At least Sunday was memorable for one rookie playing in Paul Brown Stadium.
Cardinals quarterback and first-overall pick Kyler Murray got his first win of his NFL career, and more than earned it too. Murray finished the game with a Total QBR of 77.8 and accounted for 0.202 Expected Points Added per Play, which ranked fourth and third in Week 5 games through Sunday.
Murray’s play elevated those around him, despite the rest of Arizona’s rookie class not making much of an impact. The Bengals could’ve used a rookie like that in this game, as arguably their best first-year player only appeared in nine snaps from scrimmage. And while injuries continue to assault the roster, a couple of undrafted rookies were called upon to step up.
The short debut of Stanley Morgan and the return of Damion Willis
It was a slight surprise to see Alex Erickson named as the starter in place of John Ross III, considering Erickson is a natural slot receiver and Tyler Boyd would be staying in the slot. The guy who some thought would get the start would be Willis, so when Erickson left the game with a concussion, it was even more surprising to see Morgan go in for him.
The very first snap of Morgan’s career resulted in a six-yard reception.
Following a failed Joe Mixon rush on second down, Andy Dalton went back to Morgan on a simple hitch route to convert on third down. Morgan’s hitch was clean, but the ball went right through his hands for a drop.
Cardinals’ rookie cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. made a great effort to breakup the pass, but Morgan has to haul that in.
That was the final snap Morgan got on offense, as he was replaced by Willis for the rest of the game. Last week, Willis was the one who replaced Ross when he initially got hurt, but he did next to nothing in his place. This week, he caught four passes for 38 yards, both are now career highs for him.
When the offensive staff benched Willis for Auden Tate, it could’ve been the end to any significant playing time Willis could’ve gotten this season. With Ross and Erickson now down, the team has little to no choice but to play Willis. It’d be useful to rotate Morgan with him as well to evaluate both fairly now that the season is all but lost.
Oh yeah, these guys exist too
In case you were wondering, Michael Jordan didn’t look much better in his fourth start at left guard. He was Pro Football Focus’ lowest-graded offensive player for Cincinnati, but his struggles in this game dealt with run blocking more than pass protection, as he was charged with just two pressures. The Bengals’ running game as a whole slowed down after that first drive, as defensive tackles Rodney Gunter and Corey Peters got the better of Jordan and the interior offensive line.
By showing commitment to Jordan after last week’s debacle, Zac Taylor and Jim Turner are just going to eat these performances until it reaches a point of utter awfulness where they would have no choice but to play someone else.
In that same light, Drew Sample’s day was also more of the same from the previous weeks. His 14 snaps is right in line with his season average of 13.2, and he remains an asset in pass protection and a middling run blocker. Nothing else to see here.
On defense, Renell Wren was inactive, which left Germaine Pratt as the lone rookie defender. In only nine snaps, Pratt was the highest-graded defender per PFF. He doesn’t get out of position and his play speed is fast for a rookie. There’s nothing else to say,
except PLAY HIM YOU COWARDS!