Aside from an exciting kickoff return by the lone undrafted rookie on the 53-man roster, it was a quiet day for the Bengals’ six active rookies in the team’s last stand for a playoff spot. Here’s our rookie report for the Bengals second annual meeting with the Steelers.
- Tyler Boyd
- Cody Core
- Alex Erickson
- Clayton Fejedelem
- KeiVarae Russell
- Nick Vigil
- Jeff Driskel
- Christian Westerman
Tyler Boyd and Cody Core
The Bengals passing game was almost entirely put on the shoulders of Brandon LaFell, as Boyd and Core had identically underwhelming performances in almost the same amount of playing time. Each had two catches for 13 yards on three targets, as Andy Dalton had trouble finding his receivers for the better part of the afternoon.
Dalton connected with Boyd the first two times he threw his way, however, Dalton’s seventh interception of the year was targeted toward Boyd:
After being a consistent producer for the past four weeks, all without A.J. Green, Boyd hit a wall against his hometown team. In his fourth career start, he was unable to get open, or Dalton simply wasn’t looking his way against a defense that routinely gives him fits. Core simply wasn’t part of the Bengals’ offensive game plan apart from the two quick screens he caught.
The Bengals needed Green to beat the Steelers on Sunday, because while Boyd and Core have shown they can produce in spades, they are still young and inexperienced and weren’t enough to bolster the offense when the running game was struggling, and only LaFell was producing.
We’ve seen Erickson break free a couple of times in the second half of the season, but we haven’t seen him get this close to his first touchdown all year:
Once he finds his lane, Erickson has proven he can give the offense great field position. But his second gear has always been average, as seen here when getting caught from behind by kicker Chris Boswell’s fingertips. Erickson finished the day with 166 return yards on five returns.
With Derron Smith still nursing a thigh injury, Fejedelem saw one snap at strong safety in relief of Shawn Williams. Williams came back onto the field the very next snap and Fejedelem never saw the field outside of special teams after that.
After being active for the last three weeks as a special teamer, Russell finally got himself on the box score this week with a solo tackle on the Steelers fourth kickoff return of the day:
Russell never saw the field on defense however, as his contributions are still solely on kickoffs and punts. Still, it’s a step in the right direction to see him playing.
The injury bug plagued the Bengals linebacker group, so Vigil saw a major increase in playing time as both Vincent Rey and Vontaze Burfict were out of the game for different stretches. Vigil made three tackles in his time on the field, stopping Antonio Brown in his tracks:
Wrapping up Le’Veon Bell in the open field:
And meeting Bell later in the game with the help of Burfict:
Like Fejedelem and Russell, Vigil should see the field more now that the final two games are just for pride and not for a playoff berth. It couldn’t hurt to see what the future has in store for this defense.
This week, the Bengals meet the Texans for the sixth year in a row, including the playoffs and will face off against not Brock Osweiler, but Tom Savage, since the Texans loving playing backups against the Bengals. A.J. Green is expected to return, though, that’s still up in the air. But Boyd and Core should see the same amount of playing time, as should Vigil and the rookies on defense.