BY CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Running back Corey Dillon, who was used sparingly for precautionary reasons during preseason, may still practice on a limited basis before next Sunday's season opener against Tennessee, coach Bruce Coslet said.
Dillon nursed a bruised right thigh before Friday's 17-0 loss to Atlanta, missing one entire practice and participating in only part of another. He didn't play against the Falcons and carried just 18 times for 85 yards in the three previous preseason games. While repeating that he didn't want to aggravate Dillon's injury, which nagged him in training camp, Coslet admitted that in ideal conditions, his top rusher would have carried the ball more.
"He's a young player. Obviously he needs reps," Coslet said. "He's a very good player, he needs reps; he's a tough player, he needs reps. What do you get from that? Yes, he needs reps. But you can only do so much when a guy's hurt."
Right tackle Willie Anderson sounded confident that Dillon will display the same form that enabled him to gain 1,129 yards last year.
"It would have been crazy to play him (against Atlanta)," Anderson said. "The Dillonator's ready. He's ready to roll."
Carter shows improvement
One week after gaining just six yards on eight carries against Detroit, Ki-Jana Carter rebounded with 45 yards on eight attempts against Atlanta. Three of Carter's carries went for nine yards or more. "Ki-Jana has a lot of speed,"Bengals coach Bruce Coslet said. "I thought he was more decisive hitting the holes."
Said Carter, "I just told the linemen, give me a crack and I'll try to do the rest of it."
Carter echoed Coslet's lament that his first-quarter fumble was "careless."
"He really didn't get hit that hard," Coslet said.
The fumble forced Cincinnati's defense back onto the field scant moments after enduring an 8-minute, 22-second drive.
Scrutinizing videotapes of the Falcons game improved Coslet's outlook, which was unpleasant immediately after the defeat.
"I don't think I changed my impression of the game, but I don't think we were quite as bad as I originally thought, either," he said.
But he revived his "dress rehearsal" imagery by saying, "We're not ready for Broadway. We're not ready to open the show."
Coslet declined to name a starting right cornerback, leaving rookie Artrell Hawkins and fifth-year veteran Corey Sawyer to wonder. Coslet also wouldn't commit to naming rookie Damon Gibson the No. 1 punt returner, though he noted that Gibson barely had a chance to display his skills. Gibson was forced to fair-catch four of the five punts he fielded from Atlanta's Dan Stryzinski. He returned the other for 2 yards.
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