Desperation usually takes the form of drastic change, and even an hour before kickoff, that’s what the Bengals were willing to do this week.
It started with making both Michael Jordan and Randy Bullock healthy scratches, but it certainly didn’t stop there. Several upon several personnel changes were instituted by the Bengals’ coaching staff during their latest loss this week, and it didn’t just apply to veterans. One rookie was benched and a few others became non-factors despite recent contributions.
Here’s our rookie report from Cincinnati’s 30-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
So...did Tee Higgins catch a case of the dropsies? Maybe temporarily.
It’s a good thing A.J. Green re-emerged from his mega-slump on Sunday because Higgins had his ups and downs. He was the recipient of the offense’s first two passes for 21 total yards on some scripted plays, but his third target from Brandon Allen ended up behind him and he couldn’t attempt a clean grab.
Higgins then went two full quarters without a pass thrown before he reeled in a measly three-yard catch. Allen found Higgins two plays later for a seven-yard third down, but two plays following that, Higgins dropped just his third pass on the year. A drive later, Higgins dropped an even easier pass.
The first drop appeared to be a classic case of hearing footsteps. Higgins found a spot spot in the Cowboys’ zone after breaking into his five-yard in-route, but multiple Cowboys defenders started to surround him as the ball came into Higgins’ hands. You can see his head start to turn and look before the ball is secured. It happens.
Drop No. 2 is a bit more contemptible. Higgins once again turned up field before having control of the pigskin. These two drops doubled his total on the season, and later in the fourth quarter, we saw why this hasn’t been an issue this year.
For the Bengals’ 18th fourth-down conversion of the season, Higgins hauled in a quick over-the-middle pass entirely with his fingertips and scampered upfield for 18 yards.
Drops can be tricky to judge. In this case, these were clearly on Higgins, but he certainly made up for them and proved why Sunday was an anomaly more than a commonality. He finished with five receptions for 49 yards and four first downs. His 44 first downs on the season has him tied for first with Justin Jefferson for rookie wide receivers and T-13th for all receivers.
Hakeem Adeniji returned as the starting left tackle this week as Jonah Williams began his three-week stretch on the Reserve/Injured list. Adeniji only played 10 snaps, and injuries had nothing to do with it.
The Bengals benched their sixth-round rookie tackle after Trayveon Williams ran into his rear end and created Butt Fumble 2.0. The play design featured Adeniji folding behind the down-blocking left guard, which has been a staple play when Adeniji has been at left tackle, but Adeniji met both Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith in the second level. Adeniji tried blocking both of them out of Williams’ path, but he ended up making himself a roadblock instead.
Williams—almost blindly—ran right into Adeniji’s keister and the Bengals were down six more points just a few seconds later.
There were a few other subpar reps from Adeniji that may’ve attributed to the coaches’ decision to pull him. Did he deserved to be benched for this play alone? It’s arguably a more damning moment for Williams if we’re being honest, but there is a case against Adeniji from a coaching standpoint. Adeniji’s responsibility could be to take out Vander Esch, the MIKE, and leave Smith for Williams to try and make miss. We don’t know for sure, all we know is that Fred Johnson came in and finished the game at left tackle.
Adeniji started at left tackle against the Steelers a month ago and had a genuinely impressive afternoon. Perhaps that is what will give him the nod over Johnson next Monday.
Here are two facts for you.
- Cincinnati’s triad of rookie linebackers played a combined 21 defensive snaps.
- Markus Bailey played eight of them.
In recent weeks, Logan Wilson has been playing the majority of games along with starters Josh Bynes and Germaine Pratt, so it was surprising to see him on the sidelines as much as Bailey normally is. Wilson and Akeem Davis-Gaither were on the field for the first two third downs. On the next drive, it was Wilson and Jordan Evans out there on third downs with Wilson taking over for Pratt on a couple of early down plays.
We didn’t see Wilson at all after the first half, and this is because he suffered a foot injury sometime during the game.
Logan Wilson's last play, per NFL Next Gen, was the opening kickoff of the second half. Didn't play another snap after that.— Santa Baby (@Ben_Baby) December 14, 2020
Evans and Davis-Gaither came on for the first third down of the third quarter, and then Bailey got his turn.
Bailey came onto the field for Bynes on the second drive of third quarter. You could tell he was a bit rusty because he looked lost on his second snap.
This was an eyesore, but Bailey didn’t look out of position on any other play. He began the next drive with Pratt and was subbed out until the fourth quarter, when he was much better at filling his run fits.
Speaking of filling run fits, here’s one of Khalid Kareem’s seven snaps:
Kareem’s mere seven snaps tied his season low, and since he doesn’t really offer much as a pass-rusher, it’s understandable why he’s not out there much. The issue is no edge rusher aside from Carl Lawson offers much in that department either.