Like any good parent, Bruce Coslet knows that a summer camp is
only as good as its director. So when the Bengals' offensive
coordinator suggested a three-day camp for the team's offensive
skill players at Orlando's Disney Institute in early April, he
knew just whom to put in charge of the arrangements--Lewanna
Blake, the wife of quarterback Jeff Blake (page 42). Lewanna
organized the group's flight plans, hotel accommodations and
recreational activities. Those players who tried to beg off of
the pay-your-own-way, voluntary camp had to deal with the wrath
of Mrs. Blake. Lewanna rang up the would-be no-shows until they
promised to jog to Orlando, if necessary. When coach Dave Shula
saw the near-perfect turnout, he gave Lewanna a big hug. He then
asked her, quite seriously, "What's your secret?"
Camp Lewanna was such a success that owner Mike Brown is even
considering having the team spring for the session next year.
Each player received personal attention from Shula, Coslet and
quarterbacks coach Ken Anderson. They watched film, worked on
conditioning drills and learned new offensive schemes. More deep
routes were added for wideout Carl Pickens, the AFC's reception
leader last season, and new single-back plays were designed for
tailback Ki-Jana Carter, the No. 1 pick overall in '95, who
missed his entire rookie season with a torn anterior cruciate
ligament in his left knee.
On the camp's final day, Coslet told the 12 attendees, "Standing
here right now are the players who can turn this team around. If
it gets done, you guys are the ones who will do it." Standing
front and center was Blake, whose 26th NFL start happened to be
in February's Pro Bowl. This season Blake, who tossed a
conference-best 28 TD passes in '95, should have more time to
throw the ball, not to mention a rushing attack that will keep
opposing cornerbacks honest.
Hoping to boost an offense that hasn't produced a 100-yard
rusher in 49 games, the Bengals picked an offensive
lineman--6'5", 325-pound Auburn product Willie Anderson--in the
opening round of the draft for the first time since 1983. With
Anderson and 1995 third-round choice Melvin Tuten manning the
tackle spots and 12-year vet Bruce Kozerski plugged in at right
guard, Cincinnati's line may finally lose its M&M tag. That
moniker was given to the front five by line coach Paul Alexander
after he repeatedly found his squad referred to as the "much
maligned Bengals line."
The "much maligned" mantle may now be taken up by Cincinnati's
defense. The collection of flabby, bungling millionaires who
make up the league's worst-ranked defensive unit is a liability
so large that it is capable of overshadowing the team's
In May, 330-pound defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson rolled into
minicamp and was unable to run 16 110-yard sprints in the
required 18-second intervals. Big Daddy, who was the No. 1
overall pick in 1994, has now been a total of some 60 pounds
overweight at his three NFL minicamp appearances. When Shula
criticized Wilkinson's conditioning regimen, the tackle walked
out of camp in a huff. Big Fatty was slapped with a $1,000 fine;
he then was a no-show at a voluntary camp in June. "It's obvious
he's a player with great potential," says Brown, "but we're not
interested in potential anymore. We're interested in production."
Ditto for the rest of the defense, which could use its own stay
at Camp Lewanna. The Bengals held just three teams to less than
100 yards rushing in '95 and gave up 265 yards per game in the
air. Still, Shula welcomed back every single one of his
defensive coaches, including coordinator Larry Peccatiello. By
comparison, Detroit defensive coordinator Herb Paterra was fired
after his squad gave up 750 fewer yards than the Bengals did
So now the fate of the Shula family coaching legacy lies in the
hands of defensive end John Copeland (nine sacks in '95),
linebacker Steve Tovar (a team-high 99 tackles) and defensive
backs Ashley Ambrose, Bo Orlando and Jimmy Spencer (three free
agents signed for $10 million to shore up Cincinnati's anemic
pass coverage). With these additions, the normally tightfisted
Bengals now have 11 millionaires on their roster. If Shula can't
get Cincinnati into the playoffs for the first time in six
years, he'll surely be a goner from Camp Lewanna.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Pickens, who set three Bengals receiving records in '95, has proven to be a clutch performer. [Carl Pickens]
BY THE NUMBERS
1995 Yards Per Game (NFL rank in parentheses)
Rushing Passing Total
OFFENSE 89.9 (24) 234.6 (11) 324.5 (17)
DEFENSE 131.5 (26) 265.3 (29) 396.8 (30)
Worst Does Not Beget First
The Bengals' 1995 defense was the NFL's worst since '84. That's
a bad omen, because throughout the 30-year history of the Super
Bowl, no team that has allowed the most yards in the league in
one year has ever won a Super Bowl in any subsequent season.
Teams That Have Allowed the Most Yards per Game Since 1966
1966 Falcons* 376.6
1967 Falcons* 395.1
1968 Falcons* 380.0
1969 Bengals* 381.2
1970 Saints 353.7
1971 Eagles 330.1
1972 Patriots 375.0
1973 Cardinals 367.8
1974 Chargers 345.0
1975 Jets 389.7
1976 Seahawks 385.7
1977 Chiefs 356.6
1978 Colts 369.4
1979 Bengals 369.4
1980 Saints 388.6
1981 Colts 424.6
1982 Oilers 382.0
1983 Packers 400.2
1984 Vikings 397.0
1985 Chargers 391.6
1986 Buccaneers 395.8
1987 Falcons 393.8
1988 Steelers 362.8
1989 Falcons 376.6
1990 Lions 358.4
1991 Bengals 353.3
1992 Falcons 346.8
1993 Colts 352.4
1994 Broncos 369.2
1995 Bengals 396.8
*Combined ranking of teams in NFL and AFL
PLAYER TO WATCH
Second-year player Melvin Tuten is the Bengals' most athletic
lineman. Last fall against Jacksonville, the 6'6", 305-pound
tackle, who played basketball at Syracuse as a walk-on forward,
lined up at tight end, smacked a defender and then caught a
three-yard strike in the end zone. "Melvin isn't always a good
practice player," says line coach Paul Alexander. "But his
lightbulb seems to turn on when the game starts."
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
Head coach: Dave Shula
QB Jeff Blake 567 att. 326 comp. 57.5% 3,822 yds. 28 TDs 17 int. 82.1 rtg.
RB Ki-Jana Carter* 198 att. 1,539 yds. 23 TDs
FB Jeff Cothran 16 att. 62 yds. 0 TDs
TE Tony McGee 55 rec. 754 yds. 4 TDs
WR Carl Pickens 99 rec. 1,234 yds. 17 TDs
WR Darnay Scott 52 rec. 821 yds. 5 TDs
WR David Dunn 17 rec. 209 yds. 1 TD
LT Willie Anderson[**] (R) 6'5" 325 lbs.
LG Kevin Sargent 6'6" 284 lbs.
C Darrick Brilz 6'3" 287 lbs.
RG Bruce Kozerski 6'4" 287 lbs.
RT Melvin Tuten 6'6" 305 lbs.
PK Doug Pelfrey 34/34 XPs 29/36 FGs
LE John Copeland 9 sacks 0 fum. rec.
LT Dan Wilkinson 8 sacks 0 fum. rec.
RT Keith Rucker 2 sacks 0 fum. rec.
RE Jevon Langford[**] (R) 1 sack 0 fum. rec.
OLB James Francis 3 sacks 0 int.
MLB Steve Tovar 1 sack 1 int.
OLB Ricardo McDonald 5 sacks 0 int.
CB Ashley Ambrose[**] 3 int. 0 sacks
SS Bracey Walker 4 int. 0 sacks
FS Bo Orlando[**] 0 int. 0 sacks
CB Jimmy Spencer[**] 4 int. 0 sacks
P Lee Johnson 68 punts 42.1 avg.
PR Greg Myers[**] (R) 35 ret. 15.7 avg.
KR David Dunn 50 ret. 21.8 avg.
[**] New acquisition (R) Rookie (college statistics)
* 1994 college statistics