Bengals host mock game

Bengals host mock game

<b>GEORGETOWN, Ky. – </b>Saturday was one of those days in the education of Carson Palmer that, while hard to watch, was necessary. Less than 24 hours after a promising intrasquad scrimmage performance on Friday night, the rookie quarterback took some heavy lumps and learned more than a few valuable lessons in the Bengals' mock game at Rawlings Stadium at Georgetown College.

Palmer played in nine series – eight with the white team consisting of backups and one with the black team of starters and top-line reserves – and didn't produce any points via the tradition means of a touchdown or field goal drive and just six points overall in the modified scoring system used in the mock game. He threw for just 56 total yards on 8-of-20 passing, no touchdowns and one interception.

For the record, the black team beat the white team, 66-17, in the game that featured no tackling. Jon Kitna and Shane Matthews continued the strong play they exhibited in the scrimmage, giving head coach Marvin Lewis and his staff all the more reason to be confident that the quarterback position is in good hands this season.

Kitna was 12 of 16 for 139 yards and led the offense to two touchdowns in his four series of plays, including a 49-yard strike to wide receiver Peter Warrick. He also threw an interception to safety Lamont Thompson. Matthews completed 11 of his 14 attempts for 182 yards and a 35-yard scoring pass to Warrick. The offense twice ended up with field goals by Neil Rackers following Matthews-led drives, but he was also sacked by linebacker Dwayne Levels for a safety on the second play of the second half.

The focus of attention was all on Palmer, though. Even though he was playing mostly with the backups of the backups and facing the No. 1 defensive unit, he wouldn't use that as an excuse.

"That's what you want," said Palmer. "You want to go up against the best guys and have the challenge of that. That's a huge challenge for me to go up against the No. 1 guys because I don't get a whole lot looks during the week in practice going up against the No. 1 defense and today was a great opportunity to go up against the best guys we have.

"I've got a lot of work to do. I've got to get a lot better and there are a lot of things for me to work on. The good thing is that this is just the end of the first week and there's a lot of time to work on it."

Cornerback Jeff Burris intercepted a deep Palmer pass intended for Kwazeon Leverette at the 7-yard line on the first play of the second half, but he had two chances at another on the final series of the first half. On back-to-back plays, he jumped on curl routes but couldn't corral the ball. On the first play of that series, linebacker Brian Simmons broke up a Palmer throw intended for tight end Derek Smith.

"Carson was picking on me today," said Burris. "I'll have to grab him in the locker room and see what the deal is. It's one of those things, a competition, just coming out and competing, and it helps us as a secondary that we have guys with the capability and talent we have."

Burris was much maligned for his play last season after being signed from Indianapolis as a free agent, has received much praise from Lewis and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. An improved pass rush, which is what Frazier's aggressive scheme is designed to provide, will only help the secondary as a whole. In Friday night's scrimmage, the defense was repeatedly beaten by the offense, with the No. 1 unit giving up an 11-play opening touchdown drive in which Kitna methodically maneuvered the offense down the field.

"We had a couple missed assignments (Friday) and some bad fits but today we were able to bounce back and correct those mistakes," said defensive end Justin Smith, who was credited with two sacks in the mock game. "That's the purpose of the scrimmage. You go out and see what's wrong with the new defense and you fix it the next day. Coach Lewis really stressed that and we did.

"It wasn't sloppiness or anything like that, it was just guys being in the wrong spot a couple of times. Under coach Lewis, that doesn't fly and he made sure that we understood what happened in a very stern way."

The Bengals have Sunday off before returning to work on Monday in preparation for their first preseason game next Sunday at the Meadowlands against the New York Jets. They'll practice twice a day on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, with just one late afternoon workout on Thursday. Wednesday's second practice will run from 6:30-9 p.m. with an autograph session scheduled afterwards.

Kevin Goheen
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