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Bengals Week 8 rookie report: Jessie Bates caps off outstanding first half of rookie season

The Bengals have one of the best free safeties in the NFL. Period.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It’s understandable if the Bengals 37-34 win over the Buccaneers doesn’t make you express a lot of confidence in them going forward. The team’s Jekyll and Hyde showing once the Buccaneers put Ryan Fitzpatrick in at quarterback for Jameis Winston almost gifted the visiting team a win off of an 18-point comeback, and some similar issues reared their head in the midst of the second half.

But one thing’s for certain, the Bengals rookies are making their names known. Some of them are less consistent on a week-to-week basis than others, but they have a knack for making plays. Some of the game’s biggest moments came from the team’s first-year players, and their second-round pick was one of the stars of the day.

Jessie Bates

Boys and girls, we got ourselves a player. Bates has shown from day one that he’s good at football, but he and the Bengals defense came into this game expecting to have plenty of opportunities at the ball, and he took advantage.

Bates was also the one who may’ve benched Winston for the remainder of the 2018 season with his first pick-six of his career.

This was Bates’ third interception on the season, and he doubled his pass breakups on the year in this game alone. He also recorded three defensive stops as a part of his six total tackles.

Bates might also be replacing William Jackson as the new Pro Football Focus love child:

Fitzpatrick torched the Bengals defense in the final 17 minutes of the game, but Bates played the best game of his very young career. And we can’t wait to see how the second half of his rookie season plays out.

Sam Hubbard

Even without one of their better pass rushers in Carl Lawson, who left the game early with a torn ACL, the Bengals defense ended up with six sacks. Hubbard ended up with one of them, and now has two on the season. Hubbard topped 50 snaps for the first time all season, and ended up with four defensive stops to go along with that sack as well.

Due to Lawson’s injury, Hubbard saw a healthy amount of snaps on the edge in the defense’s subpackages while Adolphus Washington essentially took Hubbard’s place inside. This may be the way the defensive line compensates for Lawson’s absence for the rest of the season, which is fine because of how solid Washington has been in his limited snaps.

Malik Jefferson

It was a quiet day for Jefferson on 22 special teams snaps, as only cornerback Tony McRae and Clark Harris recorded a tackle on the lone punt or kickoff return for the Buccaneers. Jefferson did down Kevin Huber’s fifth punt of the game. The Bengals defense was on the field for a whopping 88 plays, but Jefferson saw none of them, which has been the case for the entire season.

Mark Walton

Entering this game, Walton had 17 rushing yards on 11 carries. So if I had told you Walton would have two carries and each ended in first downs, I wouldn’t blame you for saying I was lying to you. But that was the case for the Bengals second-string running back. Walton ran for just seven yards on those two carries, but each of them converted two separate third-and-one situations in the second half. The second one continued the Bengals’ game-winning drive.

Walton also caught a delayed screen for 10 yards on another third down but it was not enough to move the chains.

Darius Phillips

Phillips’ defensive snap counts over the last three weeks in chronological order: four, 15 and 71 on Sunday. Meanwhile, McRae never saw a snap on defense. For as long as Darqueze Dennard is sidelined with a *checks spelling* Sternoclavicular injury, Phillips seems to be entrenched in slot cornerback role.

Bates had his first defensive touchdown of his career, and Phillips nearly had his first interception, which would’ve been Winston’s third turnover of the game at the time.

Phillips’ impressive tackling continued in this game as well, but he did end up with a missed tackle, which was his first of the season by my count. Phillips has come in as well as expected this season as a bump-and-run cover corner and has taken on contact well for an slot defender.

Jordan Franks

Finally, the first undrafted rookie took the field in the orange and black this season in Franks. He was on the field for just one play:

Who would’ve guessed Franks would account for 89% of the offense’s yards coming from their three tight ends? Starter C.J. Uzomah failed to catch any of his four targets, and Matt Lengel only received one target as well, which resulted in a four-yard completion. This may be the only time Franks gets the ball this season, so at least it was a cool play design.

Did not play

Billy Price

Per Geoff Hobson of, Price is expected to return to center when he is cleared to play, and the expectation is that will be against the Saints when the Bengals take the field in Week 10 following their bye week. There’s not much to recap with Price as he’s only played one-and-a-half games this season, but we’ll be reviewing the first eight games from the rest of the Bengals rookie class next week.