A difference of 58 points scored, four less turnovers and two more wins from the first two weeks of last season has the Bengals on top of the AFC North as they enter an extended break before Week 3.
But it was also a night of accomplishment for a couple of rookies who made their mark early on in the game. Here’s our rookie report for the Bengals 11-point victory over Baltimore in Week 2 on Thursday Night Football.
In his second start, Price snapped for the offense’s first two touchdown drives and 33 total rushing yards before he got his foot stepped on. He’s now dealing with a foot strain, according to Marvin Lewis, who said the team doctors felt it would be best for Price to sit out the rest of the matchup. Price’s backup, Trey Hopkins, relieved him for the rest of the game. Price managed to exit the field on his own power, and gave the offense one last boost before his departure.
A foot strain presumably won’t keep Price out of the Bengals’ next game at Carolina two Sundays from now. With an extended break between games, Price should be good to go against defensive tackle Kawann Short and the Panthers defensive line.
Before Price’s early exit, Bates established his acquaintance with Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on the first play of the Ravens’ second drive of the game. Hovering over the top of a deep crossing route, Bates read Flacco’s eyes the entire way, broke on the overthrown pass and returned his first interception for 21 yards to the Ravens’ 16 yard-line.
Bengals Jessie Bates with his first career interception. pic.twitter.com/DisVlrgYfs— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) September 14, 2018
Bates was busy the whole night, as he was inches from intercepting another pass that ended up going right through his hands early in the second quarter. Later in the period, he barely secured another one and just missed a diving catch off a dropped pass that was tipped in the air. He also did a great job coming down into the second level and matching up with intermediate routes in man coverage, and wasn’t targeted in those situations.
Bates with range and missed opportunities pic.twitter.com/cVvgwaOTW3— clips (@Burner4JG) September 15, 2018
The initial returns on inserting Bates for George Iloka have looked like everything that we hoped for. And he wasn’t the only rookie who made an impact in his first home game...
Earlier this week, Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin admitted he wanted to get Hubbard more involved in the rotation than he was on Sunday against the Colts. The third-round pick only played seven snaps on defense in the season opener, but that number jumped to 50 against the Ravens.
The injury to defensive end Michael Johnson forced Jordan Willis onto the field in his place, but Hubbard ended up playing one snap more than him. In those snaps, he recorded two quality tackles in run defense and the first sack of his career against a quality left tackle in Ronnie Stanley.
Hubbard also saw another snap at fullback on the goal-line, but this time, the result was a loss of three yards instead of a touchdown. A safe bet would be that Willis will start in Johnson’s absence (which is believed to be a few weeks), but Hubbard should see similar snaps in the coming weeks behind him.
With Preston Brown inactive from the game due with a bad ankle, Jefferson got the green light and was activated for his first regular season game. Brown’s backup Hardy Nickerson played nearly the entire game at linebacker, so Jefferson was relied on to step up on special teams plays.
On the Ravens first punt return, Jefferson was a part of the gang tackle that forced a fumble. Special teams captain Clayton Fejedelem forced the almost turnover, but Jefferson was in the right position nonetheless.
Since Brown was a game-time decision to play on a short-week’s rest, odds are he’ll be healthy for Week 3, meaning Jefferson will return to the sidelines in his street clothes. But it was good for him to get his feet wet in front of a home crowd.
After watching Alex Erickson take the only punt return last Sunday, Phillips had first dibs taking back punts from Baltimore’s Sam Koch. He initially misread the trajectory of the first punt and ended up muffing the catch, but picked it up and scampered for a 16-yard return, his longest of his two chances.
It seems like we’re going to see a rotation between Erickson and Phillips, similar to when Adam Jones was here with Erickson and Brandon Tate before him. Phillips mirrors Jones as the cornerback who looks much more elusive with the ball in his hands, and should eventually take the lion’s share of the opportunities away from Erickson.
Did not play
Price’s injury aside, it was a great night for the Bengal’s rookies, and early returns on the draft class of 2018 look strong. What was your favorite moment from the Bengals’ first-year players last night?