AtlantaFalcons.com contributing writer Daniel Cox takes a listen to Wednesday's conference call with the Atlanta media from Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis — no Cincinnati player was made available for Wednesday's conference call — to break down what the opposing team is saying and thinking as it heads into a Week 7 meeting with the Falcons.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. —There's a problem on the Bengals' defense and that is getting to the quarterback.
Their six team sacks ties them for one spot from the cellar in the NFL, but despite their lack of pressure, Cincinnati's defense is in the middle of the pack in most defensive statistics.
One player that can help the pass rush is returning after being out since Week 1.
Defensive lineman John Fanene had six sacks last season and a hamstring injury has sidelined him since the season opener against the New England Patriots.
Fanene is listed as an end, but the majority of his sacks in 2009 came from tackle. The 6-foot-4, 292-pound lineman said Wednesday that he believes he's ready to go and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis thinks his flexibility is nothing but a plus.
"If John is able to come back and play for us he will help us," Lewis said. "He plays very hard and he can give us some flexibility at the position in some spots he plays. We've got to do a much better job up front and get better production from our four-man rushes so we can get an opportunity to get the quarterback down on the ground."
Cincinnati will have the full compliment of their pass rushers and lineman for Atlanta on Sunday.
Lewis said Georgia Tech product Michael Johnson was trained at linebacker during training camp and provides versatility because he can play linebacker and his natural end position, a spot he's returned to in recent weeks.
"We feel Michael is a good young player and a good prospect," Lewis said. "He continues to get better."
The insertion of Johnson at end gives the Bengals defense more speed and play making ability. Both outside linebackers for Cincinnati each have a sack and safety Chris Crocker leads the team with two.
Homecoming:Bengals cornerback Adam Jones is returning to his native Georgia on Sunday and after a tumultuous beginning to his career has settled in with Cincinnati.
In four games played, he has one interception and a fumble recovery in addition to his eight tackles.
Jones told Bengals.com that all his family will be on hand Sunday to witness his first-ever appearance inside the Georgia Dome. Lewis has appreciated the effort his cornerback has given him this season on and off the field.
"He's done well for us," Lewis said. "He just keep getting better each week and staying disciplined the whole time with great technique and doing the things we're asking him to do within the structure of the defense each and every snap. (We tell him to) take care of yourself and good things will happen for you."
Coming off the bye, starting cornerback Jonathan Joseph, who suffered a forearm injury earlier this season, expects to be playing. Lewis said he should be ready to go and with Joseph and cornerback Leon Hall starting on the outside, Jones will man the slot, often against Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas.
The key issue — as it is every week for Atlanta's opponents — is stopping wide receiver Roddy White. Lewis said even though teams may try to stop White, he's difficult to contain and his tremendous talent is a significant reason why the receiver is third in the league in receiving yards.
"Roddy is a big guy who really does a good job running routes and is very timely in their passing game," Lewis said. "To me he does a good job catching the intermediate routes and the vertical plays. He does a really good job, plays the game physical and helps in the running game. He's an all-around, very good receiver."
Highest praise:When a Super Bowl champion offers praise, you listen.
Lewis, who was the defensive coordinator of the 2000 record-setting and dominating defense on the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, had kind words for Atlanta's defense.
Atlanta's pass rush has drawn praise from around the league. The Bengals are among the league leaders in fewest sacks allowed with seven, but Lewis knows a Mike Smith-led defense will want to get after the quarterback.
"I think they're an athletic group and do a great job with their up front guys and with their four man rushes," Lewis said. "They're very well defined with their pressures. They've been opportunistic on defense and created some turnovers. They've played well there."
However, the Bengals can't ignore what the Falcons allowed the Eagles to do last week.
"Prior to last week, and I think the thing they tried to improve on from a year ago, was cutting out the explosive plays," Lewis said. "I think that was one of the biggest improvements they've made from their last season, particularly early last season."
The explosive play was one of the Falcons' Achilles' heels last season. The Falcons made changes to improve this area and made progress this season until they gave up seven plays against the Eagles of 20 yards or more.
With explosive receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco on the outside for the Bengals, the Cincinnati offense will look to make it two straight weeks of headache home run plays for the Falcons.