11 weeks into the season, the Bengals have now played against the three favorites to win Rookie of the Year honors. Gardner Minshew II has probably fallen out of contention by now, but Kyler Murray and Josh Jacobs are still front runners for the award.
Jacobs was the latest first-year stud to face the winless Bengals and he helped himself to a clean 112 yards on the ground on 4.9 yards per carry and 3.52 yards after contact per carry. None of Jacobs’ 23 carries resulted in a touchdown, but one of fellow rookie Foster Moreau two receptions did end up in the end zone.
The Raiders got some positive output from their rookie class, and they were the only team in this game that can say such a thing.
The case for Ryan Finley isn’t getting any easier to make
As we all saw, the Raiders are hardly a formidable team despite their winning record. Their biggest weakness going into this game was their passing defense, which ranked 29th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. If there was an opportunity for Ryan Finley to put together his first good game, this surely qualified as one.
There’s really no need to resort to the advanced statistics, the traditional stats will suffice here. Finley finished the game with 115 yards on 13-31 passing with a game-ending interception as the cherry on top. Just five of those completions came in the second half, when the Bengals were trailing the entire time, and he was sacked five times, none of which were his fault.
The positives can all be found when Finley connected with Auden Tate, whom accounted for nearly half of Finley’s yardage on four catches. The three shown below made up 52 of his 56 receiving yards.
There’s something to praise on all three of these throws. Finley had to throw on an off-balanced platform in the face of pressure on the first play. After evading the rush on the second play, he threw Tate open going across his body. The third play looked like the easiest throw, but the third-and-19 conversion kept the game alive for a few minutes longer. It also unfortunately ended the game for Tate.
Just like last week, Finley had a few noteworthy tosses mixed in with a whole bunch of ugliness. This week, things got even uglier than his debut.
These are throws that just can’t be missed, whether it’s a placement issue or a timing issue, these are throws a starting-caliber quarterback has to hit consistently, no matter his professional experience.
Arm strength is such a catholic term but some of these throws show that Finley still doesn’t have any of it. The near pick-six he threw towards Alex Erickson and the changeup he threw to C.J. Uzomah exemplify the concern regarding his ability to push the ball outside the numbers.
The interception can be filed under “whatever, he was just trying to make something happen” but that ball had no chance of reaching Erickson.
Now with two starts under his belt, Finley has an Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt of 2.25, an average QBR of 20.2, and a Pro Football Focus offensive grade of 42.5, which has been boosted by his 62 yards off of scrambles.
The production is, in a word, crappy. The production is also not really what the Bengals need to see. Granted, good quarterback production typically leads to winning (on average ceteris paribus) but Zac Taylor and his coaching staff know that Finley’s situation isn’t ideal. They’re not realistically expecting production that matches the opposing quarterback every week.
What they should be hoping for are more instances that demonstrate his ability to elevate what surrounding talent he has. That’s the only way he can buy time with the organization. If he plays as bad as his offensive line and his receivers do, there’s no reason to distinguish him as anything other than a backup. Realistically, why do you think they’re moving on from Andy Dalton? For this exact reason.
It isn’t fair. Just like it isn’t fair that Dalton has to likely watch six more dreadful performances like this one. The sooner we see through the weightless excuses, the sooner a plan for actual progress can be put into place. Don’t think for a second the Bengals’ brass are in any way satisfied with the product Finley has been putting out there thus far.
With all of that said, this throw was commendable and would probably be hauled in by either Tate or A.J. Green. Hopefully, Finley can make a throw like this next year if their new quarterback gets hurt!
i'd be disregardful if i didn't say that if finley has to come into a game next year, i'd hope he can make this throw again pic.twitter.com/xb9NKhM3jA— john sheeran (@John__Sheeran) November 19, 2019
The intended receiver was none other than Damion Willis, who entered the game four plays earlier after Tate was carted off the field. This was Willis’ first target since getting promoted back to the active roster this past week. If Tate has to miss any extended time, expect Willis and Stanley Morgan to get his reps, assuming Green remains out.
Germaine Pratt’s blunders nullify gutsy defensive performance
Sticking with the theme of struggling players who’s struggles haven’t changed, Pratt wasn’t exactly a liability for this game, but his third career start definitely ended on a low note.
With just over four minutes left in the game, the Bengals had the Raiders in a second-and-long situation and proceeded to allow a 29-yard reception to tight end Darren Waller. The Bengals got a break though as Kolton Miller was called for holding. Unfortunately, Pratt was called for holding on the play as well, therefore offsetting Miller’s flag.
Derek Carr went right back to Waller on the next play, who roasted Pratt on what appeared to be an option route that ended up going over the middle.
Waller scampered for 23 yards and the Raiders were able to take two more minutes off of the clock, leaving a Finley-lead offense with minimal time and a full field to try and make something happen.
Plain and simple, Pratt has been one of the worst coverage linebackers in the NFL this season. In just 73 coverage snaps, he’s allowed 170 yards on nine receptions. Only Haason Reddick has a worse coverage grade from PFF for qualifying players.
But, we’re getting what we wanted: a chance for Pratt to make mistakes in meaningless games. Luckily, Mason Rudolph is the quarterback of the next offense he’ll go up against. Maybe we see a bright spot.
Oh yeah, these guys exist too
With Anthony Zettel as a healthy scratch, the Bengals wanted to continue using Renell Wren as a rotational defensive end, primarily on the left side. Wren recorded 13 snaps and has averaged 10 snaps a game since he played 77 snaps in four of his first five games.
In the form of three special teams snaps, Fred Johnson made his NFL debut. It was the third time he dressed for the team and the first time he took the field.