In the season’s second edition of the Battle of Ohio, an injured inactive list gave every rookie but one on the Bengals a chance to play against the Browns in a double digit victory in the snow. Here’s our Bengals rookie report for Week 14, featuring a season high seven rookies:
- Tyler Boyd
- Cody Core
- Jeff Driskel
- Alex Erickson
- Clayton Fejedelem
- KeiVarae Russell
- Nick Vigil
- Christian Westerman
The Bengals’ busiest rookie had a pretty fast start this week. Before the eight minute mark in the first quarter, Boyd had amassed 69 total yards on four touches and contributed to both touchdown drives in that quarter. 30 of those yards came on three catches, with two of the catches converting third downs, and a reverse sweep added 39 yards, his longest play from scrimmage of the year:
We’ve seen the offense utilize Brandon LaFell on a few jet sweeps this year, but none were as successful as this long developing reverse. I don’t even know why they waited this long to use Boyd instead of LaFell on this type of play. While neither is particularly fast, Boyd has the fresher legs, being 23-years-old and all and fresh out of college where he was used on plenty of plays on the ground.
Boyd finished the day leading the team with six receptions for 49 yards on six targets and had another carry for a yard, giving him 40 total on the two carries. He continues his impressive rookie campaign and will face his hometown team next Sunday.
Cody Core and Alex Erickson
The other two rookie receivers each had a reception and two targets in the first half, as opportunities in the passing game dwindled as the offense resorted to running out the clock for the latter majority of the game. Core’s catch went for eight yards, Erickson’s went for 16. Erickson also got his first endzone target of the year, but Andy Dalton’s throw went too far out of bounds for Erickson to get his feet in.
Erickson had an uneventful day returning kickoffs, but he did run back a second quarter punt for 24 yards:
The team expects A.J. Green to return to practice on Wednesday and hopefully play on Sunday against the Steelers, so all three rookies in the receiving core will obviously take a step back in involvement to make room for Green if that indeed occurs. But in the time Green was sidelined, they fared well in increased roles.
In the most unusual of game day news, the Bengals decided to activate Driskel, who has been the team’s third string quarterback and has been inactive every week up until Sunday. He was active against the Browns as an emergency special teamer and receiver. With all the injuries the team has suffered, the inactive list was essentially full to the brim with unhealthy players, opening up a spot for Driskel. Unfortunately, Driskel did not get to see the field in any capacity. Drafted in the sixth round by the San Francisco 49ers this year, Driskel did in fact play a little special teams in the preseason before getting cut and claimed off waivers by the Bengals. Odds are, if one of the players who sat out with an injury in this game is good to go for the Steelers game, Driskel will return to being inactive. But it was weird while it lasted.
Clayton Fejedelem, KeiVarae Russell and Nick Vigil
As usual, all three of these guys got extensive special teams time, and took part in limiting any return game the Browns had to offer. Fejedelem and Vigil each recorded a solo tackle.
It’s now Steelers week, and you have to expect Tyler Boyd to have another chip on his shoulder. The season has had a multitude of things going sideways for the team, but it all really started with Boyd’s “fumble” against the Steelers back in Week 2, which eventually lost the Bengals the game. That game remains one of Boyd’s best performances regardless, but it probably leaves a sour taste in his mouth as well. Look for his effectiveness on third down to continue yet again this week.