Coming into Week 1, Clayton Fejedelem was one of the last guys you’d have expected to steal the spotlight.
But from this game, the name that will be remembered is Fej.
The third-year safety made the play of the game with the Colts in position to win with under a minute left, trailing by four and in Bengals territory. At that point, Luck had matched Indy right down the field and looked primed for a game-winning touchdown.
That’s when Fejedelem saved the day with a forced fumble on Jack Doyle, then picked up the loose ball and ran it all the way to a 1-0 record for the good guys:
But this never would have happened if not for one of the most bone-headed plays of Week 1 you’ll see.
It came early in the first quarter when starting safety Shawn Williams had an egregious hit on Andrew Luck that (rightfully) led to an ejection. To Williams’ credit, he was the first person to greet his victorious teammates as they came to the postgame locker room.
Still, Williams’ gaffe may have allowed Fejedelem to at least be in the conversation to start over him going forward. It’s more likely that they’ll share snaps more, but after one week, Fejedelem is now one of the NFL’s top defensive backs at Pro Football Focus.
Through Week 1, Fejedelem has earned a 91.1 PFF grade, good for the third-best safety, fourth-best defensive back, and eighth-best defensive player in the league. That’s how good Fejedelem was in Week 1 while playing most of the game after Williams was ejected in the first quarter.
It’s been quite a rise for Fejedelem, who the Bengals selected out of Illinois with the 245th overall pick of the 2016 NFL draft. Making his rise even more amazing was before he attended Illinois, Fejedelem played for NAIA school St. Xavier State.
It’s very rare to see an NAIA player make it to the NFL, let alone be a star for even one game the way Fejedelem was. He’s truly one of the best stories about the 2018 Bengals.
But Fejedelem wasn’t the only 2016 draft pick to shine Sunday. Outside linebacker and former third-round pick Nick Vigil recorded seven defensive stops (4 run; 3 pass) against the Colts on Sunday, five more than any other Cincinnati defender. He also led the team with 12 tackles. That earned him an 85.2 PFF grade, good for 11th-best among linebackers entering Week 2.
Bengals rookie safety Jessie Bates played all 82 defensive snaps and earned a 79.1 overall grade in his regular-season debut, which has him ranked ninth among all NFL safeties after Week 1. Only Seattle and Cincinnati have two safeties ranked inside the top 10.
As good as the Bengals’ defensive backs were, the right side of the offensive line was the complete opposite. Right guard Alex Redmond earned a 56.5 overall grade across 56 offensive snaps in Indy, allowing five total pressures in the process. Redmond and Bobby Hart (37.4 overall grade) earned the two lowest grades of any Bengals offensive player and allowed 10 total pressures combined.
When rushing to the left and right of Redmond, Bengals running backs totaled eight yards on five carries (1.6 YPC). Rushing everywhere else, Cincy running backs totaled 85 yards on 13 carries (6.54 YPC).