Even in a new era of team building through free agency for the Cincinnati Bengals, the parallels between team success and rookie production is as strong as ever.
The Bengals’ two-game losing streak has been brought on by a multitude of problems. It just so happens that it coincides with their young players encountering struggles that are common with early NFL life.
It’s a great time for a bye week. Let’s see how the rookies are doing after a 41-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Due to Cam Sample’s illness and knee injury, the Bengals needed Tyler Shelvin to dress for the first time all season. But if you blinked or already turned the game off in the fourth quarter, you may’ve missed him on the field. Shelvin played a grand total of four snaps, all in the final period.
A game against Cleveland is the exact time you’d expect Shelvin to be active, but he didn’t enter the game until it was well over. The Bengals went heavy up front to combat the Browns’s rushing attack. The results didn’t quite match the intent.
For all of their current flaws, Cincinnati’s defense has been more healthy than not this year. Stable depth along the defensive line has kept Shelvin in street clothes on the sideline, and that should be the case for the rest of the year.
Turnovers cost the Bengals plenty of points on Sunday, and this made Evan McPherson’s day a lot less busier than it should’ve been. McPherson made a 27-yard field goal right before halftime and an extra point to boot. The offense went for two after their second and final touchdown of the day.
Weeks 4 and 5 have been McPherson’s only slip ups this year. He’s 11 of 14 on the year and has yet to miss any of his 27 PATs.
Chris Evans’ hamstring was healed enough for the rookie to play for the first time in three weeks, but only three snaps on offense tells us he’s either not fully back, or he’s still clearly third in the running back rotation. Samaje Perine has done well behind Joe Mixon this year, and Evans might be headed for a new role anyways.
Brandon Wilson is now out for the year with an ACL tear, so there’s a chance Evans could become involved in replacing Wilson on kickoff returns. Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons mentioned that to reporters on Tuesday.
"We're going to find out... We'll try to work him in." Darrin Simmons on Chris Evans and whether he could get reps returning kicks (and maybe punts) going forward in absence of Brandon Wilson. Simmons says punt return is "ever-evolving" #bengals— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) November 9, 2021
Evans simply getting the ball more often on offense is a fine plan, but the issues within that unit transcend beyond the involvement of a sixth-round pick. Errors are being committed by every position group, which is what’s counteracting the production they’re getting from their stars. If consistency is what the coaches are after, it makes sense not throwing an inexperienced Evans out there, but watching Perine drop easy third-down conversions isn’t helping their case when Evans is standing on the sideline.
As garbage time ensued, Trey Hill was the only reserve offensive lineman inserted into the game. He played the final six snaps on offense, and since he was the only backup blocking for Brandon Allen, the logical explanation would be that Trey Hopkins was getting rest. Cincinnati has been managing Hopkins’ workload all year as he’s now 10 full months removed from tearing his ACL.
As impressive it was to watch Ja’Marr Chase torch Marlon Humphrey two weeks ago, the combined efforts from Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II showed us he’s not impervious to top-tier cornerback play.
Ward had the highlight of the day with his full-field pick-six after he stepped in front of Chase on the goal-line. He was only targeted once more when he was covering Chase, and it also resulted in an interception.
Most of the 11 other targets for Chase came when Newsome was covering him, and the first-round rookie deflected two of them away and allowed just 30 yards on three catches. Newsome was responsible for breaking up the three biggest plays Chase could’ve had, one of them being a touchdown that went through Chase’s tightly contested hands.
It wasn’t like last week when the Jets made an emphasis to keep Chase in front of them. The Browns weren’t afraid of playing single-high coverage, and when Burrow saw that and Chase had a vertical route, he wasn’t afraid of putting the ball out there for him. It was just a really off day for Chase and a really great day for Newsome, who is a special young player in his own right.
There was also the fumble, Chase’s second in three weeks. John Johnson III made a fantastic play. Chase was the victim of it.
The bye week has come at a great time for the Bengals, and Chase has a week to make adjustments with his quarterback. He put the league on notice with his dominance in Baltimore. He’s still that guy, but he’s been humbled the last two weeks much like the rest of the team.
Being demoted out of the starting lineup is especially humbling. Jackson Carman did not practice last week despite leaving the Jets game with a back injury, yet it was Hakeem Adeniji who started at right guard and Carman who rode the bench aside from two snaps as a part of the field goal unit.
Adeniji had one week of practice under his belt and the coaching staff wasted no time getting him into the mix, and despite not playing great against Cleveland, he still has the edge at the position coming off the bye, according to offensive coordinator Brian Callahan.
Bengals off. coordinator Brian Callahan said the team hasn’t written off rookie OL Jackson Carman yet. He did add that Hakeem Adeniji “has the edge” right now as he starts against LV— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) November 9, 2021
What does that say about Carman? Nothing particularly good.
Maybe Carman’s back is still bothering him and the team saw an opportunity to give Adeniji a chance. That’s the optimistic viewpoint. The likely one is Carman hasn’t done enough to remain the starter, and there’s tape to back that up.
Carman is not the first offensive lineman to experience major ups and downs as a rookie, and he won’t be the last. For now, he’s back at the bottom of the ride like he was in August.
Did Not Play
- Cam Sample (injured)