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Bengals Week 3 rookie stock report: Ja’Marr Chase isn’t slowing down, Jackson Carman seizing opportunity

Cincinnati’s offense bounced back with both Chase and Carman in the starting lineup for the first time.

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The more the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster changes from the Marvin Lewis era, the less they seem to care about the club’s painful history with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Last December had all the makings of a whacky outing. They were fired up to blow up JuJu Smith-Schuster for his pre-game antics, and Pittsburgh was completely caught off guard by Ryan Finley’s running ability. It was a shocking affair that appeared to be a fluke when compared to the recent history of a once interesting rivalry.

Nine months later, the new-look Bengals proved the status quo has indeed changed. In fitting fashion, one of the most captivating stories from the 24-10 victory involves a player brand new to the now reinvigorated rivalry. Let’s examine how the rookies looked in their first game against the last-place Steelers.

Stock Rising

Pretty soon, Ja’Marr Chase is going to have no more room to keep boosting his stock. On the other hand, he started pretty low considering his hands were deemed useless by the general public four weeks ago.

Let’s start with the raw production. Chase racked up four receptions for 64 yards and two touchdowns on just five targets. He beat two different Pittsburgh cornerbacks for his third and fourth touchdowns of the young season. Those two plays would’ve been enough to outscore the Steelers alone.

All they really needed was this first one against cornerback James Pierre. Allow the great Matt Waldman to elegantly explain the beautiful details.

This is the Ja’Marr Chase impact. This is exactly what it looks and feels like. Just think about the context for a minute.

The Steelers took almost 10 minutes off the clock on a 15-play, 86-yard touchdown drive to tie the game up at seven a piece. They left just 1:04 for the Bengals to do something at the end of the first half.

Against that team, a tie game through two quarters is normally a monumental W for Cincinnati.

Chase knows no heartbreak from the Steelers. He only knows winning. The offense had greater ambitions this time around.

With seven—not three—points on their mind, Joe Burrow took a couple deep shots against the Steelers’ secondary. The first was to Tyler Boyd, who dropped an absolute dime in-between three defenders. The second was to Chase, who had one-on-one coverage against a single-high coverage that originally looked like it was two-deep instead.

Having that aggressive mindset is the first step. Having the playmaker to turn concepts into results is what brings it all together. Thanks to Chase, the Bengals now have the ability to break open tight games whenever they desire. To Hell with your antiquated AFC North narratives of running the ball.

With that 34-yard score, Chase became the only player in the Super Bowl era to record a 30+ yard receiving touchdown in each of his first three games, per CBS’s NFL Twitter. After securing his second touchdown of the game, coming against cornerback Joe Haden, he became the seventh receiver in the Super Bowl era to score four touchdowns in his first three games. The last player to do so was Calvin Ridley in 2018.

Ridley’s quick rise to stardom for the Falcons three years ago also coincidentally matches Chase’s hot start. It should be noted that Ridley was held catch-less in his first game, so all of his production outside of two targets came in Weeks 2 and 3.

Ja’Marr Chase and Calvin Ridley’s First Three Games

Player Age Year Team Targets Receptions Yards Yds/Rec Touchdowns Yds/Route Run PFF Receiving Grade
Player Age Year Team Targets Receptions Yards Yds/Rec Touchdowns Yds/Route Run PFF Receiving Grade
Ja'Marr Chase 21 2021 CIN 16 11 220 20 4 2.75 76.6
Calvin Ridley 23 2018 ATL 15 11 210 19.09 4 2.41 78.6

Chase’s 16 total targets through three weeks puts him second behind Boyd (19) and ahead of Tee Higgins (15), who missed Sunday’s game and may not play on Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The most logical progression for Chase is to simply see more high-percentage targets in the short and intermediary parts of the field. He’s playing too well to not be featured more often in other areas of the passing game.

At first glance, Jackson Carman had a solid outing after a rocky beginning to his first-ever start at right guard. The one time Burrow looked under duress on the Bengals’ first third down was because of the rookie, who simply didn’t see the additional edge rusher to his right. Two drives later, he was flagged for a false start when the play clock got down to five seconds.

There were still 49 minutes left in the game, and Carman looked quite alright beyond the first quarter. Pro Football Focus graded him out at 68.8 in pass protection, but they did not charge him with the aforementioned miscue like they should have. He fit right in with Riley Reiff pass blocking to the right of Trey Hopkins. There were some blemishes in the run game, but nothing catastrophic. He’s earned the opportunity to start again on Thursday, which head coach Zac Taylor confirmed will happen Monday afternoon.

Stock Stagnating

While Cam Sample recorded his first-career sack Sunday, his overall performance very much matched what his first two games looked like.

The sack was him pushing back backup tight end Zach Gentry and ending up next to Ben Roethlisberger. It was Trey Hendrickson and D.J. Reader’s rushes that pressured Roethlisberger and forced the senior citizen to step up into Sample’s grasp. Great for the box score, decent for the tape evaluation. He just isn’t winning too often in obvious pass-rushing situations, which is when he’s playing the vast majority of his snaps. He is playing almost exclusively on the edge, and his game may be better utilized inside for now.

Five snaps and two targets for Chris Evans is more than the two snaps and lone target he got last week, but it’s not enough for us to fully expect more from Evans going forward. Not yet, anyways. At least one of his targets didn’t come on a third-and-forever.

As a part of the trips formation to the left of Burrow, Evans was the target of a mesh concept over the middle and converted a third-and-three. He gained an additional 10 yards after running past safety Minkah Fitzpatrick at the first down marker. The play got Evans to 26 yards and two catches on the afternoon.

The wind coming through Heinz Field negatively impacted one of the kickers on Sunday. It wasn’t Evan McPherson, though. The rookie remained perfect on the year with three extra points and a 43-yard field goal. This is the standard the 22-year old has established. The first time he misses will be a mild shock to us all.

Per usual, Trey Hill only saw the field for field goal blocking. Darius Hodge got in on five pass-rushing snaps, a season-high thus far, but didn’t record any pressures.

Did Not Play

  • D’Ante Smith
  • Tyler Shelvin (inactive)