The theme for this week’s players to watch is young players.
This is the last chance for a lot of guys to impress on the field before an offseason’s worth of speculation. A bad game to top off a bad season for a young guy could mean he is fighting for his job come training camp.
The reverse to that would be a young guy who has impressed us could be in line to be considered an important part of this team next year.
Cornerback William Jackson
William Jackson has had interesting first year on the field. He didn’t get a chance to play his rookie season due to injury, and it took him a little while to really get on to the field. In Week 3 he caught every Bengals’ fan attention by returning a pick for a touchdown against the Packers. He didn’t even play much that game, or even games to follow. He really only started to play when one of the starting corners were out with injuries.
When he was out there though he played lights out. He shutdown Antonio Brown twice this season, and he slowly earned his starting position next to Dre Kirkpatrick. It seems like Adam Jones either won’t be with the team after this offseason, or he will have to accept a lower spot on the depth chart behind Jackson.
Wide Receiver Tyler Boyd
I’m not going to sugar coat it. Boyd has been terrible this season. He missed a stretch of games due to injury, but he was also a healthy scratch twice this season. In the games he has played he has hardly shown an impact.
He has 17 catches this season for 134 yards with only one touchdown. When you consider the amount of snaps he has played and the fact Tyler Eifert has also been out, it is just down right ugly that he hasn’t been able to put up more numbers when he has played.
Still he had his best game of the season last week. He caught five passes for 39 yards, and it was the first time he had more than two catches in a game this season. If he can build off that production, he could end the season on a high note.
Linebacker Jordan Evans
Evans practiced fully on Thursday after suffering a concussion on Sunday, which means he has a good chance of playing against the Ravens. He has been a mixed bag this season when starting. At times he looks the part of a starting linebacker, but other times he looks like a sixth round pick.
Evans will probably be forced to battle for his job again next offseason no matter what kind of game he has against the Ravens, but it could make him look better to whoever is coaching this team next year.
Offensive linemen Alex Redmond
Redmond showed us he could be a useful piece of this offensive line in the future by the way he played last week. The Bengals have been shuffling the offensive line almost all season, but Redmond stepped in and it didn’t hurt the Bengals’ production at all.
There could be some moving parts this offseason along the offensive line. Many project it as a need for this team, and they are absolutely right, but with another strong outing Redmond will have earned his shot to prove he can be a starter for this team.
Wide Reciever A.J. Green
I know Green isn’t a young guy, but as another season comes to an end it feels like a good time to remind everyone to just sit back and enjoy having him on this team. How many teams can say they have one of the best receivers in the league on their team? Not a lot.
I’ve seen some criticism of Green lately about drops and effort, and while he has had lapses in concentration rarely, it is far from being an issue. If you think the Bengals could do better than Green you’re just plan wrong.
Lets remember for a second that Green is the obvious top option for this team. He doesn’t get help from any of his supporting receivers. Rarely does another receiver or tight end have even a decent game. That means that defenses are focusing their attention on Green all game long. Despite this Green has still put up over 1,000 yards this season, which is no easy task to do under his circumstances.