Cincinnati Bengals: Lessons from AJ McCarron debacle

Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 11:45 AM

Could backup QB AJ McCarron see some playing time before this season is over? Marvin Lewis answered this week.

The main takeaway from Cincinnati backup quarterback AJ McCarron being declared an unrestricted free agent, as with most of the events of the last two years, is not to trust the Bengals’ judgment anymore. 

The organization had a nice run there for a while starting with the surprising first return of Marvin Lewis as coach after the 2010 season, but not much has gone right since Jeremy Hill fumbled and the defense bumbled away (via Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict) that wild card game against the Steelers in January 2016. 

READ MORE on McCarron news

Hill’s fumble was of course not the fault of the front office nor Lewis, though blame can be assigned to both for having the knuckleheads who did knucklehead things (Jones and Burfict) on the team. 

Since then they have had a bunch of crucial roster decisions to make and blown most of them, too often letting established players walk as free agents only to replace them with youngsters who turned out to be downgrades at multiple positions. 

RELATED: 2 Bengals greats support Lewis’ return

Their recent drafts have left a lot to be desired, too, which is surprising since their string of five playoff appearances in a row was obviously largely the product of drafting well. 

And now we learn they screwed up in how they designated McCarron’s roster status during his rookie year, a mistake that has some ripple effects still to be felt. 

(For instance, they probably would have tried harder to trade him last year, maybe even picking one of the league’s competent teams to do business with rather than be at the mercy of the Browns with the trade deadline approaching.) 

Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron spoke Wednesday about nearly being traded to the Browns

I don’t think McCarron is a star in the making, but he’s still an asset who had value that won’t be fully realized by the Bengals because of the way they managed him. 

His almost-certain exit further cements Andy Dalton as the starting quarterback for the Bengals, but that was probably already done when Lewis was retained as coach again in January. 

RELATED: Who were the best Bengals this season?

In seven years, Lewis has shown no interest in trying anyone but Dalton, who has followed his best season with two inconsistent ones and shown nearly no leadership along the way as the team has been tossed about in choppy waters. 

With that being the case, merely losing McCarron is no big deal. 

If McCarron were a clear upgrade over Dalton physically, he would have gotten an opportunity at some point. 

If this franchise is anything, it is enamored with playing the most talented players available. That’s usually a good thing, though it obviously has its pitfalls when it means compromising character too many times along the way (again see that playoff meltdown). 

We’ll now never know if a personality like McCarron’s could have provided a spark while the team floundered under the uninspiring Dalton during key stretches the past two seasons. 

RELATED: Andy Dalton or Nick Foles? Depends on the month

McCarron is likely to get a shot somewhere else, and he deserves that. He was a good soldier during his time in Cincinnati, which no doubt has a lot to do with how amicable this split is. 

But who knows: Maybe this will set off a chain of events that leads the Bengals to get better, too. 

The likely new No. 2, Jeff Driskel, could be more talented than both Dalton and McCarron, though arrived with much less polish. Maybe he can take the team farther than either of them if he ever gets a chance (like say if Dalton gets hurt again).

That’s admittedly a big stretch, but nobody wants to be Debbie Downer all the time, right?

There’s also the possibility the Bengals now have to draft a quarterback. It’s extremely unlikely they take one in the early rounds — as TheMMQB’s Andy Benoit has suggested — but maybe they’ll luck into another diamond in the rough on day two or three. 

The way things have gone for them lately, though, I wouldn’t bet on it. 

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Collymore makes name for himself in return to Dragons

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 11:15 PM


            Dayton left fielder Malik Collymore looks at a pitch during the fourth inning of Dayton’s game against Fort Wayne on Sunday at Fifth Third Field. Contributed Photo by Bryant Billing
Dayton left fielder Malik Collymore looks at a pitch during the fourth inning of Dayton’s game against Fort Wayne on Sunday at Fifth Third Field. Contributed Photo by Bryant Billing

The guy without a name above the No. 6 on the back of his Dayton Dragons’ jersey Thursday night was Malik Collymore. The name wasn’t missing because he just got to town. He played here last year and wore that same number.

“Turns out they lost it,” Collymore said of the jersey he wore last year. “Everyone was actually calling me Randy because they looked at the program and saw Randy Ventura.”

Ventura played in seven games for the Dragons at the end of the season’s first half. Now that the second half of the split-season format has begun, Ventura is playing in high A Daytona in the Florida State League and Collymore is in Dayton after a stay in extended spring training.

Collymore made a name for himself in his return to Dayton with an RBI double and solo home run.

“I’m happy to be back playing,” he said. “I love playing in Dayton. It’s a great environment. I just wanted to have some fun today and swing at good pitches.”

However, the Dragons suffered a 3-2 loss to the South Bend Cubs despite a good seven-inning start from Andrew Jordan (1-3). The Dragons have lost 12 of their last 14 games.

The Cubs scored a controversial run in the fifth to take a 3-1 lead. Brandon Hughes was credited with a solo homer to left after the ball bounced back on to the field. It appeared he had doubled off the top of the wall, but the umpires huddled and decided it was a home run.

Collymore followed a leadoff double by Mark Kolozsvary in the fifth inning with a double into the left-field corner to cut South Bend’s lead to 2-1. Collymore cut the lead to 3-2 in the seventh with a home run high off the screen down the left-field line. It was Collymore’s 12th homer in over 800 minor-league at-bats since he started rookie league ball with the Cardinals in 2013.

“I just focused on being on time, and he threw me a pitch in my wheelhouse,” he said. “When I get them, they’ll go.”

Collymore was one of several roster moves within the Reds’ organization Thursday. In addition to Ventura, the Dragons saw outfielder Stuart Fairchild move up to Daytona. Fairchild was a Midwest League all-star after batting .277 with seven homers, 37 RBIs, 17 stolen bases and a .377 on-base percentage in the first half. Relievers Tyler Buffett (6.67 ERA) and Dauri Moreta (8.25 ERA) were sent down to Billings.

Collymore, 23, was signed by the Reds in 2017 after being released by the Milwaukee Brewers. He played in 34 games with the Dragons and batted .222 before moving up to Daytona.

“He hustles and plays hard,” Dragons manager Luis Bolivar said. “I had him last year and I was very impressed with the way he was playing. So I have a lot of respect for him. He doesn’t give up and he keeps fighting and waiting for his chance.”

Collymore started this season by playing 19 games in Daytona and batting .235. He plays all three outfield positions and can also play second base.

“I’ve had a crazy ride,” he said. “Not too many guys have been through what I’ve been through. I think it makes me stronger and I just want to have fun with it. I’m not worried about nothing.”

Not even if his name is above the No. 6.

“Everyone’s telling me to keep it off and just go no-name,” Collymore said. “But I’ll have it on by the weekend.”

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Middletown’s Harrison dominant in mixed-martial arts debut

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 10:08 PM

Kayla Harrison, of the United States, celebrates after defeating Audrey Tcheumeo of France during the women's -78kg gold medal judo contest on Day 6 of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Carioca Arena 2 on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Kayla Harrison, of the United States, celebrates after defeating Audrey Tcheumeo of France during the women's -78kg gold medal judo contest on Day 6 of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Carioca Arena 2 on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)(Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Middletown native Kayla Harrison won her professional mixed-martial arts debut Thursday night against Brittney Elkin, of Denver, in a Professional Fighters League 155-pound lightweight bout in Chicago.

Harrison, a two-time Olympic gold medalists in judo, got Elkin on the ground early and dominated the fight, finishing it off three minutes, 18 seconds into round one.

“Kayla Harrison golden in her debut,” the NBC Sports announcer said.

“She won every moment of that bout,” another announcer said.

MORE HARRISON: Kayla Harrison shares inspiring message with Middletown crowd | Middletown cheers Harrison to another Olympic gold

The Professional Fighters League is a new MMA promotion that held its first event earlier this month. The Harrison-Elkin fight was one of five on the main card.

Harrison is following in the footsteps of former training partner Ronda Rousey, who was also a well-known judoka before she became an MMA superstar in the UFC. 

“Ronda is always going to be, I think, that little ‘rabbit’ in front of me,” Harrison said via MMAJunkie.com. “When I was 16 and I moved to (coach Jimmy) Pedro’s, she was the superstar. She was the golden girl. She was the one everyone was watching. Every day, I said to myself, ‘I’m going to be her some day. I’m going to be better than her. Anything she can do, I can do better.’ It helped take me to the highest levels of my sport. 

“So I don’t see this being any different. It’s positive motivation for me. It’s healthy. I think it’s always healthy to have something to chase, something to look forward to.”

Earlier this month, Harrison told reporters she battled depression after wrapping up her second successful Olympic run two years ago but has fallen in love with the competition provided by MMA. 

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Looking back: Negele Knight last Dayton Flyer to be drafted in 1990

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 9:39 AM
Updated: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 9:39 AM

Dayton Flyers in NBA: Top 10 career scorers

Twenty eight years ago this month, the Phoenix Suns drafted Dayton Flyers guard Negele Knight with the fourth pick in the second round. He was the 31st overall pick.

» RELATED: Departing assistant coach says Flyers are on a mission

Knight was the 38th player in Dayton history be drafted and the 11th to go in the first or second rounds. Although four undrafted Flyers (Chris Wright, Chris Johnson, Brian Roberts and Charles Cooke) have played in the NBA since Knight’s career ended in 1999, he remains the last Flyer to be drafted.

The drought could end Thursday. Kostas Antetokounmpo, who played one season with Dayton and left the program in March, is projected as a possible second-round pick.

Here’s a look back at the Dayton Daily News coverage of Knight on June 28, 1990 (story by Bucky Albers):

SUNS SHINE ON DAYTON'S KNIGHT

It came as a complete surprise to Negele Knight Wednesday night when the Phoenix Suns selected him in the second round of the National Basketball Association player draft.

"I never sat down and talked to them and I never heard from them," said Knight, who led the University of Dayton Flyers to a 22-10 record last season. "It's a surprise to me, but it's a good surprise."

Watching the draft on television in Detroit at the home of his brother, Oscar, Knight had to wait almost three hours until his name was called at 10:25 p.m.

He was the fourth player selected in the second round and the 31st overall.

"I'm doing fine . . . now that I don't have to play against K.J.," Knight said moments after he got the news.

K.J. is Kevin Johnson, the starting point guard for the Suns.

"I played against him in our Christmas tournament my freshman year," said Knight, referring to Johnson's appearance in the Merrill Lynch Classic with the California Golden Bears. "People ask me who was the best guard I've ever played against, and that's him."

Guard Negele Knight of the Phoenix Suns moves the ball during a 1993 game. Layne Murdoch /Allsport (Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
 

The Suns, who selected 6-foot-8 power forward Jason Williams of St. John's with the 21st pick in the first round, took Knight in hopes that his presence will enable Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons to give Johnson more rest than he got during the past season.

"Kevin Johnson needs some rest," Fitzsimmons said. "You can ride a good horse to death if you use him too much."

Last year, Phoenix drafted 5-7 guard Greg Grant, the NCAA Division III scoring leader from Trenton (N.J.) State College, in the second round for the same reason, but he didn't get the job done.

The Suns had to press 6-4 shooting guard Jeff Hornacek into duty as a point guard.

Fitzsimmons thinks Knight could be the answer. He was particularly impressed with the numbers the 6-1 senior posted late in the season.

During the last five weeks of the season, Knight sparked UD to an 11-game winning string with a phenomenal scoring spree. He averaged 29.7 points per game. He shot .615 (72-117) from the field, .703 (19-27) from 3-point range and .820 (50-61) from the free throw line.

"He's quick and he's a tough guy," Fitzsimmons said. "You figure the last few games of the season were the toughest, and that's when he was the toughest."

 

Phoenix apparently was debating between choosing Knight and Brian Oliver of Georgia Tech. The Suns decided that Knight had better all-around playmaking skills.

Knight was the fifth true point guard selected. Chosen ahead of him were Gary Payton of Oregon State (2nd by Seattle), Rumeal Robinson of Michigan (10th by Atlanta), Dee Brown of Jacksonville (19th by Boston) and Lance Blanks of Texas (26th by Detroit).

Four other MCC players were selected in the draft. They are: Tyrone Hill of Xavier (11th by Golden State), Anthony Bonner of St. Louis (23rd by Sacramento), Derek Strong of Xavier (47th by Philadelphia) and Tony Smith of Marquette (51st by the Los Angeles Lakers).

Knight, who flew to Portland at the Trail Blazers' request two weeks ago, thought he might be selected by Portland late in the first round, but they picked 6-10 Alaa Abdelnaby of Duke.

Sacramento, which had four first round choices, also had an interest but backed off after landing shooting guard Travis Mays of Texas with the 14th pick.

Knight was mildly disappointed that he wasn't picked in the first round, but no Flyer has been drafted in the first round since 1979 when Jim Paxson was selected by Portland.

"It's Phoenix, they need a point guard and I'm ready," Knight said. "It's a good situation, and it will take some pressure off me. Now I have some kind of focus."

The Suns called Knight's agent, Fred Slaughter, in Los Angeles to inform him of their pick.

"Fred just called me," Knight said, indicating that he got no information about the dates of rookie camp or any other details. "All that will be discussed tomorrow. I'll talk with him again tomorrow night."

Knight, 23, averaged 22.8 points for the Flyers, who won the Midwestern Collegiate Conference tournament championship and played two games in the NCAA tournament.

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Bengals sign final two draft picks

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 5:11 PM


            Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard practices at AT&T Stadium on Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. David Jablonski/Staff
Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard practices at AT&T Stadium on Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. David Jablonski/Staff

The Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday signed both of their third-round picks, defensive end Sam Hubbard and linebacker Malik Jefferson, to four-year contracts.

The signings mean all 11 picks from the 2018 draft class are under contract.

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Hubbard (6-foot-5, 270 pounds) played in 40 games with 22 starts at Ohio State. He recorded 116 tackles, including 29.5 for loss and 17 sacks. The Cincinnati native (Moeller High School) also had one interception, three passes defended, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Jefferson (6-2, 236) played three seasons at Texas, appearing in 34 games with 30 starts. He registered 233 tackles, including 25.5 for losses and 12 sacks, to go along with six passes defended, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

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As a junior last season, he led the Longhorns with 110 tackles, including 10 for losses and four sacks, and was named Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year, first-team All-Big 12, second-team All-American (AP) and a semifinalist for the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker.

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