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Bengals mailbag: Playing Malik Jefferson and the hot seats under Dre Kirkpatrick and John Ross As it often goes with the Bengals’ faithful Nick Vigil Jersey , one loss can change perceptions on a dime. We knew this wasn’t a perfect team heading into 2018, but a 2-0 start to the season began to build confidence—both inside and outside of the walls of Paul Brown Stadium. Yet, a single loss and many began to proclaim the team’s roster to be a house of cards. And, in a loss, certain players and position groups begin to get targeted for criticism. Such is the case for this week’s mailbag. You can have your questions answered on this weekly article by sending them via Twitter to @CincyJungle or @CJAnthonyCUI, or by joining us for live recordings of The Orange and Black Insider. *****The hot topic this week has to be that of John Ross and his (lack of) progress with the Bengals. After scoring a touchdown in the opener, fans thought he was on his way to some great things in Bill Lazor’s offense for the rest of 2018. Fast forward two subsequent games and all of a sudden, and Ross has become every fan’s favorite whipping boy. A couple of drops, miscommunication with his quarterback leading to interceptions, and just three catches for 24 yards since has folks chanting “bust”. This one last week against Carolina may have been the most damning:Can we be real here for a second, though? We knew Ross was uber-fast and dominated the college ranks, but it became apparent that he had a little trouble adjusting to the pro game last year. Still, just over a year into his career and Bengals fans are now ready to have him be another team’s project. We know we’re throwing some blanket accusations out there about fans, but the folks on Twitter, Facebook, The Orange and Black Insider and the CJ comment threads have been quite vocal, causing us to address the situation.Six games. That’s the amount of regular season contests the 23-year old has under his professional belt. And, you’re ready to write him off?Look, we’re not erasing all blame from Ross, either. He and Andy Dalton continuously appear to be seeing different things in routes and what the defense shows them, while fighting for contested throws also appears to not be one of Ross’s fortes. What he is currently doing, though, is presenting himself as a bit of a decoy. At a minimum, he’s opening up opportunities for others.Regardless, throwing him on the trash heap at this point is utterly ridiculous. And, in fact Andy Dalton Jersey , there is an argument to be made that Lazor should be shouldering some of the blame. Back when Ross was initially drafted by the Bengals, I advocated for a game plan to be devised for him akin to what Jay Gruden and Hue Jackson did with Andrew Hawkins in Cincinnati and in Cleveland. Yes, we know Ross and Hawkins aren’t the exact same player. However, their respective speed and shiftiness can be used in similar fashions. Drag routes, screens and other designed plays of simple nature to use his yards-after-the-catch ability should be part and parcel of every week’s game plan. Not only could it benefit the offense, but it could boost the youngster’s confidence. You don’t like the “Baby Hawk” comparisons, eh? How about Tyreek Hill? Since his emergence to stardom last year, the amount of kick and punt return opportunities have diminished, but Andy Reid still gives his explosive star the occasional chance on special teams. Will the ever-conservative Marvin Lewis allow the same opportunities, if Lazor’s schemes aren’t always Ross-friendly?We all realize that huge expectations come with being a No. 9 overall pick, but this current offense doesn’t run through Ross. Can you imagine the fan ire towards No. 15 if A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd and/or Tyler Eifert weren’t on this roster?Let’s at least give it a full 16 NFL games to gauge Ross’ progress. Many areas of this team are filled with youth, so we might start seeing guys like Ross hit their stride later in the year. And, that’s the time on the NFL calendar that largely counts. *****If you’re a Bengals fan who isn’t harping on Ross’s issues right now, then perhaps you’re all over Dre Kirkpatrick. Since signing a sizable second contract in the 2017 offseason, Kirkpatrick has just one interception in the last 17 games, as well as having the dubious distinction of being the most penalized defensive player from 2014-2017. This year has been a bunch of ebbs and flows for Kirkpatrick in just three games. Cincinnati has pedestrian-like No. 23 ranking in passing yards allowed this year, and Kirkpatrick hasn’t necessarily let up long touchdown bombs, but...In the first three games of 2018, Kirkpatrick has had at least four golden opportunities for a game-changing interception. Capitalizing on those plays is what Teryl Austin has preached this offseason, but both Kirkpatrick and his entire unit failed in this capacity last week against the Panthers. Additionally, Kirkpatrick has seemed to be the victim of conversions of some big third downs. Aside from allowing Devin Funchess corral a touchdown last week, he was victimized on two other third-and-long conversion opportunities. All of this seems to hurt more, given the news that he was seen working on catching the football this week. He was also seen cradling footballs during post-practice interviews leading up to Sunday’s clash against Carolina, but it didn’t seem to ring home. Like Ross, Kirkpatrick is a bit of a victim of his draft status. There were rumors that even when the Bengals made No. 27 a first-round pick back in 2012 A.J. Green Jersey , then-defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer had to teach him proper backpedaling techniques and the like. Hence his stay on the bench for most of his first three seasons. However, seven years later, he’s one of the veterans the team is leaning on at the moment. Missed interception opportunities aside, he should be a guy who gives stability to a secondary with a much different look this year. Yet, for those Pro Football Focus nerds out there, the numbers favor Kirkpatrick—particularly as a No. 1A corner for the Bengals. In 2018, Kirkpatrick has a 70.0 rating which puts him in the “above average” to “good” category. It’s no secret that Marvin Lewis and the Bengals love first round corners, as they currently employ three of them, including Kirkpatrick. And, for most intents and purposes, Kirkpatrick is holding up his end of the bargain—especially when one considers Lewis’ high prioritizing of locker room staples, which Kirkpatrick seems to have embraced after signing his big contract. Still, what if he grabbed at least some of those “gimme” interceptions...*****Also on this week’s show, one of our listeners was asking why Malik Jefferson isn’t getting a shot. Of course, this comes on the heels of a 230-yard rushing performance by the Panthers last week, and the Bengals’ preference to trot out a group of linebackers who seem to be a step behind most plays. Hardy Nickerson, Jordan Evans, Nick Vigil and Vincent Rey have somewhat-admirably held down the fort in the wake of the absences of Preston Brown and Vontaze Burfict, but this is a completely different unit without them.Why isn’t Jefferson getting a look? Will it really hold the team back that much?We don’t fully know the answers to these questions, just like we don’t know why Christian Westerman continues to wither away on the bench. However, we do know that Lewis hasn’t traditionally trusted young players with significant roles. Hell, it took an insane 2012 preseason and subsequent injury to Thomas Howard (RIP) before Burfict got his chance with the club. At certain positions and in certain points of the season, Lewis wants steady veterans over the wild card rookies. And, unfortunately, that’s who Jefferson is at this point. Is he P.J. Dawson, or is he Tremaine Edmunds? Somewhere in between?On this week’s episode Geno Atkins Jersey , we grasped at straws a bit, but there is a form of a comparison to be made, in terms of a pro-Jefferson argument. It’s in some of the dominant defenses displayed by the Ravens and Steelers from 2003-2013. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens employed some of the NFL’s best defenses for over a decade. And, both of them trotted out spark plugs of players in Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed. Aside from their own immense skill set, what was a common denominator of those defenses and Reed/Polamalu? They were largely given free reign in what were defenses filled with surrounding disciplined players. Given Jefferson’s raw athleticism, but “wild child” ways, it’s understandable that he has had to bide his time. But, what if he’s flanked with a number of high IQ players on the Bengals’ defense?Once Brown, Burfict and Michael Johnson all return, maybe that’s the time to let the young colt out of the stable. Oh yeah, it appears as if that most of that will happen this week, if not fully coming to fruition in Week 5. If you’re unable to join us live for here at Cincy Jungle or YouTube every episode, all Orange and Black Insider content is available here on CJ, as well as on our SoundCloud, Stitcher, through the Google Play Music app and YouTube channels, as well as on iTunes! You can tweet us @BengalsOBI or get in touch with us via email at theobinsider@gmail.com. Thanks for listening and go subscribe to our channels! On Thursday, the Cincinnati Bengals announced the hiring of four offensive assistants under new head coach Zac Taylor.The new hires include Brian Callahan (offensive coordinator), Jim Turner (offensive line), James Casey (tight ends) and Ben Martin (assistant offensive line).“As I said in my news conference (on Tuesday), I’m focusing first on putting together a staff that our entire team will be proud of — one our players will be excited to play for — and these four coaches will be a big part of that,” Taylor said in a press release. “They are good teachers and good communicators who will think outside the box, and that’s important for helping to develop the type of offense we plan to employ.“We’re continuing to assemble our new staff. We want to make sure we hire the right people, because it all starts at the top. As I said before, we’re going to take our time to make sure that everyone is a perfect fit. There’s still a lot of work to do, and I’m looking forward to announcing more of the staff as it comes together.”Callahan Tyler Eifert Jersey , 34, is entering his 10th season as an NFL coach. He comes to Cincinnati from the Oakland Raiders, where he served as quarterbacks coach in 2018. Previously, he was quarterbacks coach for the Detroit Lions from 2016-17. From 2010-15, he worked for the Denver Broncos, for whom he served as coaching assistant (’10), offensive quality control coach (’11-12), offensive assistant (’13-14) and offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach (’15).Under Callahan’s direction last season, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr recorded a career-high 4049 passing yards and a 93.9 passer rating, led the AFC and ranked fifth in the NFL in completion percentage (68.9), and ranked fourth in the AFC and sixth in the NFL in total completions (381).Over Callahan’s two years with Detroit (2016 and ’17), Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in TD passes (53), passing yards (8773) completions (759), completion percentage (65.5) and INT percentage (1.7). In 2017 alone, Stafford ranked third in the NFL and first in the NFC in passing yards (4446).In Callahan’s six years with Denver, the Broncos’ offense ranked in the top five in the NFL in total yet yards three consecutive seasons (2012-14). The Broncos won five straight AFC West titles from 2011-15, appeared in Super Bowl XLVIII and won Super Bowl 50. In 2013, the Broncos’ offense set NFL single-season records for points scored (606) and TDs (76), while QB Peyton Manning passed for an NFL-record 55 touchdowns and earned consensus MVP honors. Also in 2013, the Broncos had five players who scored 10 or more touchdowns, most in league history.After playing quarterback at UCLA, Callahan began his coaching career at his alma mater, where he served as a graduate assistant from 2006-07. He played quarterback at De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., and was part of the school’s national-record 151-game win streak (1992-2004).Turner, 54 Carlos Dunlap Jersey , comes to Cincinnati from Texas A&M University, where he spent the last three seasons (2016-18) as offensive line coach.From 2012-13, Turner was offensive line coach of the Miami Dolphins. Turner and Taylor worked together on the Dolphins’ coaching staff during that time. They also worked together from 2008-11 at Texas A&M, when Taylor was a graduate assistant and Turner was offensive line coach.Turner has also been offensive line coach at Boston College (2007); assistant head coach (’06) and offensive line coach (’05-06) at the University of Delaware; offensive line coach at Temple University (’03-04); offensive line coach and run game coordinator at Harvard University (’00-02); offensive line coach at Louisiana Tech University (1999); and defensive line coach (’97-98), running backs coach (’96) and offensive line/tight ends coach (’94-95) at Northeastern University.Turner, a 1988 graduate of Boston College, served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1990-94.Casey, 34, spent the last three seasons (2016-18) on the coaching staff of the University of Houston. He began his coaching career as an offensive football analyst for the Cougars in 2016, then served as tight ends coach in ’17 and special teams coordinator/tight ends coach in ’18.As a player, Casey was an All-American tight end at Rice University and fifth-round draft pick of the Houston Texans in 2009. He played four seasons with the Texans (2009-12), then two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles (’13-14) and one with the Denver Broncos (’15).Martin, 35, spent the last three seasons in the college ranks, as offensive line coach at Bryant University (2018) and offensive coordinator/recruiting coordinator at Union (N.Y.) College (’16-17). He has two years of NFL experience as an offensive assistant with the Miami Dolphins from 2014-15.Martin worked on the Dolphins’ staff with both Taylor and Turner. The three also worked together at Texas A&M from 2010-11, when Martin served as offensive quality control coach for the Aggies.Prior to his time with the Dolphins, Martin was offensive line coach at Wagner College (2013), running backs coach at Princeton University (’12), offensive quality control coach at Texas A&M (’10-11), run game/recruiting coordinator at Merrimack College (’08-09), and offensive line/tight ends coach at Curry College (’07).
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