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Bengals Week 4 rookie stock report: Evan McPherson follows rare miss with clutch kick

McPherson’s no longer perfect as an NFL kicker, but his first miss did not stop him from getting the Bengals to 3-1.

NFL: SEP 30 Jaguars at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The first and only short week for the Cincinnati Bengals has come and gone for 2021. About 100 hours after flying home from a win on the road, the upstart Bengals took care of business at home in front of a packed house against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

For a team comprised of such promising young players, it was mainly their veterans who stole the show late last week. Let’s go over how the rookies played alongside them.

Stock Rising

This is speculation at the moment, but the only rookie who seems poised to do more at the moment is Chris Evans. It’s hard for him to be less involved, which is no fault of his own.

For the third-straight week, Evans played less than a handful of snaps on offense, but he was not a part of the offensive explosion in the second half. Evans saw the field twice as a route-runner but did not receive a target.

So why is his stock rising? Joe Mixon left the game with what’s being labeled as an ankle sprain. His status is reportedly “week-to-week,” but head coach Zac Taylor didn’t confirm that. Regardless, Mixon might be out for Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers. At the very least, that would make Evans the offense’s No. 2 running back against a defense that’s ranked 26th in Football Outsider’s DVOA metric and 21st in Expected Points Added/play allowed.

Don’t expect Evans to leapfrog Samaje Perine in the depth chart, though. The veteran back should still get the lion’s share of snaps next to Joe Burrow while Mixon heals up.

Stock Stagnating

Maybe the Bengals did make the wrong choice in the NFL draft. You mean to tell me Ja’Marr Chase isn’t going to score touchdowns every single week? What’s the point?

Jokes aside, Chase had another solid outing. His six receptions for 77 yards came on an early season-high of nine targets, which was second to just Tyler Boyd this week. He technically had 10 targets, but one of them was followed by a flag for offensive pass interference on the offense’s first drive.

That unfortunate penalty ended up being a turning point for the first half. Chase only saw one more pass come his way before the second half as the offense stalled out for four-straight drives. Something had to change offensively, and that started with another deep shot to Chase down the left sideline.

Chase was also being lined up in the slot more in the second half as the Jaguars tried to shadow him with cornerback Shaquill Griffin, ESPN’s Mike Clay wisely observed. He’s at a near 75%-25% split with outside and slot usage through four weeks.

It’s still early days with Jackson Carman at right guard and it’s not all been pretty. He continued to flash power and quickness against the Jags, but some sloppy mistakes in pass protection were hard to miss upon rewatching the game.

It’s these inconsistencies that may have the coaching staff pausing before declaring Carman the undisputed starter when Xavier Su’a-Filo returns from his knee injury. Taylor said Monday that Carman would start against Green Bay since Su’a-Filo is not 100% healthy yet, but Carman could use a convincing performance to keep himself in good graces.

It was fitting that the beginning of a forgettable first half featured the first miss of Evan McPherson’s NFL career. 43 yards out from the left hash, McPherson hooked his attempt just over the top of the left post. You could honestly make the argument that it would’ve snuck inside had it been lower, but due to the height of the ball over the post, it would’ve made a tough case to prove.

Perfection was not the expectation for the rookie kicker out of Florida, but it was fascinating to wonder how long it would persist. He had to miss sometime, and the Bengals are lucky it came without eventual consequences.

McPherson responded with three perfect point after attempts and was called upon, again, to win the game at the buzzer in front of a home crowd. McPherson nailed his 35-yard game-winner from the right hash, just two yards back from his clutch Week 1 boot.

On the surface, Cam Sample playing just 10 snaps after averaging a little over 27 through the first three weeks is a bit concerning, but context matters here. 80% of Sample’s snaps before Thursday night had come on passing plays, and he was on the field to defend against 35% of those passing plays. The Jags dropped back to pass just 29 times, and Sample was on the field for seven of them. 24% is a slight drop from 35%, but not enough to warrant concern on his behalf. We’ll see if this becomes a trend.

Sample’s slight downturn in usage unfortunately didn’t mean anything for Darius Hodge, who once again was stuck on special teams duties. The same went for Trey Hill.

Did not play

  • Tyler Shelvin (inactive)
  • D’Ante Smith