In the second preseason contest of the young year for the Cincinnati Bengals, the Kansas City Chiefs came out hot and simply overwhelmed the team in orange and black. With a final score of 30-12 in the favor of the Chiefs, the Bengals left the game with plenty of notes and adjustments to work on for the regular season. Part of that future could involve rookie wide receiver Josh Malone who was drafted out of Tennessee in the fourth round of this spring’s NFL Draft.
The Bengals have a very crowded receiver room after also adding rookie John Ross in the first round of the draft, to complement veterans A.J. Green and Brandon LaFell. Additionally, Tyler Boyd was selected in the second round of last year's draft and Cody Core was later selected in the sixth round. That potentially slots Malone as the fifth or sixth receiver on the team's depth chart. And, we can’t forget about Alex Erickson, an undrafted player last year who is the team’s kick returner and has thrived in the preseason on offense. Despite that, Malone checked into the game early on Saturday night against the Chiefs and saw action with Andy Dalton and the first team.
On his first grab of the game, Malone worked on the outside on a very deep comeback route and Dalton found him after checking through the progression.
Malone did well to stay in front of the defender and shield the ball as he brought it in, even diving forward for the extra yardage. This great 15-yard catch put the Bengals in good field position, just yards away from the red zone.
For his second catch of the evening, Malone started at the top of the formation. AJ McCarron took the snap and watched Malone cross the field, dumping it off in front of him for a nice, short pick-up.
This is a nice showing of Malone’s short field quickness as he beat the corner on the inside leverage and then continued the route across the field.
On his third catch, Malone utilized his footwork at the top of the formation to make it look like he might be trying to beat the corner up the field to the outside before cutting inside on what looked like a mix between a slant and an inside route.
But this isn’t even the craziest part of the play. Malone actually got his facemask yanked by the defender but was still able to snap his head around in time to get his hands on the ball. He bobbled the catch, but did end up hauling it in, which showed good hand-eye coordination.
On the final target of the night for Malone, he used very similar footwork to fool the defender, making him think Malone was going inside, just for him to gain the outer leverage and beat the corner to the endzone. McCarron actually overthrew the ball here and put it too far outside, which ended up driving Malone out of bounds and causing the incompletion.
Late in the third quarter, a touchdown would had made it a two-score game, with plenty of time and three timeouts to tighten this game up. But with the pass going outside, the Bengals had to set up for second-and-10, where the drive ultimately ended with another field goal.
If McCarron put the ball closer to the inside and right at the end line, Malone could have dragged his toes and cut into the Chiefs’ lead since he had a step on the corner.
Malone was one of the more productive and impressive players in a tough Bengals game to watch as the Chiefs came out and played very tight on defense. Despite a crowded receiver room, Malone has put two solid games on tape and displayed great footwork in this game against the Chiefs. As long as he continues to play at this level, he could see more snaps with Dalton and the first unit in the preseason and could even see some playing time throughout the regular season, if there’s room for him to be among the 46 active players on gamedays.