Wallace Gilberry has heard the unflattering ways his NFL career has been described.
"Retread," some have called him. "Lifelong backup," others have said. And his favorite: "journeyman."
Yes, the six-year veteran has seen more NFL locker rooms than he'd care to admit, but it looks like he has finally found a home in Cincinnati. Not only was he signed in the offseason to a three-year deal with the Bengals, but he has actually seen his production and performance trend much higher in the Queen City than during earlier stops in Kansas City, New York (with the Giants) and Tampa.
With an injury to starting right defensive end Michael Johnson, Gilberry has been called upon to step up and play more often and to play even better. Against the Patriots last Sunday, he was the perfect replacement for Johnson, who continues to miss practice time this week with a concussion. Gilberry had a hand in two sacks, including a crucial late-game stop in the 13-6 win.
In the event Johnson won't be playing again this week, the Bengals feel the position will be in adequate hands once again.
As we kick off Friday's Morning Stripes, we take a more extended look at Gilberry, the "nuts and bolts" player who has been one of the hidden gems to Cincinnati's 3-2 start:
The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Dehner Jr. starts Gilberry Day in the Bengals universe with this look at the player who has been discounted much of his career. Too small to play defensive tackle in the 3-4 and too slow to be a defensive end in the 4-3 scheme to most NFL coaches, he didn't really jump off the game tape. A couple weeks into last season, though, he caught Marvin Lewis' eye. Since then, Gilberry has become one of the more dependable pieces on a defensive line that features the journeyman and a slew of defensive stars.
Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson also wrote about Gilberry, taking an even longer look at what his presence has meant to the Bengals. In addition to Gilberry's positive locker room spirit, he has also been a solid on-field addition. What those who didn't believe in him didn't know was that he could make plays, despite being smaller or slower than what they wanted, Gilberry said.
Moving over to special teams and back to the Enquirer, Dehner has this look at how the Bengals have made it through injury and have still posted some rather strong special-teams numbers this season. The coverage teams haven't really given up any big returns, they've been successful kicking field goals and kickoffs and punter Kevin Huber continues to play like one of the league's best. They could take back a few more kicks for bigger gains, but overall, they have to be pleased with what they've gotten from their special teams units on the whole. Still, the chance of it all blowing up in their faces looms large. That one poor special-teams play could come at any time, Dehner writes.
While Buffalo may have a former practice squad player getting behind center Sunday afternoon, the Bills have reasons to believe the transition from the injured EJ Manuel to Thad Lewis will be a seamless one. Cincinnati native Eric Wood may be one of the biggest reasons why. A stalwart on the offensive line, the center who was selected 28th overall in 2009 has grown into one of Buffalo's leaders in the last five seasons. He was already helping to bring the rookie Manuel along well, and is anchoring a unit that has led the way for the AFC's best rushing offense. Now, he'll be called upon to keep the line intact in front of Lewis, FoxSportsOhio.com's Kevin Goheen writes.