Losing as a two-score favorite on the road is quite the wake up call.
The Cincinnati Bengals were stunned by the New York Jets in East Rutherford this week. Despite players and coaches saying the right things leading up to the loss, they were inexplicably outplayed by one of the worst performing clubs in the league.
It’s sobering games like this one that can make teams stronger, or break them for the remainder of the year. The Bengals believe the former will occur, and with how well their rookie class is playing, that’s certainly possible. But every player needed to look himself in the mirror after Sunday, including the youngest ones.
Here’s where the rookies stand after the Bengals’ Week 8 defeat to the Jets.
Two Sunday nights ago, Dan Le Batard Show executive producer Mike Ryan Ruiz called Ja’Marr Chase not the NFL Rookie of the Year, but the MVP after Chase dominated the Baltimore Ravens. It’s only fitting that the Bengals end up losing on what was an off day for Chase.
Zac Taylor said it best during his Monday presser; the Jets did everything in their power to stay on top of Chase. They succeeded as Chase ended up with just 32 receiving yards and an Average Depth of Target of 4.1 yards. Both were season-lows for Chase. In fact, despite his low ADoT for this game, his season average is exactly 15, which is still third in the NFL.
Limiting Chase was a focal point for New York, but Chase also helped them out by dropping his first two targets, one of them a would-be touchdown. Joe Burrow’s first end zone attempt fell right between Chase’s hands right next to the front-left pylon. Burrow then took a fourth-down sack on the following play. In a game that was decided by three points, it’s difficult to look past that six points falling through Chase’s hands.
But it would not be an NFL Sunday without a touchdown from Uno. On a broken play at the opposite goal-line in the second quarter, Chase broke towards the other front-left pylon, in sync with Burrow as always, and hauled in his seventh score of the season.
Call it redemption if you want, Sunday is just another example of why Chase’s preseason struggles didn’t stop him from setting defenses on fire in his first seven games. Drops are mostly random, and Burrow is not going to start distrusting him just because they pop up here and there. That said, it’s promising that Tee Higgins (97 yards, four receptions) and Tyler Boyd (69 yards, five receptions, touchdown) were able to come alive in response to the Jets’ focus on Chase.
Khalid Kareem returning was going to impact Cam Sample in some way. Sample’s snaps (22) didn’t take too bad of a hit, but his usage was altered. Sample played 88% of his snaps on the left side of the defensive line while Kareem was on Injured Reserve. On Sunday, Sample was used almost exclusively on the right side, rotating in behind Trey Hendrickson instead of Sam Hubbard.
The change in alignment didn’t do much for boosting Sample’s production. He’s just been existing within the structure of the defense and not doing too much to impact opposing blockers. As much as the Bengals could use a breakout performance from their fourth-round pick, there aren’t many signs pointing to that happening.
Cincinnati wasn’t perfect in this three-week road trip, but Evan McPherson was. He hit his only field goal attempt inside MetLife Stadium from 21 yards and all four of his extra point attempts. McPherson made all 13 of his total kicks since the debacle against the Green Bay Packers.
Re-occurring injuries are no joke. So when Jackson Carman reached for his back on the turf late in the fourth quarter, that’s precisely where my mind went.
Carman had surgery on his back a few months before the Bengals made him the 46th pick in the NFL Draft this year. The procedure impacted his pre-draft process, but considering where he ended up, it didn’t cost him much of anything. His entire first year with the Bengals has been injury-free, which has allowed him to make strides in his development and work through issues in the form of reps.
But development isn’t linear, as showcased by Sunday with his 17.2 grade on true pass sets. Sheldon Rankins spent a lot of his time lined up across from Carman and had one of his better days as a Jet. Rankins and the entire Jets defensive line had their way against the run as well.
It appears Carman’s injury isn’t serious as Taylor described it as “day-to-day,” but that diagnoses could still sideline him for next Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. This would leave Trey Hill as the final man up unless Xavier Su’a-Filo makes his return off of I.R. Hill notched his third penalty of the season in his fourth and final snap of the game whilst playing for Carman. He’s averaging a penalty every 20 snaps in just three games played.
Hill was never seen as an immediate starting option for this year, but when he’s out there, he’s a clear liability for defenses to exploit. If he has to play against Cleveland’s fearsome front four, that’s a weak spot Cincinnati can’t easily hide.
Did Not Play
- Tyler Shelvin (inactive)
- Chris Evans (hamstring)
- Darius Hodge (inactive)
- Nick McCloud (inactive)