When you come into the house of Bill Belichick, you need everyone on your roster to step up, even young guys. It’s fair to say the usual quartet of Bengals active rookies played fairly well in Week 6, but there wasn’t much to be done when the 25-3 run by New England struck. Here’s our Bengals rookie report for Week 6:
- Tyler Boyd
- Alex Erickson
- Clayton Fejedelem
- Nick Vigil
- Cody Core
- Jeff Driskel
- KeiVarae Russell
- Christian Westerman
For all the things that went wrong for the Bengals, the passing game wasn’t one of them, and Boyd was a big part of the team’s aerial success.
Since hauling in 78 yards in Week 2 against the Steelers, the Bengals’ slot receiver has been relatively quiet in terms of involvement in the offense, posting gains of 18, 10 and 33 yards. Boyd was not quiet against New England and recorded 79 yards off four catches, setting a new season high in yards and yards per catch (19.8), all on five targets, which tied with Brandon LaFell and Giovani Bernard for second on the day behind A.J. Green’s 10 targets.
All four of his catches came on different routes as well: a quick screen, a hitch, a deep crosser, and a seam route, the last of which was his longest catch of the game for 30 yards in the fourth Quarter:
Here’s a closer look at Boyd’s impressive ball skills and body control:
It was an encouraging performance for two reasons:
- The team utilized Boyd on a multitude of different routes and trusted him to get open. He’s a very good route-runner and expanding his route tree can open up the offense.
- Dalton seems to have grown some trust with the rookie. While the jump ball late in the second quarter was almost picked off, Dalton is at the very least targeting him downfield a little more frequently. Boyd is not a speedster by any means, but he can position himself against defenders well, so utilizing that asset more in the future can only bode well for a vertical dimension.
Speaking optimistically, with this type of performance from Boyd and the hopeful return of Tyler Eifert, the passing game can go as far as Dalton can carry it.
It’s the middle of October and Erickson has yet to give the Bengals good field position once off a punt or kickoff return. On kickoffs in New England, Erickson returned two for an average of 21 yards, his longest of 26 yards came with under a minute to go in the game when the Patriots were leading by 18:
He returned the same number of punts for a total of 12 yards, with 11 of those yards coming from this return:
At this point, it’s fair say this is who Erickson is. The blocking has been far from perfect and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if long-time special teams coach Darrin Simmons is more upset at that than Erickson’s performance. But eventually, Erickson has to be able to break off a big one. And until he does, the offense will have more long fields to trek.
Something that should be noted is that Erickson took all of the returns, keeping Adam Jones on the sideline for every opportunity. Jones himself hasn’t been his usual self returning this year, but it’s not like Erickson has given the coaches reason to sit Jones.
Erickson received four snaps on offense but did not see any targets.
Clayton Fejedelem and Nick Vigil
Fejedelem recorded his first special teams tackles since Week 3 against Denver, one on a punt return and one on a kickoff return, but did not see the field on defense. Derron Smith predictably filled in for George Iloka when he went down with an injury in the second quarter, and Fejedelem was a heartbeat away from the field, but never did get a defensive snap. The rookie safety has yet to see the field on defense so far this season.
Vigil did see the field for four snaps, but did nothing of note. Seeing how Karlos Dansby gave up two touchdowns to James White, some athleticism and perhaps youth was obviously needed to counter the Patriots’ attack, and Vigil could’ve helped. But he is still a rookie, and it wasn’t like the coaches were going to throw him out there, though it couldn’t have hurt considering the final score.
Will we see Boyd continue to get more downfield action? Will Erickson finally look like an upgrade from Brandon Tate? Will Fejedelem and Vigil make a game-changing play on special teams? The Bengals face off with the winless Cleveland Browns before they head off to London, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of these happening.
Also, with Russell Bodine in a walking boot due to an ankle injury and T.J. Johnson assuming the starting position at center, something to watch for is if guard Christian Westerman gets activated for the first time as an emergency center this week, if Bodine is unable to play.
The Bengals are struggling and need a spark. Who better than the newest members of the team to deliver it?