His absence may’ve not had that much of an impact on this game, but with Renell Wren being placed on the Reserve/Injured list last week, he became the fifth rookie for the Bengals to end up on on I.R. or the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Wren was slowly but surely developing into a quality rotational piece along the defensive line, and his injury lead to only five rookies being active for Sunday’s game against the Patriots.
Luckily, the ones who played had decent performances in another losing effort.
Germaine Pratt’s tackling shines as much as it fades
In his seventh career start, Pratt set personal highs for solo tackles (seven) and stops (four). The Patriots found little success passing the ball, which lead to Pratt having a mostly clean day in coverage, and when he was able to make a play against the run, Pratt succeeded more than he failed.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a completely game, as if there’s ever been one for a Bengals linebacker this year. Pratt let a few tackles slip through his grasps, including one that could’ve prevented the game’s final touchdown.
With increased playing time comes increased chances for mistakes. Pratt played 75.4% of the defense’s snaps, which is the highest percentage he’s logged this season. Hardy Nickerson was seen giving him some rest in the form of seven snaps of his own, but Pratt was out there for longer than he’s been all year. Even against an impotent offense lead by a struggling quarterback, he played alright.
Michael Jordan and Fred Johnson remain busy in the ground game
Not once during this game did Zac Taylor’s offensive scheme display any trust in Andy Dalton to beat New England’s omnipotent secondary. The running game was what Taylor relied on when the game was close, and Jordan and Johnson helped make it as effective as possible.
When the Patriots adjusted, it became much harder to make that happen.
Jordan had his usual hits and misses in the run game, what was important to note was that he was fairly clean in pass protection. Pro Football Focus charged him with just three allowed pressures in 34 pass blocking reps as the Bengals’ offensive line did a fairly good job of keeping Dalton clean for most of the game.
Johnson has now played in the past three games. His 10 snaps from Sunday as an eligible sixth offensive lineman were the most he’s played in his abbreviated first season. With the Bengals actively playing three of their tight ends as well, Johnson’s increased involvement bodes well for him and shows how dedicated the offense was to beat the Patriots on the ground. Johnson played decently, but as we know, the simplified game plan wasn’t enough.
Stanley Morgan Special Teams Play of the Week
Since the number of rookies worth reporting has taken a hit with the Wren news, we’re going to finish off the 2019 season with dedicating a short section to highlight Morgan’s weekly special teams prowess. This week, he stopped a Mohamed Sanu punt return right in his tracks after successfully getting downfield as a gunner.
Morgan’s continued success on special teams is a testament of how well special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons’ entire unit has played this year. According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, Cincinnati had the best special teams unit entering Week 15 and their performance on Sunday, thanks in part to Morgan, should keep them at the top of the rankings.
With several of this year’s draft picks injured, it’s been nice to see an undrafted rookie work his way up from the practice squad and lead a unit so effortlessly.