CINCINNATI – Taking some time to empty out the Bengals notebook from a busy week at Paul Brown Stadium.
We addressed the Logan Wilson impact earlier in the week and the significance of moving past the controversial play at the end of Super Bowl LVI.
We also noted that the star linebacker will not take part in the voluntary offseason training program, instead rehabbing his surgically repaired right shoulder after playing through the pain throughout the postseason.
Wilson anticipates being ready in time for training camp in July and a full go for the preseason in August.
The six rookies taken in the 2022 draft are expected in town next week for Rookie Mini-Camp that begins on Friday, May 13. Also expected at that time are the 12 undrafted rookie free agents signed by the team, a list that includes two wide receivers, a running back, a tight end, three offensive linemen, an edge, a defensive linemen, a cornerback, a linebacker and a long snapper.
1-rd: Dax Hill, DB, Michigan
2-rd: Cam Taylor-Britt, CB, Nebraska
3-rd: Zach Carter, DL3T, Florida
4-rd: Cordell Volson, OL, North Dakota State
5-rd: Tycen Anderson, S, Toledo
7-rd: Jeff Gunter, Edge, Coastal Carolina
Cal Adomitis, LS, Pittsburgh
Ben Brown, C/G, Ole Miss
Devin Cochran, OT, Georgia Tech
Clarence Hicks, LB, UTSA
Jaivon Heiligh, WR, Coastal Carolina
Shermari Jones, RB, Coastal Carolina
Kwamie Lassiter II, WR, Kansas
Justin Rigg, TE, Kentucky
Desmond Noel, OL, Florida Atlantic
Brendan Radley-Hiles, CB, Washington
Tariquious Tisdale, DL, Ole Miss
Carson Wells, Edge, Colorado
For the first time in a while, there figures to be serious competition in two of the three specialists spots as punter Kevin Huber, signed to a one-year deal earlier this week, will face Drue Chrisman. The two were in line for a punting competition last year before Chrisman got hurt at the start of training camp.
“Well, we haven’t had one in a long time,” Special Teams Coordinator Darrin Simmons noted. “It’s been a pretty good road for him (Kevin) that way. I think it’ll look like any of the kicking competitions we’ve had in the past. A punting competition, these guys gotta split equal reps with different snappers. I also think too that the holding part is a significant part of it too. I used to think a punter’s job, 60 percent of it was punting and probably 40 percent was holding.
“I think we the advent of more analytics stuff that we rely on now. Obviously, having the personnel we have on offense we go for it more on fourth down more than we have ever in my time here. So now I think some of that has probably shifted. The punting and the holding part has probably shifted. Obviously having a weapon that we have in Evan and being able to back our field goal attempts up a bit, certainly opens the field up for those guys offensively too. And so now I think it’s probably like 55-45 or probably damn close to 50-50 punting and holding.”
Cal Adomitis will give long snapper Clark Harris a run for his money. Harris was also brought back on a one-year deal. Simmons is doing his due diligence, noting that he needs to see both Huber and Harris execute to a proficient level to continue on with the team.
“So much of the success of a kicker is the relationships and the timing that they develop with the snapper and the holder and the trust they develop,” Simmons said. “That was old school stuff that they used to do way back—the guy with the best hands would do it. That’s why a lot of times you see the backup quarterback would often do it.
“But now I don’t think that would ever happen. It certainly wouldn’t happen here. I don’t know how you practice. They need to be able to develop the timing and the trust every day. When we’re over on our side field, people think we’re doing nothing—they’re developing trust with each other and so I certainly think that’s a huge part of their job.”
File this under: Never assume. Huber and Harris are each entering their 14th season with the club. Yes, they have a key comfort level in the first two steps of the kicking game of Evan McPherson, who rivaled Adam Vinatieri’s 2001 postseason with the Patriots as one of the best in NFL postseason history. McPherson was 14-for-14 in the playoffs, two of those games on natural grass outdoors in January.
“The trust I think that Clark and Kevin have gained over time certainly figures into that, too,” Simmons said. “It’s something Drue’s been working on hard and he knows that was a deficiency a little bit in his game. And for him to have to compete to be the starting punter, the kicker’s gotta have success when he’s in there too. That’s a big part of it.”
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) May 3, 2022
“I think he wanted to wait and see how the draft played out for us before he made a determination about what he wanted to do,” Simmons said of Huber signing this week. “And obviously do anything in the draft and didn’t acquire anybody that way so it makes it an easier path to come back.”
Huber has had many unforgettable moments in stripes. In 2012, he pulled the hidden ball, behind-the-back move when attempting to avoid the Washington rush.
We ♥️ Huber!!! pic.twitter.com/YVfDci1qw9
— 𝘉𝘦𝘯𝘨𝘢𝘭𝘴𝘊𝘢𝘱𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘯⚓ (@BengalsCaptain) March 22, 2021
In 2013, Huber showed his ultimate toughness when he stayed in and took a hellacious and dirty hit from Terence Garvin while Huber was on the field blocking during punt coverage. He suffered a broken jaw and vertebrae on the Antonio Brown return.
While it’s not everything, the fact that Huber and Harris have worked together on two-thirds of the place-kicking game for 13 straight seasons and have worked together in the punt game over the same period does factor into any decision.
“I think there’s a certain trust that I have in that that figures into that some,” Simmons acknowledged. “I also know we gotta produce in critical spots. We gotta be able to punt the ball and punt the ball and flip field position. I don’t think we did that as good as we had done it in the past down the stretch of the season and I think that’s why we’re even having this conversation right now.”
Huber’s net and gross punting average numbers fell significantly over the final six weeks of the season but still finished at 41 yards in net average, good for 12th in the NFL.
“But yes, (familiarity) certainly figures into it,” Simmons added. “There’s not too many situations that Kevin and I have not been through in all the special teams play. I have a great trust in his ability to understand to know what to do, now it’s up to him to physically prove that he can still do that.”
Evan McPherson’s job is certainly not one that figures to be up for any competition whatsoever.
Jessie Bates has not been spotted in Paul Brown Stadium and is not expected around the team after getting the $13 million franchise tag in March. No surprise, his teammates have his back and will continue to support him.
“Yeah, we’ve been talking all offseason,” corner Mike Hilton said. “Everybody in that locker room wants Jessie to get what he deserves. We know as a team, he’s a cornerstone piece for this franchise. On my end, I’m going to do what I can do to keep pushing and keep putting it out there for him to sign long term. If it happens, great.
“But also, everybody knows the business side of the NFL. And nobody would be upset or pissed at him if he didn’t show up or he ended up going somewhere else. It’s just part of the game. But he knows that everybody in this locker room wants him here.”
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) May 3, 2022
Hilton said there really was no surprise in his mind when the Bengals exercised their franchise tag rights on Bates.
“I was expecting it, just giving him some more time,” Hilton added. “But like I said, hopefully we get things done with him because everybody wants him here. He’s a guy that we definitely need.”
The NFL releases its official 2022 preseason and regular season schedule on Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET. Immediately thereafter, a limited number of individual game tickets go on sale at bengals.com. The Bengals Ticket Hotline (513-621-8383) will stay open late next Thursday to assist fans looking to purchase tickets. In addition to the AFC North rivals, the Bengals will host two preseason games and the Dolphins, Bills, Panthers, Falcons and Chiefs.
“Ooh. I think we’re going to get about five or six primetime games, for sure,” Hilton said. “Everybody wants to see us know, man. Like I said, everybody thinks it’s a fluke. Now we can go put it on primetime and really show the nation that we’re for real.”
Mike Hilton was among many Bengals who either didn’t watch the Super Bowl loss to the Rams or watched it once and are more than ready to put it in the past.
“Oh, it was tough. I watched the game one time and that was flying back here,” Hilton said. “I haven’t watched it since. But you can’t dwell on it. We’re not the first losers in the Super Bowl and we won’t be the last. But we got a lot of excitement coming this year, so we’re excited about what we can do.”