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Evaluating the success of the Bengals cornerbacks shadowing DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans

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The Bengals acted out of character on Sunday defensively. Will it remain in the game plan moving forward?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

Prior to Sunday, Bengals cornerback William Jackson told WKRC’s Richard Skinner that he would be shadowing Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came to Paul Brown Stadium.

This is something many teams do to put their best cornerback on an opposing team’s best receiver. But, it’s not something the Bengals have often done. Primarily, the Bengals simply play Jackson on the right, with Dre Kirkpatrick on the left and Darqueze Dennard in the slot.

The Bengals did have their cornerbacks primarily shadow specific cornerbacks on Sunday, and it came with mixed results. Dre Kirkpatrick trailed Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans during the game (for the most part), and William Jackson trailed the speedy DeSean Jackson when he was on the field. Both Jackson and Evans were able to haul in deep touchdowns (60+ yards each) for the Buccaneers, but besides the touchdown bombs, William Jackson did a good job holding down his opposition.

DeSean Jackson finished with the third-most yards on the Buccaneers (tied with tight end O.J. Howard) at 68. If you take away his 60-yard touchdown, Jackson only had two catches for eight yards. This is a pretty solid day for the Bengals cornerback against a speedy receiver like Jackson.

The Kirkpatrick and Evans battle wasn’t as fruitful for the Bengals defense. Evans hauled in 179 yards and a touchdown on six total catches. Kirkpatrick had his hands full, and even came back from an Achilles injury during the game. Evans had a 72 yard touchdown, so when you take that away, he recorded five other catches for 107 yards. That’s not good at all as Evans averaged an impressive 29.83 yards per catch. He was having his way with Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick said Evans’ touchdown was blown coverage, but he thought the shadowing went well.

“I think it worked out pretty good, you know,” Kirkpatrick said. “Obviously we had a couple slip ups, guy getting to the side, I’m an outside guy, he had to get away from me and Willow (William Jackson), but other than that, I was pretty much manning him the whole game. It was fun, it was a great challenge.”

Kirkpatrick called DeSean Jackson his partner, saying he hangs out with him in the offseason. There was a play when Kirkpatrick was covering Jackson on third down on which he said the Bucs receiver tried to run him over, but the Bengals cornerback got the stop. “I knew it,” Kirkpatrick said of Jackson trying to run him over when coming out of the backfield.

Kirkpatrick said he wasn’t pleased after the game, but he was ready to focus on moving forward.

“I wasn’t pleased with how we played in the second half and gave up (500) yards,” Kirkpatrick said. “But at the end of the day, that’s my game (to be positive). That’s how I approach it. I try to flush everything out and reset every week. No matter what the outcome was this week, I’m going to be the same person next week.”

The decision to have Jackson and Kirkpatrick shadow Bucs receivers did come from the coaching staff — it wasn’t a suggestion from the players — but Kirkpatrick said after the game he’s not sure whether or not it will continue.

“If they want me to follow someone I will,” he remarked.

Poll

Was this a good experiment for the Bengals defense, or should they go back to letting Jackson and Kirkpatrick play on specific sides of the field?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Yes, keep shadowing
    (310 votes)
  • 21%
    No, go back to playing on specific sides
    (121 votes)
  • 23%
    Unsure
    (135 votes)
566 votes total Vote Now