With the injury bug prevalent in the Cincinnati Bengals’ locker room, the team activated a season-high six rookies in this week’s defeat to the Baltimore Ravens. How did each rookie fare in his time on the field? Here’s our Bengals rookie report for Week 12:
- Tyler Boyd
- Cody Core
- Alex Erickson
- Clayton Fejedelem
- KeiVarae Russell
- Nick Vigil
- Jeff Driskel
- Christian Westerman
In his first start of his NFL career, Boyd was the most active of the Bengals wide receivers. Tying Brandon Lafell with nine targets, he hauled in five receptions for 62 yards; three of which converted third downs, which led the team in that category. He actually had another catch and third down conversion that was negated by a penalty, too.
Boyd’s first catch (that counted) came on a third-and-10 late in the first quarter off a 10 yard out route:
The next came on a third-and-seven later in the third quarter off a longer out route:
The final one came on a third-and-two just before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter to extend what would be the Bengals final drive in a one score game, using an out-and-in route, which he’s successfully executed before plenty of times this season:
Boyd was listed as the starter in place of the injured A.J. Green, but he still was aligned in the slot when the offense was in their usual three-wide receiver sets, also known as 11 personnel. James Wright was on the outside opposite of Lafell in this package. Boyd’s opportunities were on the outside when the offense had only two wide receivers on the field, but Wright took a lot of those snaps.
This game is what you can expect from Boyd going forward as long as Green is sidelined. He’ll give you a handful of catches and give you about 10-12 yards on average, but the team still sees him as primarily a slot receiver, which is where he wins the most.
On the Bengals first offensive drive, Core got his first target of his career on Andy Dalton’s first pass attempt of the game. It wasn’t the best throw of Dalton’s career though:
Core was on the field for 10 other snaps on offense, primarily as the single wide receiver on running plays with three tight ends in what is known as 13 personnel. He also was in James Wright’s spot on punt teams as a gunner.
The Bengals’ passing offense was stale in more ways than one, as Dalton averaged 5.9 yards per attempt. Without Green, the team lacks a vertical threat. I’ve said before that Core can potentially be that, but first needed to be active and on the field. Well, now he figures to get a handful of targets in this offense without Green for the time being and they might as well let him try a few go routes to open things up.
Erickson returned a season-high four kickoffs for the second time this year, his first since the Week 10 loss against the New York Giants. But unlike that game, there was no 84 yard return, Erickson’s long return of the day went for 30 yards, as he was tripped up before crossing the Bengals’ 20 yard line:
His lone punt return of the game went for 11 yards:
But for the first time all year, Erickson received a red-zone target, as he hauled in a catch off an in-route inside the five yard-line:
Erickson saw the field on offense for a dozen other snaps, mainly rotating in for Boyd in the slot.
Perhaps the rookie with the most impressive performance was Fejedelem. The seventh round pick out of Illinois, who has spent all of his time on special teams this year, got on the field for nine snaps when Josh Shaw went down in the third quarter, and made the most of them. He recorded three tackles, including one for a loss, all during the drive in which he replaced Shaw.
Tackle number one saw Fejedelem flying into view from the playside deep zone to make the stop:
Tackle number two had Fejedelem playing in the box as a third linebacker in nickel, and while he may’ve broken contain on the play, he makes up for it with great recovery speed and an over-the-head tackle behind the line of scrimmage:
Tackle number three came on the next play, and Fejedelem again came in from playing deep zone to make a drive-ending shoe-string tackle. It forced a fourth down, but the Ravens went for it on fourth-and-one. On the next play, Kenneth Dixon would convert that fourth down play, but, Fejedelem did all he could to stop the drive.
It wasn’t the most ideal way to get Fejedelem on the field, as Shawn Williams, Derron Smith and Josh Shaw all had to be injured for it to happen, but Fejedelem’s play was very admirable. His biggest strength coming out of college was his tackling and physicality, so it’s good to see both of those skills translate to the next level. I don’t expect him to get the start over Shaw if Williams and Smith aren’t able to go again this Sunday, but I do think we’ll see more of him as the year winds down.
When Chykie Brown went down with a knee injury late in the second quarter, Russell was the next corner on deck in his first game active as a Bengal. He was on the field for about 10 seconds as the Bengals fourth cornerback getting ready to defend the Ravens third-and-nine play, but then Marvin Lewis used his first timeout in the second half, taking Russell off-the-field as the Bengals went into nickel for the actual play. So it looks like Russell will have to wait until next week to legitimately see the field, as it is assumed he’ll be activated with the recent news of the Bengals sending Brown to IR.
Vigil’s snap count decreased from 11 to two this week, as he was basically a special teamer for the entirety of this game. He did end up making a tackle on Ravens returner Devin Hester late in the first half:
You can count on at least five of these guys dressing for the Eagles game this Sunday with Core and Russell being the only ones in question. If Green is good to go, which is very unlikely, Core will not dress. The team will probably keep all five of their corners active on gamedays now that Brown is done for the year, but that too could change. The Bengals are technically not out of the playoffs, but they are pretty much all but eliminated at this point, barring a miracle. Sooner or later, they’ll be forced to evaluate Core, Fejedelem, Russell and Vigil on the playing field, but it won’t happen this week.