The Bengals had an impressive showing against the Rams, allowing the rookies to make their way onto the field just a bit more than usual. That can be attributed to the blowout win the Bengals had, never giving the Rams a chance to bounce-back into the game. It's these types of games that the Bengals can't take for granted, where they're able to spell veterans and get young, rested bodies into regular season games. This can only help the team down the stretch and allow the rookies to gain some more experience. So, how did the crop of rookies do against the Rams?
It would have been oh so beautiful, it would have been magical. Rookie offensive lineman Jake Fisher has reported as an eligible receiver on a handful of plays this season. On the first drive of the second quarter the Bengals' offensive was marching down the field, landing all the way at the St. Louis three yard line. After a series of back to back opposing team timeouts on third down, Hue Jackson reached deep down and conjured up a pass to his rookie offensive tackle in the back of the end zone. It was incomplete... in more ways than one. It even caused Thom Brennaman to do his best impersonation of his dad by spouting, "Now, do you think Hue Jackson is getting just too cute with that play?" It seemed that perhaps he was. The game was far from in hand and despite Fisher's surprisingly big leap, he was never coming down with it, in fact it should have been picked off. But it wasn't, as the Rams' player who lept up to catch the ball landed out of bounds. Cincinnati settled for a field goal and the game continued in a positive direction. If you remember, Fisher was used earlier in the season against Seattle as a pass catcher and was a high school tight end.
You've heard it before, it's been a crux of the Bengals' success this season: health. But in the last two weeks we've seen some bumps and bruises rise to the surface and no one spot has been hit harder than the secondary. Enter, Josh Shaw. The Bengals' rookie corner was thrust into primetime last week after several injuries forced him into the game in a less than ideal time to get his feet wet. This week, the water was much warmer for him to wade. Logging time in 23 percent of defensive snaps, Shaw had two tackles and a pass defended making this his most profitable week.
With under four minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Shaw nearly collected the first interception of his career, but the ball slipped right past him.
Shaw saw most of his playing time during the waning minutes of the blowout, but with health always an issue in the NFL, Shaw's time on the field can't be underestimated, no matter where he gets it.
Tyler Kroft was no stranger yesterday as he counted playing time on 23 of the 59 offensive snaps. The blocking tight end was in and out all day as Cincinnati attempted to shore up the game with more run packages once an early lead was established. Kroft has had his share of growing pains this season, most notable with penalties as he attempts to gain his footing as a professional. But yesterday, he did exactly what he needed to do and held back an often impressive St. Louis defensive line. Kroft even managed to snag his first career catch at the start of the fourth quarter. It wasn't pretty, but, well let's just leave it at that. With Eifert and the often-forgotten Hewitt logging the majority of the time at tight end, Kroft still has managed to make it onto the field fairly often this season.
Despite a hampered secondary, Smith received no snaps on defense as Reggie Nelson remains healthy and effective. His time on the field continues to be on special teams as he accounted for nearly half of the special teams possessions. It's hard to tell what role Smith will play down the stretch, but assuming the health of the secondary remains in tact, Smith will likely be used exclusively on special teams.
Mario Alford, Marcus Hardison, C.J. Uzomah, P.J. Dawson and Cedric Ogbuehi were inactive for the Bengals on Sunday. Ogbuehi's name is new to the inactive list as he was officially placed on the 53-man roster last week with the season-ending injury to Darqueze Dennard. It will be interesting to see if and when Ogbuehi makes it onto the gameday 46-man roster.