Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis talked Wednesday about Sunday's upcoming opponent, NFC West-leading Arizona, a team with a bit of a southwest Bengals flavor to it.
The Cardinals have enough ex-Bengals that Lewis didn't mention by name the biggest of the bunch -- Carson Palmer -- while still having others to choose from in his opening comments.
“We look forward to playing the Cardinals. Obviously, they are leading the league in offense, running for about 127 yards a game, and 4.4 yards a snap, and throwing for almost 300," opened Lewis. "They’re doing a really good job on being effective in both areas. It’s going to be one of those days where you’re going to have to play good defense, against a good quarterback, and a talented group of receivers."
Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was with the Bengals from 2003-10, and set many team records. He was a two-time Pro Bowler, the 2006 Pro Bowl MVP, The 2005 NFL Quarterback of the Year and 2005 AFC Player of the Year. He's still on his game. In 2013, he became the first QB in NFL history to throw for at least 4,000 yards for three different teams. This year, he looks to be in peak form.
Lewis went on Wednesday: "We know they have a good runner in Chris Johnson, and (Andre) Ellington is back and playing now, and even the rookies get an opportunity. They are put together well on offense. Jermaine (Gresham) is getting involved in the pass game. He’s getting more comfortable when you watch him each and every week."
Gresham played with the Bengals up until the end of last season, and made a pair of Pro Bowls. An athletic, largely underachieving tight end, he nevertheless set a rookie tight end team record with 52 receptions his first season and became a quality blocker. He made the Pro Bowl his second season. He made the Pro Bowl again his third season, with 64 catches for 737 yards and 5 touchdowns, while becoming just the third tight end in NFL history to have over 50 receptions in each of his first three years in the league.
Lewis continued in his analysis of the Cardinals, saying: “On defense, I’ve been impressed with them getting after the quarterback and after the football. They’re doing a good job of creating turnovers. They’re doing a good job on third down. Their guys in the secondary play the ball well off the hand. I think up front, Calais Campbell is one of the top up-front guys in the NFL. They’ve got Frostee (Rucker), who’s really doing a good job. These guys are well coached, you can tell in watching them play. They do a good job in the running game and converting in the pass game.”
A Frostee Rucker mention. How often do you hear that?
Rucker, a defensive lineman, was selected by the Bengals in the third round of the 2006 draft. He was with Cincinnati from 2006-11, and followed with stints in Cleveland and Arizona. He has 19 career sacks, seven with the Bengals.
Other Bengals-Cardinals connections: Cardinals wide receivers coach Darryl Drake played one year on the Bengals practice squad in 1983. Cardinals defensive line coach Brentson Buckner played for the Bengals in 1997. Bengals offensive lineman Eric Winston played for Arizona in 2013. Cardinals cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard are cousins.