This was a very important game in terms of appearances after the coaching staff had been dragged through the mud during the Carlos Dunlap saga that included having the veteran pass rusher criticizing them at every turn. The team and coaching staff showed up in a big way to go into their bye week with some serious momentum.
Quinton Spain: It is safe to say that Spain won’t have to be called up from the practice squad much longer. After getting into the building on Friday, Spain was elevated to the active roster with a slew of injuries along the offensive line this week. A late inactive Michael Jordan opened up the opportunity for Spain to play a majority of the game at left guard. He played terrific despite the little preparation time, and it is easy to say Spain deserves a starting role as well as being called up to the active roster.
Auden Tate: Tate’s 2020 season started off a bit rough. He was a healthy scratch early in the season, and even when he was active he seemed to be the team’s fifth wide receiver. He blew up against the Titans making several contested catches as well as making plays after the catch. He was constantly reaching for first downs as well. He and Joe Burrow had a great connection going, and he may have earned the fourth wide receiving spot on this team. He even came up with a huge catch on third-and-eight to give the Bengals a first down right at the two-minute warning to help put the game on ice.
Jessie Bates III: Bates is going to make a ton of money this offseason. He recorded his second interception of this season as he picked Ryan Tannehill off in the end zone to start the game. He is proving that he may be one of the biggest names heading to free agency, and the Bengals would be smart to pay whatever it is he requires to stay in town.
Zac Taylor and Lou Anarumo: It has been a long couple of weeks for the head coach and his defensive coordinator. The Carlos Dunlap saga created a ton of criticism of the coaching staff. Many of the players maintained that these coaches hadn’t lost the locker room, and going out after all of that drama off the field and getting the win against a team like the Titans was a great way of showing this young team is still developing. This is the type of win and performance that teams can build off of going forward.
Holding an offense like Tennessee to 20 points is a great job, and Taylor did a heck of a job calling an offensive game plan that didn’t have his rookie quarterback take his foot off the gas at any point.
Jim Turner and the offensive line: You could make the argument that having so many backup offensive linemen play so well shows that Turner has been committed to some struggling players for too long, but since they won this week I’ll give Turner and these backups the nod. Jonah Williams, Jordan, Trey Hopkins and Bobby Hart were all out this week. You wouldn’t have noticed if no one had told you as Burrow had enough protection to rip apart the Titans defense. Credit to Hakeem Adeniji, Fred Johnson and Billy Price for getting their jobs done. It will be an interesting bye week to see who will be starting the next game.
Mike Thomas: Thomas was a big name during training camp with several wide receivers out, and it seemed like he and Burrow had developed a little bit of a connection. Not to mention, he and Taylor have a connection going back to when both spent time with the Rams. Tate’s big game sort of leaves Thomas as the odd man out behind guys like A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. It is possible we see him again, but Tate earned a larger role, which means less for a guy like Thomas.
Alex Redmond, Bobby Hart and Michael Jordan: That performance by that offensive line puts some jobs on the line. Redmond was out there today, but Spain had to have earned a starting job after that performance. That means either Jordan or Redmond should be moved to the bench to make way for Spain.
It is possible that B.J. Finney could also be coming for one of those spots after the team added him via the Dunlap trade. Johnson and Adeniji also had solid performances, which means Hart will have to play as well as he did against the Browns to keep his job, but if either of these guys keep up their play while Hart is out the coaching staff could stay with the hot hand. At the very least, all the leashes for these players starting has gotten a lot shorter.