With the playoffs approaching and the division crown firmly upon their heads, the Bengals at the start of their Week 17 game still couldn't stand to go through the motions and needed to vanquish one final rival during the regular season. This season was far from the year of the Bengal rookie as minimal performances on a veteran laden team held most of the youngsters on the wings waiting and learning. With the final exercise of the regular season in the books, let's take a look at how the rookies did in their final game before the playoffs.
Once again, the rookie tight end got the start and the most successful rookie on the team got to suit up with the concussion-free Tyler Eifert. Despite getting the nod, Kroft was not targeted on any passes with the very able Eifert in the mix, but this goes back to moments earlier in the season in which Kroft's responsibilities revolved around protection. Kroft still played 19 offensive snaps and had 2 special teams tackles. As Ryan Hewitt was injured and inactive against the Ravens on Sunday, it's possible to see Kroft playing a big role yet again in the playoffs on Saturday against Pittsburgh.
Shaw made the scorebook by logging an assisted tackle on special teams. He never got on the field on defense and this seems to be the norm when the secondary is healthy. While Shaw has proven to be the ‘next man up' when players have gone down at cornerback throughout the second half of the season, on Sunday, it was actually Chris Lewis-Harris who played a great deal of snaps as Leon Hall was replaced in the corner spot.
Smith snaked a pair of assists on special teams and like most of the rookies on this list, Smith's time was limited to special teams against the Ravens. He has been a familiar face on special teams all season with limited action on the defense and with Pittsburgh looming, Saturday should see more of the same.
Fisher logged 38 percent of snaps on offense in his new role as a fullback. McCarron was dropped three times during the contest and a familiar defensive line didn't seem phased by a normally tough Bengals offensive front. Fisher's time this season was limited and seems to show the standard definition of ‘getting his feet wet.' Fisher had a nice play on Sunday when he played his new fullback position and helped block during Jeremy Hill's 38 yard touchdown run. He has seen minimal action all season and really has only stepped in on jumbo packages and as an eligible lineman. Interestingly enough, as he's now a fullback, he could have been thrown a pass on Sunday without reporting as eligible, but the ball wasn't thrown his way. Fisher now gets to gear up for his first NFL playoff game next Saturday against the Steelers.
Dawson was unable to log a tackle on Sunday's game in limited action. The majority of Dawson's work was on special teams as he got into the action on 19 plays there and one on defense. Coming in to start the year as one of the more intriguing draft picks, he never really found his groove with the first team and was shuttled from the inactive list to special team duty throughout the season. He'll continue to be a possible valuable option off the bench, especially since Emmanuel Lamur was placed on Injured Reserve this week.
Ogbuehi was on the field for 25 snaps of the Bengals 61 on offense. Despite the knee injury that kept him out for the first half of the year, Ogbuehi has been getting his time in since he joined the 53-man roster off of the Non-Football Injury list and Sunday was no different. The line has been a strength for Cincinnati through the last couple of years and with Ogbuehi in place for the future, it hopes to continue that tradition. It's difficult to say how much time we'll see from him come Saturday under the bright lights, but it's possible he could play in some jumbo packages as the Bengals push for their first playoff win since 1990.
Uzomah saw limited action on Sunday but was able to log an assisted tackle on special teams. He was also able to make an appearance on offense for two plays as he helped out the duo of Kroft and Eifert on the tight end front. His limited action makes him a small threat to catch footballs, but with Hewitt still banged up, he will continue to be called upon moving into the playoffs.
Mario Alford and Marcus Hardison round out the year as they started it, on the inactive list. Hardison spent the entire season on the inactive list, while Alford played just one game -- the Week 13 matchup with Cleveland. By the time either of these players hit the field, it will likely be the 2016 regular season.