The Cincinnati Bengals lost in an ugly fashion in their season opener against the Baltimore Ravens, and now for the first time since 2013, they’re 0-1.
You’d be hard pressed to find bright spots in a shutout loss at home against a divisional rival, but there’s always the youngins. The Bengals kept seven of their 11 draft picks from this year’s draft, and they activated five of them along with two undrafted players as well.
Let’s break down their debuts in this week’s rookie report.
How the Bengals would divvy up the snaps between its three running backs was one of the bigger questions entering this game, Mixon ended up taking 22 of them which accounted for 36% of the offensive snap count. Whether it was planned or not going into the game, Mixon ended up with the most touches from the Bengals three-headed backfield with 11. He gained a total of 23 yards on those touches, and 17 of them came on these two plays.
Outside of these 13 seconds of game time, Mixon struggled to get anything going. He finished the game with eight carries for nine yards on the ground, and 15 yards off three receptions. He was the least impressive ball carrier on paper in comparison to Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, but all of them for the majority of the game struggled to find holes against Baltimore’s opposing front.
It was good to see Mixon not be shunned of an opportunity out of the gate, yet running behind Russell Bodine and T.J. Johnson for most of the game while your passing game is plagued with a -1.00 adjusted net yards per attempt (not a typo), he can be forgiven this week.
When starting right defensive end Michael Johnson exited the game with a stinger, Willis was forced to step up and be more than just a situational pass rusher. He wasn’t very present in the Ravens backfield, but like Mixon, his best moments came back to back:
After taking on the pulling center and failing to get outside, he loses his feet all together and ends up on his knees. Fortunately, running back Terrance West bends back the outside zone to Willis’ gap and Willis manages to help bring him down along with Pat Sims. On the very next play, he keeps his eyes in the backfield and reads the pulling guard, then penetrating the backfield and recording the tackle for loss with the help of Vincent Rey.
While Willis looked solid in run defense, Carl Lawson provided a spark in the team’s pass-rushing sub package. He was the first non-starter subbed into the game on defense, and his presence was made as soon as possible.
You’re just not getting that from Johnson anymore. Lawson also worked in tandem with Geno Atkins for the Bengals only sack of the game.
Pro Football Focus had Lawson as the most productive edge rusher on Sunday, topping the likes of Calais Campbell and Justin Houston:
The most productive edge rushers from Week 1 pic.twitter.com/qQB2jYOmLs— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 11, 2017
Lawson finished just behind Willis with 23 snaps to Willis’ 26, and both should see a potential increase in playing time if Johnson can’t go against Houston on Thursday.
The first defensive tackle to sub into the game was not Andrew Billings, it was Glasgow, who gave Atkins a breather in the middle of the first drive. Glasgow’s going to be the backup 3-technique this year, a role the Bengals have not filled very well of late, but Glasgow looked pretty good for his first game. He also filled in at nose tackle when Sims and Billings were off the field. In total, he played 26 snaps, which actually doubled Billings’ total at 13.
One of the true preseason stars for the Bengals, Evans first came on the field in base sets in the second quarter, giving Rey a quick rest every now and then at weakside linebacker. Him and Minter worked in perfect cohesion to stop this West run for no gain:
Evans’ snap count reached 12, and like the other rookies, he played relatively well amongst the chaos around him.
Cethan Carter and Hardy Nickerson
The two surprises on the initial 53 man roster were both active on Sunday, but only Nickerson recorded a snap, a single one to be exact. With John Ross possibly making his debut this Thursday and Adam Jones returning off his one game suspension, one of these guys may get booted off the roster. For the time being though, they’re both getting ready for Houston.
The Bengals showed that they still have a lot of problems, but the newest additions didn’t seem to be a part of their shortcomings. If they expect to bounce back in primetime in a couple of days against a team they’ve only beaten once in nine years, relying on these guys may be more necessary than they realize. We can’t expect it, but we can at least hope Ross makes his debut as well.