What started as a dominant game for Cincinnati in enemy territory ended in a shootout as the bitter division rivals slugged it out to the tune of four lead changes in the final seven minutes. It's rare to see a game as pivotal this early in the season, but it's hard to call it anything but that.
Overcoming adversity on the Cincinnati side was the general feeling and this week, the rookies continued their learning curve and got their first taste of divisional rivalry football, let's see how they did.
In what's becoming a trend, Mario Alford, C.J. Uzomah and Marcus Hardison, were once again held out this week. Hardison is still dealing with a knee issue and Alford and Uzomah simply can't get their time in edgewise with Cincinnati receivers firing on all cylinders. The longer players remain off the active roster, the harder it is judge their talent and what could become of them if and when they were needed during game-time situations. But the season is still early so no one is counted out yet.
Tyler Kroft - Stock Up
Tyler Kroft got on the field for 10 offensive snaps this week. It's a growing-pain type of life most rookies lead and Kroft is no exception. While last week his holding call negated a Bernard touchdown (thank you for our CincyJungle faithful for calling it out in the comments section) this week he stayed out of trouble and managed to continue his pro-football education. Kroft is the backup to Tyler Eifert and if the injury bug bites the starting TE again Kroft will be tossed right into the fire. His stock goes up merely because he was on the field more than any other rookie this week.
Jake Fisher - Stock Even
There were no big catches for the limber offensive tackle (how often do you get to type that?) against the Ravens, mostly because A.J. Green didn't want to share, but I would imagine there were no hard feelings in the locker room after the game. Despite team leader Andrew Whitworth signing a one year contract extension Fisher continues to develop and carve out time on the field. He even was able to take a couple snaps at guard against the Ravens, spelling Clint Boling. His education comes from a stellar offensive line and the extra year of protection that Whitworth's contract now offers in giving him more time to develop.
Josh Shaw - Stock Even
Shaw recorded a tackle while on special teams but failed to make it onto the field on defense. Cincinnati is blessed with depth at nearly every position and a talented secondary is keeping Shaw from seeing much time. While there were struggles against Baltimore, specially not being able to corral 36-year-old Steve Smith Sr., the Cincinnati starting cornerbacks have been the subject of very little criticism in the early season and Shaw won't look to steal time until more legitimate holes are shown.
P.J. Dawson - Stock Even
It's hard to see the Bengals' coaching staff making time on the field for Dawson when Vinny Rey is playing every snap for the defense. The once again electric Dawson was limited to special team engagements in Week 3. It's hard to complain about, but when the defense is clicking there's no use in meddling with the machine. Dawson is going to be hard pressed to find time with things going this well, but his day will come.
Derron Smith - Stock Even
Reggie Nelson continues to do work and that keeps the explosive rookie safety off the field. Amid an already exciting season, Smith's impressive play in the preseason and training camp seem like distant memories. But fortunes change quickly in a violent NFL culture and if he's given the change to play, expect analysts to dust the cover off of this little beauty.