Sunday, October 24, 1999

Players to watch


Marvin Harrison, Colts WR
        Maybe Peyton wouldn't have such a big place in the NFL right now if it wasn't for wide receiver Marvin Harrison.

        You can talk about Terry Glenn and Keyshawn Johnson and Eric Moulds in his own division. But the 6-foot, 180-pound Harrison, a fourth-year player out of Syracuse, has fully recovered from the separated shoulder that took him out of last season's last four games, including the win over the Bengals, and should start to be men tioned with the elite.

        He has terrific speed and a knack for the big catch. He's made an AFC-best 14 of his catches on third down, one for a touchdown. He already has three 100-yard games this season, highlighted by a 190-yard effort against a solid San Diego defense, and could break today's game open against the Bengals' inexperienced secondary in the time it takes him to run 40 yards.


Chad Bratzke, Colts DE
        Right end Chad Bratzke doesn't have a sack in the last four games, but the sack artist has lifted the Colts play against the run.

        Indy was even worse than the Bengals against the run in '98 while surrendering 11 100-yard games. The Colts have only allowed one this year, last week against the Jets' Curtis Martin.

        He's not Bubba Smith, But the reason the Colts got him is for the pass rush. They haven't had anyone with an 11-sack season since Johnie Cooks sacked 11.5 in 1984. His three sacks in the opener was the first three-sack game by a Colt end since the move from Bubba's Baltimore in 1984.

        “He's a reactive pass rusher,” said Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander. “If there's a flaw in your technique, he'll find it. He's not a guy that rushes with a pre-determined move in mind. He's got a great feel for things.”

Rod Jones, Bengals T
        About a month from now, left tackle Rod Jones will have a pretty good idea where he stands after a stretch of games he faces three of the most feared AFC sackers in $9 million man Chad Bratzke, NFL sack leader Tony Brackens and Chad Brown.

        Bratzke, the Colts right end who got the big money after getting 11 sacks for the Giants last season, starts it off for Jones today. The 6-foor-5, 275-pound Bratzke has three sacks — none since the opener — but has been playing well enough so teams have had to double him on the pass rush.

        “What's been nice this year is we haven't had to change our protections to compensate for somebody,” said Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander, who won't say if he'll give Jones help.

        Jones said Bratzke, “is good at getting guys off balance. Take you upfield, then bring you back in. He's well-rounded. He's quick and he can bull (rush) you.”

Roosevelt Blackmon, Bengals CB
        Remember that ESPN Draft special last year in which the cameras followed the big-time college star and the small-school upstart in the months leading up to the draft?

        Well, Tennessee's Peyton Manning, meet Morris Brown's Roosevelt Blackmon, the Bengals left cornerback making his second NFL start today against Manning's Colts. They actually have met, briefly, before last year's Colts' win over the Bengals.

        That was when Blackmon was just a special teams player in his rookie season and before season-ending knee injuries and failure in free agency earned him a rapid rise two weeks ago.

        Colts receiver Marvin Harrison is Blackmon's biggest challenge in his brief run. The Browns and Steelers have no one close to Harrison's speed and hands as evidenced by his NFL-leading 37 catches and seven touchdowns.


Bengals Stories
Akili has new No. 1 motivation
Akili may lead, but will Bengals follow?
Colts have Bengals in a corner
Bengals-Colts by the numbers
Who's got the edge?
- Players to watch
O'Donnell's success begs: Why not here?

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