Marvin Lewis has more themes than John Williams and the one wafting through the Bengals locker room this week to start what amounts to a new season is “the fork in the road.”
Nose tackle Domata Peko said it and cheap jerseys and safety George Iloka echoed it before they went on the practice field to begin preparing for Monday night’s game (8:30-Cincinnati’s Channel 5, ESPN) against the Giants that Peko calls “very huge,’ and one “we’ve got to win.”
“We have the guys with the character to turn it around. So far this year we’ve taken a different fork in the road,” Iloka said. “Last year we started 8-0 and we didn’t end the season how we wanted to. This year we took a different route. We started off slowly. Kind of bumpy, but I know we have the guys in this locker room who can do it over the second half of the season and if we do we’ll definitely turn things around.”
The Pro Bowl tight end caught 11 red zone touchdown passes last season and credits some of his prowess in that part of the field to his success as a high school basketball player.
“When I think back to basketball, I had a lot of rebounds,” said Eifert. “I wasn’t always the tallest guy or could jump out of the gym, but it’s all about timing your jump so that you get it at the highest point that you can get the ball. If you time it right, it looks like you’re up much higher than you are. It’s just a timing thing and having a knack for that. People always talk about high-pointing the ball, but it’s not really something that you practice. I’ve always had that knack and have been able to do that.”
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Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther likes the way his guys responded to his bye week decree that he’s shaking up things with competition from the young players, but at the same time the locker room embraced the return of veteran defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry.
“He’s got a great motor that doesn’t stop. You need guys like that on your team to help out and fill in and give guys breaks or whatever the situation might be. You know you’re going to get 110 percent when he’s on the field,” said cornerback Adam Jones. “He adds a lot of salt to the mix. He’s almost like one of those Dennis Rodman guys. His motor never stops and he’s always giving 110 percent. He might win every play, but he’s going to disrupt a lot of plays. It will be good for us.”
With defensive changes in the air this week as the Bengals practiced Tuesday for the first time since returning from the bye week, old/new friend Wallace Gilberry was re-united with the defensive line and plans to play right away while right end Michael Johnson watched on the side with an unknown ailment. And middle linebacker Rey Maualuga wasn’t on the field to start a week where defensive coordinator Paul Guenther indicated he was going to look at younger players at all three levels.
Guenther, who issued his decree to shake things up last week, liked the way his guys responded and called Tuesday one of the defense’s best practices of the year. He confirmed that Gilberry, cut by the Lions last month after spending the previous four seasons with the Bengals, is going in the rotation right away Monday night against the Giants (8:30-Cincinnati’s Channel 5, ESPN) and that would presumably be at right end with Johnson and Will Clarke. Guenther did say that means one of the defensive lineman that has been active is going to be benched.
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Nelson, on the other hand, earned his new role as the Cardinals No. 3 WR by outproducing Michael Floyd. Larry Fitzgerald is still producing like the Hall of Fame WR he is, John Brown is absolutely hit or miss, Floyd has been demoted, and I couldn’t name a Cardinals TE without looking at the depth chart. That means Nelson is in a prime spot to step right into the No. 2 role if he plays his cards right (no pun intended). Nelson is worth owning in all formats.
If your waiver wire is as baron as most of mine, then trading is the only real option you have to make a final run at the fantasy playoffs. I’ve been flooded with questions about trading T.Y. Montgomery from the Packers. Yahoo followed ESPN’s lead and gave him RB/WR eligibility, boosting his value. People seem to be worried about James Stark’s impending return, but why? Starks has been with the Packers for 7 years now, and has never reached 150 carries in a single season. If he was going to steal someone’s job, he would have done it by now!
“The guy inside, 98 (Damon Harrison), is an impressive player. He was a good player at the Jets now he’s good with them. (Olivier) Vernon is an excellent pass rusher, very explosive. We seem to follow them a few weeks in a row in our schedule, so we’ve had a chance to see him against the other offenses we were preparing for again. (Jason) Pierre-Paul has overcome his injury from a year ago and back to looking like himself. On the back end, Janoris Jenkins, who they brought in as well, is a really good athletic cover player. He has great ball skill; he’s around the receivers all the time. He’s not afraid. He has what it takes to be a quality cornerback in the National Football League. He does a nice job, and obviously their draft pick from a year ago, (Landon) Collins, is playing excellent football. He’s grown into the player I think everyone expected him to be, which is both physical as a tackler and a good player at the line of scrimmage. He’s been part of their pressures and comes up with the interception. He’s really doing a nice job all around and brings a lot of energy and spirit to their group right now.”