For three weeks, it was eye-opening to evaluate how Ryan Finley performed in his first games with the Bengals. Finley’s abysmal three-game stretch was all Zac Taylor and the organization needed to see to determine he’s not the answer right now, and going forward next year.
We may not get to talk about Finley for the rest of the season, but as Finley left the starting lineup, another fourth-round pick from this year’s rookie class came back to it. Let’s go through the rookies who contributed to the Bengals’ first win of the season.
Michael Jordan survives, not thrives, in first start back
The last time Jordan started this year was in Week 5 against the Cardinals. Since that game, the fourth-round pick played 28 snaps as an extra lineman while Billy Price held the reigns at left guard. This week, it was Jordan’s turn to take back that spot while Price was dealing with a back injury.
Jordan’s two main problems this season has been second level blocking and handling power in pass protection. Both of these issues popped up multiple times during this game, but for how bad the Jets’ defense played, it didn’t destroy the offense to matter.
On this two-play stretch, Jordan gets bull rushed off by fellow rookie Quinnen Williams and subsequently a looping Henry Anderson—two very good players. Andy Dalton is pressured in both instances but manages to make something happen on the second play after nearly being intercepted on the first play.
Pro Football Focus charged Jordan with four official pressures, including partial responsibility on the lone sack the Bengals allowed to the Jets. The two pressures shown above and a third pressure came from the same drive, so while Jordan had some mishaps, he had long stretches of primarily clean pass protection.
As its been previously mentioned, second level blocking got Jordan into some trouble on Sunday. This was a factor in the Bengals’ inability to get anything going on the ground, but it didn’t define Jordan’s day as a run blocker. His explosion off of the line aided him in drive blocks and generating push. On the handful of plays where he was asked to short pull around the center like this one, he was successful more times than not.
Getting him to take better angles in space will be what allows him to take the next step.
Germaine Pratt gets patient with Le’Veon Bell
Post-Preston Brown life has been great for Nick Vigil, but Pratt is still in the process of finding his way. The Bengals had already faced talented running backs David Johnson and Todd Gurley this season, but Bell represented a uniquely difficult challenge with his style of running. Pratt was an active cog in the machine that limited Bell to just 32 yards on 10 carries, as he was a part of bringing Bell down three separate times.
Operating in coverage has been the weak point of Pratt’s rookie season thus far, but Sam Darnold didn’t test him nearly at all in that area. Just once was Pratt targeted in coverage, going up against none other than Bell himself.
In matching with Bell coming out of the backfield, Pratt is either expecting Bell to break the route inside, or he’s tasked with inside leverage on the route regardless. If it’s the latter, Pratt has to know the play-side cornerback is in man coverage and he has no one between Bell and the sideline to help him out, so he has to keep his feet and stay with Bell quicker. Bell is able to haul in the pass and convert the first down.
This was the one mistake Pratt made in this game, so you can tell Sunday was at the very least progress for the young linebacker. New York’s obvious incompetence surely helped as well.
Oh yeah, these guys exist too
With Alex Erickson starting once more, it was wise for the Bengals to get both Damion Willis (one target, no receptions) and Stanley Morgan involved on a rotational basis. The two played a combined 27 snaps at receiver in and out of the slot. Morgan had two balls thrown his way, one was broken up by a defender and one was too inaccurate for him to catch. Willis did catch his one target but couldn’t get his second foot in bounds, resulting in an incompletion.
Per usual, Morgan played like the best special teamer on the team who wasn’t returning kickoffs. He forced Jets’ kickoff return man Ty Montgomery out of bounds for a return of just 14 yards and downed a Kevin Huber punt at the two-yard line. Three plays later, the Jets were called for holding in their own end zone and charged with a safety.
Renell Wren played his customary 12 snaps, sharing equal time in the interior as well as on the edge in the defense’s odd front packages. He was credited for one tackle early in the third quarter.
This game was first time this season that the Bengals utilized a victory formation, which allowed Trayveon Williams to take his first snaps on offense since Week 6. He was in on all three of Dalton’s kneel downs to seal the first win of 2019.