With nine rookies activated for the Bengals’ second straight victory, almost every one of them had a story from the Battle of Ohio volume 2 of 2017. Let’s see how they fared in their 184 total snaps from scrimmage in this week’s Bengals rookie report:
- Joe Mixon 46 snaps on offense
- Jordan Willis 19 snaps on defense; three snaps on special teams
- Carl Lawson 33 snaps on defense; 10 snaps on special teams
- Josh Malone 27 snaps on offense; seven snaps on special teams
- Ryan Glasgow 19 snaps on defense; 15 snaps on special teams
- Jordan Evans 33 snaps on defense; 17 snaps on special teams
- Hardy Nickerson 2 snaps on defense; 20 snaps on special teams
- Cethan Carter 16 snaps on special teams
- Brandon Wilson 13 snaps on special teams
- John Ross
- Brian Hill
It took nearly three months, but it finally happened.
In September, Dalvin Cook of the Vikings was on pace for nearly 2,000 yards of total offense before going down with a torn ACL. In October, Leonard Fournette of the Jaguars exploded with back to back 100-yard games before an ankle sprain derailed his dominance. It took Christian McCaffery of the Panthers nine weeks to finish a game averaging more than four yards per carry and he has had an efficient November. All three running backs selected before Joe Mixon in this year’s draft have had different levels of success and inconsistency, it’s not irrational to say McCaffery has been much worse than Mixon entering this month. But the first 10 games of Mixon’s career looked like a thing of the past on Sunday during the Bengals’ 11th game of the season.
Mixon torced the Browns with 114 rushing yards a touchdown on 23 rushes to go along with 51 receiving yards on three receptions. Entering this game, Cleveland’s defense was first in the league in yards/carry and getting tackles in the backfield, and ranked first in run defense per footballoutsiders.com. On paper, this was the toughest matchup Mixon would face all year, but without starting defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, the normally suffocating unit suffered at the hands of the 21-year-old rookie. Mixon averaged 6.34 yards per touch and recorded three of his six longest runs of the season:
Everything was working for Mixon, he ran for 45 yards on 11 attempts out of the shotgun, and 69 (nice) yards on 12 attempts out of the I-formation. He was only tackled behind the line of scrimmage a mere three times.
Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson
The Bengals front four continue to get after opposing quarterbacks, and both Willis and Lawson had good days against Cleveland’s back-up left tackle Spencer Drango. Willis notched his second sack of the season midway through the third-quarter, only to get it erased from an accepted holding penalty by the Browns:
That sack would’ve put Willis two sacks away from reaching “Prodigy” status. Prodigy pass-rushers, as originated by Justis Mousqueda, are pass-rushers who record at least a four, five and a half, or seven-sack season before they turn 24 years old, depending on how well they test athletically. Willis tested well enough where he would only need a four-sack season to reach prodigy status, and since he won’t turn 24 until 2019, he has this season and next season to accomplish this. Prodigy pass-rushers, at their career peaks, end up being the most productive pass rushers in their respective draft classes. You can find out more about the concept here.
Staying on the topic, Lawson’s 1.5 sack day put him up to seven sacks on the year, making him a prodigy for his athleticism in just 11 games. Not only that, but Lawson continued to extend his lead on the rest of this rookie class in sacks over the leading sack artist of the Browns; first overall pick Myles Garrett.
The Bengals offense ran a balanced attack with 28 passes and 26 designed runs, Malone (officially) only saw one of those 28 passes come his way, and it was arguably quarterback Andy Dalton’s worst of the game:
His second unofficial target came with even more controversy. Late in the fourth quarter, Malone was targeted on a go route and seemed to haul it in with just one hand, when Browns safety Jabrill Peppers came from the middle of the field and obliterated Malone out-of-bounds, jarring the ball lose:
Peppers was penalized with a personal foul and Malone left the game. After seeing this same exact hit executed by former Bengals safety Reggie Nelson so many times before and penalized almost always I have to say, I sympathize with Browns fans. But only a little, because cornerback Jamar Taylor should’ve been called for defensive holding, as he took away Malone’s inside arm entirely. 27 snaps on offense is the third highest snap count of the six games in which Malone has appeared this season.
On one of his 19 snaps at defensive tackle, Glasgow recorded his third tackle for loss on the year. It came halfway through the third quarter:
With Pat Sims back in the mix, Glasgow and Andrew Billings both saw their snap percentage decrease slight from the past two weeks, which you can expect going forward as long as this team is deploying a four-man rotation there. The positive to take away is that Glasgow and Billings both were on the field more than Sims. Let’s see if that continues as the season winds down.
With Vincent Rey sidelined with a bad hamstring and starting linebacker Nick Vigil exiting the game early with an ankle injury, Evans was forced into the game. He was second on the defense in solo tackles with five, as he was forced to make some tackles in the open field in coverage. It was the first time all season Evans played more than half the snaps on defense, and was on the field in nickel packages as well.
Hardy Nickerson, Cethan Carter, Brandon Wilson
One of the big headlines of this game was Adam Jones’ punt return touchdown followed by a celebration in the end zone representing the birth of Jones’s child the night before. The score and therefore celebration was nullified by a “block above the waist” from Carter on the return that was penalized:
I’m not sure there was anything there to constitute a late flag, but special teams coach Darrin Simmons couldn’t have liked it either way.
“Yeah, I don’t think it was a block in the back at all, unfortunately,” Marvin Lewis said of the penalty on Carter. “Yeah. And it was a big day for Adam, and he made a big play. Cethan was so productive throughout the day on special teams, and it’s a shame that that clouded it yesterday.”
Finally coming off a great game, Mixon has a chance to string together two solid outings in a row. The next one will be under the lights against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. Evans may be counted on to play for Vigil or Rey depending on how they progress as well. As for John Ross, who knows when we’ll see him next.