Tyler Kroft, replacing a concussed Tyler Eifert in the Bengals' lineup on Sunday achieved his first NFL touchdown on a 20-yard pass from AJ McCarron. He also caught a nearly-intercepted pass and was a big part of the Bengals thumping of an old NFL rival in the San Francisco 49ers. Let's break down the rest of the rookie play.
It was a good day's work for the young tight end filling in for the injured Eifert. Kroft has been the most successful rookie this season and he continues to develop and progress every week. Mainly used this season as a blocking tight end to supplement the superstar Eifert, we've seen Kroft grow over the course of the season into someone who potentially can be counted on down the stretch. He's not as naturally gifted as Eifert, but he has proved to be more than useful. Kroft ended the day with three total catches tallying 31 yards. His longest catch, a 20 yarder, was his biggest and yielded six points with 58 seconds remaining in the first half.
Depending on the severity of Eifert's concussion, we may be seeing more of Kroft down the stretch. It's likely that the Bengals most successful rookie could play a bigger role as the season winds down and the Bengals make their way into the playoffs.
Despite playing a significant role in the Bengals regular secondary the last few weeks, Adam Jones was back this week and the secondary is getting healthy. As such, Shaw was relegated to special teams duties on Sunday. Shaw failed to record a tackle, but was in on 77 percent of the special teams plays. Much like Troy Hill, Shaw will see his time dwindle as long as the starters are healthy and ready to go.
The undrafted rookie saw a significant dip in time with everyone in the secondary other than George Iloka coming back relatively healthy. Hill's time was spent exclusively on special teams getting in on 22 plays during which he had 3 tackles. Hill, like Shaw, will almost certainly only be used for emergencies on defense moving forward. Let's hope for a healthy remainder of the season and postseason for those operating in front of the rookie.
Smith saw all of one play on Sunday against the 49ers on defense and only 14 plays on special teams. Similar to Hill and Shaw, Smith will stay in a mop-up role as long as the starters are ready to go.
Dawson saw action and was able to make an impact by collecting two tackles and recording a pass defensed, despite minimal time on the field. Playing on only 18% of the defensive snaps, his time was brief but he was able to make his presence known.
49ers wide receiver, Quinton Patton was interrupted by a streaking Dawson to drop what would have been a big gain on first and 20 from 49ers' 30 yard line.
Dawson's time on the clean-up crew was some of the most significant time he's seen all year. It's hard to see Dawson turning into anything but a warm body for the rest of the season. For now, he seems to strictly be in learning mode.
For the second straight week Ogbuehi was playing without his rookie counterpart in Jake Fisher and for the second straight week Ogbuehi's time did not increase. He played seven snaps on offense and it's clear this season is for him to learn and infrequently get in the mix while the offensive line does it's thing. Ogbuehi is the future of the Bengals' offensive line so learning behind impressive veterans on the Bengals' roster is a great opportunity for him.
Uzomah has spent considerable time this year on the inactive list, but with the injury to Eifert, he was able to get a bump in playing time. He split his time playing on offense as well as special teams against the 49ers. He logged 11 snaps with the offense and 15 on special teams. Despite being the only active tight end on the Bengals' roster who didn't log a catch on the day, Uzomah did see a spike in time and it's a move in the right direction for the Auburn product who dazzled in OTAs for the Bengals.
Mario Alford, Jake Fisher and Marcus Hardison remained inactive against the 49ers. Fisher was still battling concussion symptoms on Sunday (though as of Tuesday he has cleared the protocol); Alford and Hardison remain healthy scratches.