It’s easier identifying which players for the Cincinnati Bengals don’t need to improve after the team’s third 0-2 start in four seasons. But just like the Cleveland Browns used them to get right two Thursday nights ago, the Bengals have a struggling Philadelphia Eagles to do the same this Sunday.
These are the players who will have our attention.
After all that discourse surrounding the Bengals either extending A.J. Green or letting him play on the franchise tag, the Bengals appear to have made the right decision so far. Green either looks mighty rusty after missing the last year-and-a-half, or he’s just no longer in his prime at 32 years of age. These sentiments are strong after watching his performance last against the Cleveland Browns, but it’s easy to forget he could’ve easily eclipsed 100 receiving yards against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1 if not for a couple missed throws from Joe Burrow.
Basically, we haven’t seen enough to know for sure what kind of season Green will have. But after a nine day break, the Eagles’ weak pass defense (27th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric) looks like the ideal opponent to get Green back on track.
Here’s something we think we know: Zac Taylor doesn’t care what Auden Tate’s agent thinks. But Taylor would want to maintain a good relationship with Tate himself.
Tate’s agent, Deiric Jackson, went public last week expressing displeasure in his client being inactive against the Browns. Since the Bengals shouldn’t have to elevate two players up from the practice squad this week, there should be room to get Tate dressed for the game. The question is: how much does he play?
Tate only played 15 snaps in Week 1 against the Chargers, and that seems like a reasonable expectation to be met. Will Tate actually get targeted this time? He’ll face the same secondary as Green, so he’ll have his chances to do damage.
If you’ve paid attention to this week’s injury reports, Billy Price wasn’t listed on any of them, so he seems to have fully recovered from his ankle injury. That’s the reason we were given as to why Fred Johnson started at right guard against the Browns. And after a shaky performance, at best, the Bengals are rolling Johnson back out there this week.
Luckily for Johnson, it doesn’t seem like Fletcher Cox is healthy enough to play. Cox’s absence will be felt all over the Eagles defensive line, but he usually goes up against the right guard. This should make Johnson’s day a bit easier, but he still needs to put together a better performance if he’s to prove why he should be on the field.
Only one edge defender in the entire NFL with at least 50 snaps played has a pass rushing grade from Pro Football Focus lower than 50: Sam Hubbard’s 47.4. It’s just one factor in Cincinnati’s inability to rush the passer so far this year, and if Hubbard doesn’t step up soon, he can kiss a contract extension next offseason goodbye.
Hubbard has seen nearly equal time rushing off the right and left edge through two weeks, but he would do better in going up against a 38-year old Jason Peters at left tackle for this game instead of a fully healthy Lane Johnson at right tackle.
The Browns put on a clinic in the running game last Thursday, and Wilson was one of the worst Bengals trying to stop it. He was only on the field for eight run plays, but received a run defense grade of 26.6 from PFF.
It’s not like the veterans in front of Wilson on the depth chart are so much more impressive that Wilson can’t get on the field, but the more we get to see of Wilson, the sooner we’ll find out if he’s worth the time. Any more games like the one he played on Thursday and it might be Markus Bailey’s time to shine.