Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have each been nominated for three Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week awards this year, and it's only the seventh week into the regular season. More importantly both rookies installed confidence within the Bengals front office to trade quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco away, receiving four draft picks (first and fifth round selections in 2012, second and sixth round selection in 2013) in return. Describing their seasons as impressive is perhaps the biggest understatement in the history of understatements.
But how are the other rookies doing this year?
Linebacker Dontay Moch (Third-Round Selection): The defensive end converted linebacker out of Nevada hasn't been active this year after suffering a broken foot during the preseason. He started performing individual drills in the lead-up to Cincinnati's week five win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and contributed in team drills last week.
Guard Clint Boling (Fourth-Round Selection): The second player drafted out of the University of Georgia is the third of four rookies that would actually start on offense this year, mostly due to Bobbie Williams' four-game suspension along with Otis Hudson's injury. Boling started the first three games the Bengals at right guard, contributing against the Buffalo Bills as a backup with veteran guard Mike McGlynn. Boling had a rough go of it, scoring a -6.9 according to Pro Football Focus, which is the worst score for an offensive lineman with Nate Livings scoring a -5.5 (Livings performance against the Jaguars crushed his overall grade).
But that's not something to be concerned about right now. Boling is a rookie and like most rookies in this league, it will take time for him to develop into a true starting guard.
Safety Robert Sands (Fifth-Round Selection): Sands made the 53-man roster but has remained a game-day inactive in all six games this year, mostly in favor of Gibril Wilson, Jeromy Miles and Taylor Mays.
Wide Receiver Ryan Whalen (Sixth-Round Selection): Whalen has been a game-day inactive in five of six games this year, making his NFL debut against the San Francisco 49ers on September 25. He logged no receptions but did take part in one offensive snap; mostly contributing on special teams that week.
Cornerback Korey Lindsey (Seventh-Round Selection): Failed to make the 53-man roster but the Bengals wanted to develop him on the practice squad. Instead he signed onto the Arizona Cardinals 53-man roster after clearing waivers on September 5. Lindsey was released from the 53-man roster to make room for punter Ben Graham, but re-signed on their practice squad after the team waived safety Mark LeGree.
Running back Jay Finley (Seventh-Round Selection): Failed to make the 53-man roster and was released on September 3. The Bengals elected not to bring him back to the practice squad.
Tight End Colin Cochart (Undrafted Free Agent): Cochart played the first two games this year, even logging a start against the Cleveland Browns (the Bengals came out in double-tight formation). No receptions this year and Donald Lee has largely replaced Cochart as the backup tight end.
Wide Receiver Andrew Hawkins (Undrafted Free Agent): It's hard not to like young baby Hawk, who leaves nothing on the field, typically on special teams and a specifically called bubble screen that enabled him to gain 25 yards earlier this year. Played three games thus far. Generally speaking when Hawkins is on the field (nine offensive snaps), there's a good chance he's getting the football (five receptions for 56 yards receiving). Many also wonder how he'd perform as the team's punt returner.
Wide Receiver Armon Binns (Undrafted Free Agent): Initially signed as an undrafted free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Bengals signed the former University of Cincinnati standout, after clearing waivers on September 3, to the team's practice squad.
Linebacker DeQuin Evans (Undrafted Free Agent): Evans was the one of the players coaches desperately hope would clear waivers, allowing the team to groom and develop him on the team's practice squad; which was exactly what happened. The former University of Kentucky Wildcat logged two quarterback sacks, a forced fumble and six tackles during the preseason.
Offensive Lineman Matthew O'Donnell (Undrafted Free Agent): The baby-faced tower Canadian monster of doom signed onto the team's practice squad after playing all four preseason games.