Q: You said Geno Atkins is as dynamic a player as you've seen at that position. Is there any player that comes to mind when you think of him?
BB: Like a John Randle type, but I'd say more powerful. This guy has some power rushes where he just takes linemen back, those guards back and it just looks like they're on roller skates. He just walks them, literally, right back into the quarterback. He's very quick. He can get the edge and work up or up-and-under on the guards. Then when they try to set deep or take those quick moves away from him, he can turn those into power moves and collapse the pocket. He can ruin a game, there's no question the guy can ruin a game by myself. Every play, you can't get away from him either. There aren't many plays you can run where you can say, ‘We don't really have to block the three-technique.' You have to block him and he's a factor in the running game, he's a factor in the passing game. You try to throw screens and stuff like that, he's quick and fast, he'll run those plays down. The guy is a really good player. Obviously their ends are good too: [Carlos] Dunlap, [Michael] Johnson, [Wallace] Gilberry, they're very disruptive; [Domata] Peko is a big guy inside that's a powerful guy, good run player and a power pass rusher. They have a lot of good players on the front, the young kids in there, [Devon] Still. They have good depth but he's a very dynamic player.
Q: How have they been using their two tight ends?
BB: They're on the field a lot. They're a two-tight end, one-back team, primarily. They also use some three receivers. They're good vertical players. Those guys, at times they split them out, sometimes they're in there together, sometimes they're on opposite sides. They have excellent receivers to go with them: [Marvin Jones], [Mohamed] Sanu, obviously A.J. Green. They have different combinations. You have to find them but they attack you down the field. They both block, they're good catch-and-run players. When they see bad matchups there, they go to them. If you take them away, then you're probably having trouble matching up against the receivers. If you're matching up against them, then [Giovani] Bernard can kill you. He's a very good space player. They have gone to him quite a bit in the passing game, on option routes, screen plays, shovel passes, things like that, get him the ball. He's a quick, playmaking guy. BenJarvus [Green-Ellis] gives them a lot of power, gives them tough yards. Those two guys complement each other well. They have a good, well balanced offensive team.
Q: Geno Atkins was a fourth-round pick when he came out. What do you remember about him at that time? Obviously if we did it again, he'd be much higher.
BB: He'd probably be the first pick in the draft. He was an athletic guy that you saw maybe as a sub rusher, a nickel sub rusher, but he's way more than that. He's a good one too. Everybody has trouble with him. You look at all the games last year and all the games this year, it doesn't matter because they flip him, he plays on both guards, the centers slide to him. He's seen plenty of different combinations and matched up against plenty of different players: big guards, quick guards, strong guards, athletic, however you want to put him, he gives them a lot of trouble.
Q: Carlos Dunlap was a second round pick in that draft. What do you remember about him coming out? Is he doing the same thing now that he was doing at Florida? How is that transition for him?
BB: Yeah, he was a 4-3 end at Florida and he's a 4-3 end for Cincinnati. Big guy, athletic guy, runs well. He's got good size and he's a good athlete.
Q: What kind of progression has Andy Dalton made? Is he doing things now he wasn't able to do as a rookie?
BB: Yeah, sure, every player. Of course, he's getting good coaching, he's in a good program, he's with a good team. He's definitely developed. His rookie year there was a lot of, or certainly an element of just managing the game with him. I think he's well beyond that. He handles himself well back there; he does a good job of making changes in the offense at the line of scrimmage. They give him that responsibility, he does that. You can see him do it a number of times on film. Again, I think he utilizes all of his weapons offensively: the tight ends, the backs, the receivers, the deep balls, the intermediate, going to check-downs and secondary and third receivers – he does all that. I think he's a good, solid player for them at that position with very good skill players around him and an experienced offensive line. Like I said, it's an explosive offense.
BB: No, I wouldn't say that, no. I think there were some things that Nate, like any college player, had to adjust to in this league. He made that adjustment very quickly. Colorado was a spread offense. They were usually in a two-point stance, did a lot of pass blocking and that type of thing. But he made those conversions pretty quickly. Nate is a very, very smart kid. You tell him something once and he has it. He also can do it, he's very athletic. He has the physical ability to do what you ask him to do and change techniques and that type of thing. Physically I don't think it's hard for him. He's very conscientious, he works extremely hard. I think he transitioned into this league like every other rookie has to transition to it, but I'd say he made the transitions very quickly. He played well as a rookie. We had [Matt] Light playing left tackle and he played plenty of tackle. He played more on the right side, which was another new thing for him because he really hadn't played much over there, when Sebastian [Vollmer] missed a few games but he played well there. He played tight end and he also played left tackle. He's played left tackle very well over the last two years since Matt retired. I think he's come in and played as well as any rookie could come in and play. I think the circumstances were he just didn't start at left tackle because Light played left tackle that year but I'm sure he could have if we hadn't had Matt.
Q: Is there a player or players that can fill the void for
BB: I think everybody is going to have to, we're all going to have to pull that rope. There's no Vince Wilfork, you just don't replace Vince Wilfork. We'll still have his presence around the team and in the locker room and those types of things, which he's great at. On the field, we'll miss him but whoever is out there, those other 11 guys that are out there, we're all going to have to pull a little bit harder, including the coaching staff and all that. It's a big loss, but we're just going to have to find a way to do it. That means everybody doing their job. Obviously somebody is going to have to replace him and whoever those people are, they're' going to have to answer the bell but collectively as a team, we're all going to have to pull together. There's no one person that can replace Vince Wilfork.
Q: Do you have to change what you want out of that position?
BB: Look, he hasn't played every single play. There have been times when he hasn't been on the field. It isn't like we haven't seen him not on the field but obviously he's been a key guy for us and he plays a lot. We had to deal with that in the Atlanta game and we'll deal with it going forward. We may do that, some things I'm sure we'll continue to do, there may be a couple things that we may need to modify when he's not in there. We'll see how that goes.
Q: Is there a reason he wasn't put on IR? Are you still evaluating?
BB: When we have anything to announce, we'll announce it, I'll put it that way.
Q: The confidence in
BB: The confidence in him has been since day one. I think we saw it in the Philadelphia game. There's no issue with confidence in LeGarrette, none.
Q: Is he giving you what you thought he was capable of?
BB: Yeah, I mean, I think he's a good player and he's played well. He's played well for us, again, going all the way back to the preseason. He has good run skills, he has good vision, he's a big, strong guy, he's got good speed, catches the ball well. He's been a dependable player for us. We asked him to do kickoff returns, he's done that. He's really done everything we asked him to do. We also have a lot of confidence in our other backs: Shane [Vereen] and obviously Stevan [Ridley], Leon [Washington], Brandon [Bolden], they've all done a good job too. We think we've gotten good production from that entire group. When we've asked him to do something, he's stepped in there and given us good production. I mean really I thought the run that he had on the third-and-one in Atlanta was about as good a run as we've had all year. I don't know about the spot on that one. He did everything he could to get that first down. It was a very close play. Nobody will every talk about that one, but I think that's as good a run as we've had. I don't know if it gained any yards, but it was a good run.
Q: What made it such a good run? Was it that the tackle had the initial penetration?
BB: Yeah. I mean the fact that he even got as close as he did – again, we could talk about whether he did or didn't have the first done, but whatever he got on that was more than on his own.
Q: What do you see from him that you like to keep him back there on the kick return?
BB: I think we've all seen his run skills. He's got speed, he's got good vision and he's a big, strong guy that's hard to tackle. He's good with the ball in his hands. On kickoff returns, he'll get it.
Q: Is there any element of building up speed in that role, if you were to compare him to
BB: They're two totally different types of runners. They're both good, they just have different styles. Leon hasn't been totally available for us this season. At times he has, but at times he hasn't and LeGarrette has. That's been one difference. They're totally different styles. They're both good players. I think they're both productive, but they're different that's all. I don't know if one's better or one's worse, but they're just different.
Q: Can you talk about
BB: I think James is really one of our hardest working guys. He just comes to work every day. It doesn't matter whether it's April in the offseason program or Wednesday of game week or Sunday. He's very consistent, very dependable. He's a smart kid, works hard, tough, doesn't say much, wants to know how to do his job and goes out there and does it the best he can. Like I said, he works extremely hard in his preparation in the weight room, in his training. He's in good condition. He studies hard, he prepares hard, he works hard, practices well. He's a guy who just gives you a good, solid effort every single time. It doesn't matter if it's OTAs or the third quarter of the Atlanta game, you're going to get the very best from him on every snap. That's a dependable, consistent feeling that you want out of that position and I think he's given it to us. I think we all feel like we can count him because he's just done it so many times, so many days. He's just been so consistent and he did that last year on the practice squad. I think he earned everybody's respect and trust through that. Then his opportunities this year, we've kind of become a little more of a two-back team. When he got here last year, it was in the season and on the practice squad and we weren't able to make the same kind of commitment that we've been able to make this year. He's taken advantage of his opportunities to make the most of them. He's been a consistent player for us in his role.