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The results were encouraging for Steve McNair last week as Brian Billick took his suggestions and installed more play-action, designed rollouts and a four wide receiver spread formation. It was the most comfortable he’s looked since his arrival.
Jamal Lewis has been running hard, and finally got some solid results for his efforts against New Orleans. However, his lack of ideal vision and explosiveness are preventing him from busting longer runs.
Derrick Mason is smiling again, a sure sign that he approves of an offense he gave an unprecedented B-minus. The Ravens are spreading the wealth, but should use Todd Heap and Demetrius Williams more often.
Right tackle Tony Pashos is anticipating the Bengals flopping intense left end Justin Smith to his side and he might receive chip-blocking assistance. Jonathan Ogden was absolutely dominant last game as a run blocker.
Total (3) Rushing (1) Passing (17)
Terrell Suggs registered just two tackles against the Saints even though he wasn’t hurt. Trevor Pryce had the lone sack among the down linemen. Teammates have been plugging nose guard Kelly Gregg for Pro Bowl honors.
Ray Lewis isn’t worried about Chad Johnson’s playful threat to hit him in the mouth. He should be more concerned about Rudi Johnson, the Bengals’ bruising, disgruntled runner. Adalius Thomas and Bart Scott aren’t secrets anymore.
Samari Rolle is being used for target practice lately, and it seems to be a matter of confidence and a nagging foot injury. Chris McAlister is susceptible to pump fakes. Ed Reed hasn’t been himself. Only rookie Dawan Landry has been consistent.
Matt Stover hasn’t had much work to do lately, but is on a personal-best streak of 30 consecutive field goals. B.J. Sams has slipped to 17th in punt return average, but remains tied for fourth in the NFL in kickoff return average. Rookie punter Sam Koch is averaging 43.8 yards, putting him on pace for the second-highest average in team history behind Kyle Richardson (43.9 in 1998).
Total (18) Rushing (24) Passing (12)
Carson Palmer has one of the quickest releases in the game since Dan Marino. His arm strength and accuracy make him a constant threat to exploit the defense. He has made a nice recovery from a blown-out knee.
Rudi Johnson has been complaining about a lack of carries. To get the football more, he’s going to have to produce at his old levels. Otherwise, the Bengals will just go one-dimensional with their aerial pursuits.
Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry comprise perhaps the most talented trio in the league. All are tall, surehanded and capable of leaping over defenders. It’s a matchup nightmare for secondaries.
The Bengals have been victimized by injuries to Levi Jones and Rich Braham, throwing off Palmer’s timing. Rookie left tackle Andrew Whitworth is improving weekly. Blue-chip guard Eric Steinbach will be a priority free agent.
Total (21) Rushing (25) Passing (18t)
This is a hard-working, solid unit headlined by Justin Smith. Beefy former Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams remains a surly individual, but doesn’t have much explosion left. Bryan Robinson and John Thornton are decent journeymen.
They miss suspended middle linebacker Odell Thurman, but not as much as they would if they didn’t have emerging rookie Ahmad Brooks. Brian Simmons and Landon Johnson are extremely athletic, heady performers.
Deltha O’Neal and Tory James are hit-and-miss a lot of the time, and rookie Jonathan Joseph is pushing for an increased role. Former Terrapins star Madieu Williams was a smart draft pick. Former gym teacher Kevin Kaesviharn gets by on guts and guile, but can be picked on.
Shayne Graham has converted 12 of 14 field goals, including one 51-yarder. Former Nebraska punter Kyle Larson, who held the job for the Cornhuskers before Sam Koch, is averaging 43.9 yards, just ahead of Koch’s first-year pace. The return game is unremarkable with Antonio Chatman (injured) and Kenny Watson.