do the same with the rest of us.
CINCINNATI -- As the Cincinnati Bengals get going with Day 10 of training camp, here are three items we are going to be watching:

Time to prepare: While the task this week is to continue building up their team by focusing on evaluating their talent, the Bengals will also be paying attention to another team the next few days. For the first time during the 2014 season, they will prepare for a game. The bulk of the game preparation will happen on Tuesday, but the talk surrounding the team starts to change as of Monday. For about a week now, players have mentioned how they are ready to face someone other than themselves. Thursday night, they will get their chance when they visit Kansas City. We will keep an eye on how intense Monday's practice is to get an idea of how ready they are for Week 1 of the preseason.

Rookie watch -- Ryan Hewitt: One of the rookies who has been worth watching all of training camp, Hewitt has caught attention with the way he's performed in both the pass- and run-blocking games, and also with how reliable he has been as a pass-catcher. The tight end isn't only competing with others at that position for a roster spot. He is also battling the likes of fullback Nikita Whitlock and H-back Orson Charles. Hewitt has played some at H-back this camp, where he has excelled at picking up blocks and opening holes in the running game. With Jermaine Gresham and Kevin Brock injured, he has gotten his share of playing time with the first-team offense at tight end. We will be keeping an eye on the undrafted free agent during this practice.

Injuries healed? The Bengals still have quite the full training room, but they hope it will start emptying out beginning Monday as the preseason game looms. Receiver Marvin Jones could be one of the first to return. He told me over the weekend that his ankle injury was "close" to being completely healed. Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth also has been slowly working his way through a calf injury that he doesn't appear very concerned about. He might not be far from complete health, either. Linebacker Jayson DiManche, who had been on concussion protocol, came off in time to practice in Saturday's scrimmage. Three others, Brock, linebacker J.K. Schaffer and offensive tackle Andre Smith are hoping to come off it soon, too.
CINCINNATI -- In a preseason news release that was distributed to media Saturday, the Cincinnati Bengals issued their first depth chart of the season.

It comes ahead of Thursday's preseason opener at Kansas City. As you will see, there aren't any surprises. But here are the highlights:
  • It's worth noting that offensive lineman Mike Pollak was not listed at center as either a starter or a backup. He's only listed at left guard.
  • In the backfield, BenJarvus Green-Ellis retains his status as the No. 2 rusher, while rookie Jeremy Hill is the No. 3 back behind Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard. The order behind the three then goes: Cedric Peerman, Rex Burkhead and James Wilder Jr.
  • As expected, rookie Russell Bodine is the starter at center. He's the only first-year player to make the two-deep depth chart.
  • At defensive end, Wallace Gilberry is listed in the base 4-3 formation as the starter at right end, while Carlos Dunlap plays the left. Margus Hunt, who has rotated at times with Gilberry at both end positions, is backing up Dunlap. Veteran Robert Geathers backs up Gilberry.
  • At safety, Taylor Mays is listed as the first backup behind Reggie Nelson at free safety. Second-year player Shawn Williams is the backup to George Iloka at strong safety, and veteran Daniel Manning ranks third on the depth chart behind both of them.
  • Brandon Tate is listed as the starter at both punt and kick returner.

Here's the full two-deep (starter listed first):

Andy Dalton
Jason Campbell

Running Back
Giovani Bernard
BenJarvus Green-Ellis

H-back/Tight End/Fullback
Tyler Eifert (TE)
Orson Charles (H-back)

Tight End
Jermaine Gresham
Alex Smith

A.J. Green
Mohamed Sanu

Marvin Jones
Brandon Tate

Left Offensive Tackle
Andrew Whitworth
Marshall Newhouse

Left Offensive Guard
Clint Boling
Mike Pollak

Russell Bodine
Trevor Robinson

Right Offensive Guard
Kevin Zeitler
T.J. Johnson

Right Offensive Tackle
Andre Smith
Will Svitek

Left Defensive End
Carlos Dunlap
Margus Hunt

Right Defensive End
Wallace Gilberry
Robert Geathers

Nose Tackle
Domata Peko
Brandon Thompson

Defensive Tackle
Geno Atkins
Devon Still

"Sam" Linebacker
Emmanuel Lamur
Jayson DiManche

"Mike" Linebacker
Rey Maualuga
Vincent Rey

"Will" Linebacker
Vontaze Burfict
Sean Porter

Left Cornerback
Terence Newman
Dre Kirkpatrick

Right Cornerback
Leon Hall
Adam Jones

Strong Safety
George Iloka
Shawn Williams

Free Safety
Reggie Nelson
Taylor Mays

Mike Nugent
Quinn Sharp

Kevin Huber

Kevin Huber

Long Snapper
Clark Harris

Punt Returner
Brandon Tate
Adam Jones

Kick Returner
Brandon Tate
Dane Sanzenbacher
CINCINNATI -- Andrew Whitworth believes he's in the best shape of his professional career.

But he has yet to show it at this training camp.

A late addition to the Cincinnati Bengals' physically unable to perform list, the veteran offensive tackle has spent the first eight practices on the team's rehab island; a corner of a practice field that's separated from the other two fields the Bengals regularly use. He's been nursing a bad calf, one that got strained during conditioning drills one day before camp opened.

Speaking for the first time since camp opened, Whitworth said he's "extremely" ready to get back to practice.

"I also have to realize that I have to be smart," he said. "I'm in fantastic shape; the best I've ever been in. I feel great. I just have to make sure it's OK and it's 100 percent before I get going."

On the point about his shape, Whitworth added that he spent more time working out this offseason than he had in any other year of his career.

In practice, the Pro Bowl left tackle has been replaced by swing tackle Marshall Newhouse, the veteran who was acquired in free agency after having last played in Green Bay.

While he hasn't had a chance to train with the team yet this preseason, Whitworth knows that being able to do the rehab work he's gotten in so far is light years beyond any activity he was able to do last preseason.

"No question," he said.

Last preseason, Whitworth was working through a knee injury that had been re-aggravated at the start of camp. He couldn't do anything for a few weeks, and even missed the Bengals' regular-season opener at Chicago because he was still getting healthy.

As for this injury, Whitworth still is taking his full recovery slowly because he doesn't want to run the risk of re-injuring himself once the season begins.

"It's no different than pulling a hamstring," Whitworth said. "It's something where if you rush it, it could be a six-month injury, and if you take your time, you can be fine. Just trying to take my time and be healthy and ready to go when it's time."

Bengals Camp Report: Day 8

August, 1, 2014
CINCINNATI -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Cincinnati Bengals training camp:
  • In their shortest practice of camp, the Bengals went through 65 minutes of short-yardage, third-down, special teams and goal-line drills. The rare early evening workout was light overall on contact, although the offense and defense did do sharp thudding during the goal-line segment that closed practice. Those six goal-line plays brought out the most contact the Bengals have had since late last week, although coach Marvin Lewis contended the drill wasn't "live." Twice on the six plays, the Bengals' first- and second-team offense scored. Cedric Peerman plowed through for a 1-yard score on third-and-goal, and Giovani Bernard pushed through a 1-yard score on second-and-goal. Bernard may have scored on the first-down play had it not been for tight end Tyler Eifert. After slipping past several unabated defenders, Bernard was bouncing to the right edge toward the end zone when Eifert lost his footing and fell on him. Bernard still tried to churn his legs for the end zone, but the 250-pound tight end was just a little too heavy.
  • Asked about Bernard's first-down run, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson gleefully pointed out Bernard's effort as an example he wants to see replicated by all his backs. "He was trying to get there," Jackson said. "That's what you've got to have. That's the nature of this game." Bernard had a few other head-turning runs, including a third-and-short conversion in which he sprinted through a hole untouched during a lower-speed, lighter-contact exercise. Had it been a real game, he likely would have turned that run into a massive gain.
  • Rookie back Jeremy Hill didn't have one of his best practices. After fumbling early in the workout following a hand-off from Jason Campbell, he was denied on his only goal-line try from one yard out. When it came to Hill's disappointing day, Jackson was adamant about using it as a lesson for the entire team. "That's football. Football, that's the way it goes," Jackson said. "It ain't going to blow you away all the time. You've got to make it go your way." About having down days as a team during training camp, Jackson added: "These are good days -- contrary to what people think -- these are great days, and there will be better days. There will be days when we've got to pull through, and these are the times that make you learn how to pull through. When it doesn't got as well and you've got to push longer, harder, tougher to get it done. ... It gives me an opportunity to coach longer, harder. So guys don't believe all the things that are written, they keep understanding that there's a lot of work to be done and that they go out and do it."
  • A quick follow-up to that last thought: Jackson said he was glad to have a day like Friday where Hill struggled and Campbell had issues throwing an interception directly to a defender, because he wanted to pair a day like that up against a day like Thursday. On Thursday, Bengals quarterbacks and receivers hit most of their passes. Eifert and Dalton hooked up well in the seams.
  • On the injury front, the Bengals were without linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who told a reporter he was "banged up." Left guard Mike Pollak also didn't participate, but Clint Boling did. After not suiting up Thursday, defensive tackle Geno Atkins was in full pads, but he didn't go through any of the team drills.
  • Up next: The Bengals wrap up another string of practices with a 1:30 p.m. workout inside Paul Brown Stadium on Saturday. It's "Family Day," meaning following the free and open practice, players will be available for autographs. On Sunday, they take their second off day of camp.
CINCINNATI -- If this were October, and Andy Dalton's offensive line was going through the attrition it is currently facing, the quarterback would have responded differently.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
AP Photo/Al BehrmanAndy Dalton is taking a training camp offensive line, one that's been depleted by injuries, under his wing.
But since we're still barely into the second week of the Cincinnati Bengals' training camp, it's easy for him to laugh off the fact that he has had an undrafted free-agent rookie, a fourth-round rookie and two recent veteran free-agent additions protecting him in practices the last eight days.

"Right now, this is what you want," Dalton said. "You're getting a lot of guys experience and playing. If it were in the middle of the season and we had a different left guard every week, it might be a little bit different."

Trey Hopkins, the undrafted rookie from Texas, spent most of Thursday at left guard while the two players ahead of him on the depth chart, Mike Pollak and Clint Boling, took the day off as they continued to slowly get back into the flow of daily action. Both are coming off significant knee injuries. Boling tore his ACL last December and Pollak tweaked a knee earlier this offseason.

In addition to missing the veteran interior linemen, the Bengals have also been forced into playing around the absences of veteran tackles Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth. Smith suffered a head injury Monday and has been under concussion protocol ever since. Whitworth is battling through an offseason calf injury, and has spent all of training camp to this point on the active physically unable to perform list, rehabbing with other injured stars.

Marshall Newhouse, Dalton's former left tackle at TCU, joined the Bengals this offseason from Green Bay. He has spent his camp taking Whitworth's place, earning significant reps blocking on the left edge. Longtime tackle Will Svitek took Smith's place.

As the line continues practicing with the backups and experimenting with varying rotations, Dalton has been there to provide support. Primarily, he's been working with rookie center Russell Bodine in making sure he understands plays, and his responsibilities in them.

"That's one thing where he is a rookie and he's learning all this stuff, and so I'm just making sure he's learning the right thing," Dalton said. "Sometimes he's going to one spot when we need him to go to another. I'm just making sure he and I are on the right page. I'm letting him do his thing and if I need to correct him, then I will."

None of that is to suggest that Dalton thinks the player who appears to be his starting center isn't playing well.

"He's done a really good job," Dalton added.

Ahead of the start of training camp, it appeared Pollak was going to battle Bodine for the center job in the wake of Kyle Cook's release during the offseason. So far, no such battle has materialized. To this point, Pollak has only taken reps at guard when he's been on the field. T.J. Johnson has also been working at center with Bodine.

One of the areas Bodine still needs to hone is his snapping. He had issues late in the organized team activity practices in June and has sent a couple of snaps either whizzing over Dalton's head or too low to his feet. Dalton this week cautioned fans about worrying that the center-quarterback exchanges could be problematic this season.

"It's going to get eliminated," Dalton said. "We can't have that. That's the easiest thing you do on the football field is get the snap."

Dalton said in order to eliminate the snap issues, he and Bodine have to talk.

"I've just got to get him calmed down," Dalton said. "It's more conversations than anything. He knows how to snap. It's not like we're teaching him how to snap.

"He's going to be fine. I'm not too worried about him."