The Cincinnati Bengals head to Tennessee this week to take on a Titans team that has won three in a row.
Here are some of the highlights from Titans coach Mike Mularkey’s conference call with media in Cincinnati:
1. The Bengals defense looks as good as its numbers.
“They’re a veteran group,” Mularkey said of the team that ranks 11th in the NFL in scoring and sixth in total yards allowed per game.
“A lot of those guys have been playing together a long time in same system. There’s not a lot of mistakes being made. It’s evident on tape. But that’s really it. The rotation that they’re using in the front keeps those guys fresh. Those numbers support a group that is playing well.”
2. The Bengals offense looks better than its numbers.
This seems hard to believe, but he said it.
“I’ve seen improvement,” Mularkey said. “They’ve obviously had some changes with the coordinator and had some guys hurt. As they’re getting healthier and more familiar with new coordinator I’ve seen improvement over that time.”
Cincinnati ranks tied for 28th in the league in scoring while having gained the fewest yards per game in the NFL. The Bengals sport the worst running game in the league and were held to just seven points on a franchise-low 37 plays last week at Jacksonville.
3. Dick LeBeau is still the man.
The Titans defensive coordinator spent 18 seasons on staff with the Bengals, including time as defensive coordinator and head coach.
“Very, very blessed I’d say to be around an individual like him,” Mularkey said of the Ohio State grad. “He’s a great coach, but he’s a great man. Players love him. Coaches love him. He loves life. That’s the No. 1 thing he does. He cares about the players. They know that. He’s still still very, very smart. He’s still coming up with ideas that are disruptive every week.”
Including his time as a Hall of Fame cornerback for the Lions, LeBeau has spent 59 seasons in the NFL.
“He hasn’t missed a beat since I’ve been here. I’ve worked with Dick before, and he’s still going strong.”
4. Mularkey is not apologizing for his team’s record.
The Titans are 5-3 despite not really standing out in many areas and having to deal with an injury to quarterback Marcus Mariota for multiple weeks.
Football Outsiders rank them 18th overall in the league, five spots ahead of the Bengals.
“I feel really good about us,” Mularkey said. "I think the bottom line is wins and that’s what we’re in the business for. You can take all those stats and I can find something with everybody’s stats, a fault somewhere that really doesn’t matter. What matters is wins and losses. Our guys are finding ways to win.”
5. The Titans are still bringing a rookie receiver along, too.
The Bengals are not the only team in the league still looking to get more production out of a rookie first-round receiver who has been limited by injuries and inexperience so far.
Corey Davis has played in three games for Tennessee, including two starts. The fifth overall pick in the draft has nine catches for 101 yards.
Meanwhile, John Ross — taken by the Bengals three spots after Davis in the draft — is still looking for his first career NFL catch.
“Certainly it’s much better for you if you can practice with the game plan and rep it,” Mularkey said of the effect of missed time on young receivers. “Some of the mental errors (Davis) had probably are attributed to missing all that practice time and game time. Mentally they can sit in on all the meetings, take all the notes they want but if you’re really not doing it, it’s very difficult to come in there and not have some mistakes.”