The Bengals’ roster is down to 80 players, but rookies still only make up less than 20% of the team. Nevertheless, it’s the rookies who are dominating the headlines for this franchise right now. It’s a shame most of the headlines are for unfortunate reasons.
News broke Sunday morning that Joseph Ossai had also suffered a torn meniscus against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a few plays before injuring his wrist. It was a sobering announcement that followed an inadequate loss to the Washington Football Team. We don’t yet know is Ossai will miss the entire season, but the defense will surely miss him for however long he’s sidelined.
There’s also this first-round pick who’s underwhelmed recently, but more on that later. Let’s see whose stock has risen first.
NFL life in 2020 was the harshest to new college free agents, as very few of them made regular season rosters last year. The preseason is the biggest blessing for those players, and the return of preseason football has given Darius Hodge a platform to prove himself.
After capturing our curiosity against Tampa Bay in Week 1, Hodge grabbed our attention against Washington in Week 2 with a couple pressures and a hit on quarterback Taylor Heinicke. His stock would be rising by itself just from the Ossai news. The Bengals just need able bodies on the edge, but Hodge is playing well enough to make the team with or without Ossai healthy.
There’s no question whether or not Jackson Carman will make the team; second-round picks essentially need to break the law in order to not make it out of their first offseason. Carman had been falling down the depth chart since training camp began. He then had a so-so performance against the Buccaneers, which didn’t help or hurt his standing at the right guard battle. Against Washington, Carman’s run blocking was commendable and his pass blocking looked improved as well. It wasn’t a perfect 28-snap outing, but progress is progress.
Carman is still behind Xavier Su’a-Filo at right guard, but with neither Su’a-Filo nor Jordan grabbing hold of the starting job just yet, Carman at least has a chance of leveraging his most recent performance in a last-ditch effort to beat out both veterans. He’s still putting in the extra work after nearly every practice, so it seems like he’s getting the message his coaches sent him.
It’s going to be weird seeing Evan McPherson miss for the first time, because for how powerful his right leg is, it’s showing to be just as accurate. McPherson drilled both his field goal tries against Washington, including his first kick from 50+ yards. Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons should give McPherson the day off on Sunday so Austin Seibert can boost his chances of latching on somewhere else; this kicker “battle” is very much over.
Through two weeks, it’s clear Chris Evans is going to be a fun player. But his quickness with the ball in his hands is only why he’ll be a factor in the regular season. Evans continued to shine in pass protection on Friday, and in an offense that should prioritize keeping its quarterback hit fewer times than last year, he’s definitely shown his worth in that regard.
Ja’Marr Chase is why I delayed this article a little bit. Because if this was written right after Friday’s game, he’d undoubtedly be in the next category.
Chase had a bad game; you can’t sugarcoat three drops on three targets. The game was not necessarily an outlier, either. He had also been dealing with drops during camp, even with Joe Burrow throwing him passes. Two days later during the team’s first practice back home, Chase drops two more passes and the internet goes bonkers with it.
Then the next practice happens and Chase remembers how to catch a football. Who would’ve thought!
One practice may not mean much as a game, but it’s not like Chase was going to be benched before the regular season. His importance in the offense remains large enough to let him grow through his mistakes.
Tyler Shelvin led the team’s defensive tackles in snaps with 33, just like Trey Hill led all interior offensive linemen with 45. Shelvin is all but confirmed to make the team, unlike Hill, but he’s clearly still finding his footing out there. Hill impressed with his run blocking on Friday and looks like a prime practice squad player. He needed Billy Price to falter these last two weeks and the veteran is playing just well enough to hold onto his roster spot.
The practice squad is all that Gunnar Vogel can hope for at this point. While he didn’t look completely lost like he did in Week 1, he’s still Gunnar Vogel.
On top of Ossai’s injury, Cameron Sample is now dealing with what’s been called a minor shoulder injury. Missed time for a fourth-round rookie is never good, as D’Ante Smith could agree, but hopefully it is what we think it is and he’ll be back in time for Week 1.
Pooka Williams Jr. may still be with the team at that time, but only on the practice squad. Williams got one snap in his NFL debut on an end-around run that went for eight yards. He then got injured in Sunday’s practice.
Did not play
- Antonio Phillips (injury)
- D’Ante Smith (injury)
- Drue Chrisman (injury)
- Joseph Ossai (injury)
- Wyatt Hubert (injury)