Since 2016, every single player the Bengals have drafted has yet to experience victory against the Steelers. William Jackson III, Tyler Boyd, John Ross III, Joe Mixon, Jessie Bates III, and Sam Hubbard; all of them and all the others are winless when facing the black and yellow, the class of 2019 being no different.
Of course, the story of this year’s class is how little of an impact they’re making on the field. On Monday night, it was the negative impact the few who played that grabbed our attention while the entire ship was simultaneously sinking.
Michael Jordan has proven he’s not ready to start
It took the Bengals 62 snaps into this game to realize Jordan was way in over his head. Officially, Jordan was graded as Pro Football Focus’ worst left guard in Week 4 and allowed two sacks and one quarterback hurry. There’s nothing shocking about any of that information if you watched the game. The entire offensive line played poorly, but Jordan’s struggles could easily be isolated to the naked eye.
Michael Jordan more closely resembling a tackling sled than a pass-blocker here pic.twitter.com/uRTiiHq5lE— Evan McPhillips (@emcphil) October 1, 2019
Back in Week 2, Jordan had a bad performance against the 49ers and left the game early due to a knee injury. That game should’ve been the first sign that Jordan wasn’t quite ready to start, especially on a bad offensive line. His injury would’ve given the coaching staff an opportunity to sit him until they absolutely needed him, but they decided to double down on their commitment to him.
That ends up looking good when the player is good. As you could tell from Monday, it makes you look like an idiot when the player isn’t good.
Jordan working his way up the depth chart to become a starter was a great story for the offseason, but reality is setting in. He’s not ready yet, and if the coaching staff doesn’t see that, we’ll see more bad than good from his play in the near future.
Oh yeah, these guys exist too
Until further notice, I’m basically going to group all the other active rookies together who don’t really do much. They deserve attention even though they’re barely asked to do anything.
For starters, Renell Wren played at left defensive end for the second straight week with Kerry Wynn still in the concussion protocol. Wren was PFF’s third-worst graded defender for Cincinnati, and this played essentially summed it all up.
The Steelers attacked the Bengals’ defense with zone reads from the wildcat and it eventually wore them down. Wren here completely loses the edge as the force player and gets caught flat-footed. Touted as a plus athlete, this is the stuff that just can’t happen for a player who should thrive on unblocked opportunities. The run set up the Steelers to go up 17-3 and essentially put the game away for good.
Wren appeared on defense for 13 snaps, which is one more than what Germaine Pratt got. The Bengals continued a minor rotation at linebacker featuring Pratt and LaRoy Reynolds spilling Preston Brown and Nick Vigil, respectively. Pratt was credited with one solo tackle and by the time he got in the game, there wasn’t much for him to positively contribute towards.
It’s miraculous how much worse Brown and Vigil have to play for Pratt to get a chance to start, but apparently we’re not at that point yet.
On offense, Damion Willis returned to the unit once John Ross III had to leave the game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. Willis took 22 snaps with the offense to close out the game and caught a pass for eight yards just before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter.
If Ross is going to miss time, this essentially puts Willis back in the spotlight after being benched for Auden Tate last week. There’s still at least two weeks between the offense and A.J. Green reuniting, so if Willis wants to validate the preseason hype this season, there’s no better time than now.
Speaking of hype, remember when the Bengals did everything in their power to prop up Drew Sample as the next Rob Gronkowski this past spring? Through four games, Sample has produced like Rob’s brother Dan. Feel free to look up his stats.
Of the 10 rookies tight ends that have played, Drew Sample has the lowest run blocking grade of them all (43.7) from PFF.— JG (@JoeGoodberry) October 1, 2019
His pass blocking is the highest of all the rookie TEs at 78.2
Sample's 3 targets, 2 receptions and 25 yards are the lowest of all 10 rookie TEs.
Rookie tight ends who are productive are a pretty rare commodity, but Sample has looked a lot like the over-drafted limited player many fans and analysts pegged him as back when the Bengals drafted him. As expected, the Bengals are operating primarily in 11 personnel (81%, third-highest in the NFL) and Sample’s opportunities as a reserve tight end aren’t frequent. Even Tyler Eifert is being kept from the field.
Sample was on the field for 15 snaps in Pittsburgh, 13 of them were running plays. This isn’t going to be much different for the rest of the season as long as the position group stays healthy.