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December 12, 2017 02:33 PM | Geoff Hobson
Young players on defense like safety Clayton Fejedelem are getting tested early.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis proved to be a soothsayer when it came to Sunday's 33-7 shellacking at the hands of the Bears.

About 48 hours before kickoff someone mused to Lewis that he'd have no problem getting his players up for this one despite the slew of injuries because there would be a band of enthusiastic kids playing in their place.

Unconvinced, Lewis offered a crisp, "If the kids are in the right place."

Ooh boy. As they picked up the pieces in the next 48 hours the kids were taking the brunt of it. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther recalled Monday when he lived one of the lines from the late '90s when he was 25 years old and the youngest college head coach in the country at Ursinus.

"The athletic director told me for every freshman you'll start you'll lose one game, and that's kind of what happened yesterday," Guenther said. "We had a lot of young guys playing, we made a lot of mistakes, they beat us up front and that's pretty much what it is. So I'll save you probably a lot of questions.

"It's not every Sunday we give up 30 points," said Gunther, told it was 22 straight since the big 3-0. "So obviously that's a big red flag. There are a lot of guys playing more snaps than they're used to because of all the injuries. Obviously you want to have a full hands-on-deck and that wasn't the case and that's part of the NFL."

Let's see. Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis on the edge, two rookies. Ryan Glasgow starting at tackle, another rookie. Starting nose tackle Andrew Billings, playing in his first season. Rookie linebacker Jordan Evans in his second start. First-year starter William Jackson at cornerback. Second-year starting safety Clayton Fejedelem, filling in for the injured Shawn Williams the last month after playing 40 snaps from scrimmage as a rookie.

All played at least 19 snaps, led by Jackson's 73, Evans' 68, and Fejedelem's 57. Throw in Glasgow's career-high 40 in place of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins and it looked a lot like the fourth quarter of the last pre-season finale in Indianapolis.

But the Bengals are still bullish on their 2016 and 2017 draft picks. From what they see it was more mental mistakes than physical ones that contributed to the bulk of 482 yards they allowed to Chicago's NFL worst offense.

"I think there was just more error on repeated plays that kept happening. So that's part of the thing we did today, we got that cleaned up," Guenther said. "The errors that we made in that last ballgame are on plays that we saw all year. If there's a play that beats the coverage or a little bit of different run and they don't get it, fine, we'll come over (to the bench) and get it. But the errors we were making were on some easy plays that I'm used to us making like that."

Guenther snapped his fingers. But defining Sunday's personnel just wasn't easy with practice stripped of injured players.

Paul Guenther hopes he has Vontaze Burfict Sunday.

"Really for me the hardest thing was not knowing who was playing throughout the week and who to get those reps to because there was a time this guy was going to play and then at the end of the week, it was a short week," Guenther said. "No excuses."

It was quite a day. Wide receiver A.J. Green knocked down a Bears' Hail Mary. Backup guard Alex Redmond took some snaps at D-Tackle on goal line. Guenther mused about last week when he thought about rounding up some wide receivers for emergency snaps at cornerback before rookie John Ross went on injured reserve.

"I drew up a corner blitz for Ross," Guenther said.

He'll need something exotic Sunday in Minnesota when they face old friend Mike Zimmer and his 10-3 Vikings. Guenther hopes to have back his best player, WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict (concussion), but who is ever out there they're looking at a top ten offense.

"I just told them, the veteran guys in this room, there'll be a lot said over the next three weeks on how you lead the team," Guenther said. "At the end of the day it's my job to get you guys ready to play, but on Sunday the pressure is on you guys. You guys have to do this."









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