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Bengals Week 10 rookie report: Billy Price returns; Auden Tate debuts

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Cincinnati played a season-high eight rookies against the Saints on Sunday.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

All hands were on deck in the Bengals monumental letdown at home against the Saints, including all eight rookies on the active roster.

For the first time all season, the seven draft picks to make the initial 53-man roster were all active and played at least one snap from scrimmage, along with the one undrafted free agent to get promoted to the active roster this season.

Here’s our rookie report for the Bengals 51-14 defeat to the Saints.

Billy Price

Even without their first-round pick Marcus Davenport at defensive end, the Saints pass rush got the better of the Bengals offensive line in Price’s first game back. Fortunately for the Bengals’ first-round pick, he came away with a mostly clean game. The run blocking for Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard was solid, even though they rarely got a chance to display it after the first quarter when the game was still competitive.

Those around Price, however, underperformed to their standards. Left tackle Cordy Glenn and left guard Clint Boling allowed several pressures against the right-sided Saints pass rushers, and even right guard Trey Hopkins looked out of whack in his first game at the position this season.

The cohesion between the group needs some time to re-adjust with Price back in the mix and if that was the cause for the troubles, then so be it. Price showed some definite rust in between it all, but it was good to see him out there moving regardless.

Jessie Bates

Per usual, Bates ended up extremely active as a tackler for the Bengals porous defense. The Bengals’ free safety finished with just four solo tackles, but added on seven assisted tackles for a combined 11. In coverage, Bates was untested for the vast majority of the game, as Saints quarterback Drew Brees only threw four of his 25 passes beyond 15 yards down the field, and the three that were completed weren’t in Bates’ coverage.

It turns out that playing Jameis Winston isn’t as easy as playing Brees — Hell, or Ryan Fitzpatrick for that matter. The Bengals secondary looks to have had major communication issues during this historically bad stretch they’re on. Hopefully things get more clear for them with Marvin Lewis taking over as the de facto defensive coordinator, and Bates’ play improves because of it.

Sam Hubbard

As expected, it was defensive end Jordan Willis who got the first crack at replacing Carl Lawson as the team’s nickel edge rusher opposite of Carlos Dunlap and not Hubbard. By my count, Hubbard didn’t even see any snaps inside; he played most of the snaps in relief of Michael Johnson at right defensive end. While there, Hubbard didn’t see many pass-rushing snaps, and the rest of the Bengals’ defensive line was run over by the Saints offensive line in both the run and pass.

The needle didn’t move much at all for Hubbard in this game, as his role seems largely unaffected by Lawson’s season-ending injury.

Malik Jefferson

For the first time in his nine-game career, Jefferson got to play defense instead of just special teams. The bad news was, his team was down by multiple scores when he came into the game in the fourth quarter. He ended up with notching three tackles in the eight snaps he was on the field for, all from starting at a different alignment at linebacker.

Unless the Bengals are down by five scores late in the second half of another game soon, we can’t expect Jefferson to emerge as a serious candidate for playing time — Jordan Evans and Vincent Rey’s struggles be damned. Jefferson couldn’t even get into the game until it was clearly over, and it’s not an indictment on him necessarily. Jefferson got plenty of time on the kickoff return team though, so there’s that.

Mark Walton

With Giovani Bernard back into the fold, Walton was all but nonexistent in the Bengals offense. He saw two of the 43 snaps on offense in relief of Joe Mixon and Bernard, and both involved him blocking in some manner.

This is likely the reality for Walton as long as both Mixon and Bernard are both healthy, which was a rarity leading up to this week. He did play the most special teams in one game as he’s played all year with eight, and we should expect him to play around that number for the remaining of the year if he’ll be sidelined all game on offense.

Darius Phillips

Like Bates, Phillips was spared from Brees’ wrath, as he was only targeted once — which resulted in a three-yard gain. His play has evened out nicely the more he’s played, and for as long as Darqueze Dennard is nursing his shoulder injury, Phillips will continue to gain more in-game experience.

Auden Tate

It appears that the Bengals offense without A.J. Green does not feature much of Tate. The end of the game looked a lot like a preseason game, so naturally that’s when Tate entered the game.

The Bengals second touchdown drive featured seven plays, with Tate aligned as the left wide receiver for most of them. He ran three routes, and received one target that went incomplete off of his hands.

Some will call it a drop, some would call it a bad throw from backup quarterback Jeff Driskel (it was more so the latter). Regardless, it was a little disappointing to not see Tate out with the starters, but the team’s reluctance to give him any meaningful snaps was not surprising at all. Wide receiver Josh Malone’s hamstring injury is something to monitor this week, as his health will likely determine Tate’s game status with A.J. Green still sidelined with a bad foot.

Jordan Franks

Just like their Week 8 game against the Buccaneers, the Bengals trotted out Franks for one passing play against the Saints. Only this time, Franks was the target of the play. He once again stuck to special teams as Matt Lengel maintained his status as the No. 2 tight end. As soon as Tyler Kroft returns to practice, Franks figures to be sitting on the bench full-time. When that is, no one knows, but Franks won’t get any meaningful opportunities to stay on the field.

The Bengals inactive list featured exclusively veterans, which allowed for all eight first-year players to dress and play on Sunday. Hopefully next week’s game against the Baltimore Ravens will feature a couple of those players that were inactive, which would likely take out a couple rookies from the dress list.

Price will also be playing in just his fourth career game as we reached the middle of November, which will also be his second career meeting with the Ravens’ interior defensive line. The Ravens may also be starting a rookie of their own at quarterback in Lamar Jackson, which will be something Lewis’ young defense will be keeping tabs on all week as well.