In a down to the wire Cincinnati Bengals defeat to the Tennessee Titans, injuries and a surprise roster move led to 11 rookies recording a total of 198 offensive and defensive snaps, both season-highs for the team. How did all of the Bengals rookies play in Nashville? Let’s go through each of them in this week’s rookie report:
It took 10 weeks, but we finally saw a ball thrown to a running John Ross. The result was less than desirable:
At first glance live, no one watching was entirely sure why Ross ended up five yards behind where the pass landed. The Bengals sideline had the best view of what really happened, as seen by the all-22 view. 15 yards downfield from the start of his route, Ross looks back to quarterback Andy Dalton and effectively slows down about two seconds after the ball is already out of Dalton’s hands. Ross can’t accelerate back to full speed to catch up to the pass.
One play is one play and not too much can be taken from it. However, this is something that can happen to someone who is, according to his coaches, behind in the system. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t entirely trust Marvin Lewis’ comments about Ross a few weeks back. But this type of miscommunication isn’t excusable.
With all that said, giving Ross only five other snaps the rest of the game is still not warranted. Limiting his on-field experience can’t be helping him getting back to where he was. Of the three games in which he’s been active, six snaps remains his season high, which was how many he took on Sunday.
Last week Jeremy Hill was a surprise inactive due to a sudden ankle injury, which led to Joe Mixon’s first start of the season. This week, Hill was placed on injured reserve, which begins Mixon’s tenure of being the uncontested starting running back in this offense.
Mixon was already the lead back over Hill and Giovani Bernard, but for whatever reason wasn’t the first back on the field. This week he made his second start and after his first four carries that went for a net total of four yards, his five carries over the course of the rest of the game went for 32 yards, including his third touchdown of the year:
Mixon finished the game with 36 yards and a score on just nine carries to go along with one reception for three yards. Even with Brian Hill just signed onto the roster to fill Jeremy Hill’s vacant roster spot, don’t expect Mixon’s usage to teeter backwards.
Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson
Something interesting from these two is that when they were on the field together, they switched sides from where they usually rush from. Willis saw a decent number of his snaps from right defensive end while Lawson saw action at left defensive end for a couple of drives this game. They still saw most of their playing time at their usual spots.
Lawson ended up taking over twice as many snaps on defense than Willis saw, and got his fifth and a half sack of the year on quarterback Marcus Mariota:
With this hustle sack, Lawson increased his lead on both Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt of the Browns and Steelers respectively for sacks among all rookies, and is on pace to break Carlos Dunlap’s Bengals rookie record of 9.5.
After seeing seven passes thrown his way the last two weeks, Malone was targeted just once in his 30 snaps, which he hauled in for a six yard gain in the first quarter. He’s continued his role as the third receiver in three receiver sets with Tyler Boyd still sidelined with an MCL injury. With Boyd’s health still a question mark going forward, expect nothing to change with Malone’s usage.
With Pat Sims going out early last week, Glasgow was forced into a slightly larger role due to the lack of depth at the position. With Sims a known inactive, Glasgow’s usage was normalized again. Though, he did nothing of note against Tennessee’s interior offensive line.
Perhaps the biggest story of Sunday’s game was linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s ejection late in the second quarter (which he will not be suspended for). This led to Evans getting on the field in with the base defense (three linebackers). He recorded his first tackle on defense right on the line of scrimmage in his second snap of the game:
As always, Evans was among the team leaders in snaps on special teams.
On the topic of special teams, Wilson was activated for the first time all season to play in his first career game. With starting safety Shawn Williams inactive for the second straight week with a bad hamstring, Wilson was brought up from the practice squad as a reserve. He ended up making the most impressive play on special teams:
Not a bad way to make a first impression.
Josh Tupou - Made his career debut off the practice squad, like Wilson. Activated due to Sims’ injury, Tupou played 19 snaps in relief of starting nose tackle Andrew Billings when the defense was in base.
Hardy Nickerson - Nickerson ended up with two snaps on defense. You know that guy that DeMarco Murray ran through on his first touchdown after shaking off Billings? That was Nickerson:
Nickerson was released Tuesday to make room for the signing of rookie running back Brian Hill.
Cethan Carter - First time since Week 2, Carter didn’t see any time on offense. He should be considered the fourth TE/H-B behind Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah and Ryan Hewitt.
Last week I openly expressed interest in seeing Ross and Evans on the field more. One out of two ain’t bad, even though the one was only the case because of an unpredictable event occurring. The further up the Bengals climb in the draft order, the more weeks we need to see of this amount of playing time for the first-year guys. Next week in a winnable game against the Denver Broncos, they could be the difference.