Having a bye week in the exact middle of the season is ideal for a mental reset. But for rookies, it’s the only chance they’ve gotten to pump the brakes since the start of the calendar year.
It’s also a perfect chance to conduct some midseason evaluations.
Here’s how the Cincinnati Bengals rookie class has performed thus far in 2022.
- Offensive snaps: 617
- Special teams snaps: 40
- Main position: Left guard
The only person on the entire team that has played every single offensive or defensive snap is Volson. Snaps played isn’t always useful when looking for positives, but in Volson’s case, the continuity he’s experienced has allowed him to fit right in with an o-line that has improved every week.
But don’t just take our word for it, head coach Zac Taylor has also seen the transformation.
“Whenever you say a lineman is quietly having a nice rookie season, that’s a good thing, because you’re not hearing his name much. He’s just been really confident,” Taylor said of Volson. “I think that’s the key for a rookie. You see just this air of confidence on his face.”
From Weeks 6-10, Volson ranks first among seven rookie starting guards in all three of Pro Football Focus’ blocking grades (overall, pass, and run). He hasn’t been charged with a sack since Week 4 against the Miami Dolphins, and is averaging just one penalty every two games.
Volson’s confidence is well-earned, and there’s nothing to indicate he won’t continue ironing out his game from here.
- Defensive snaps: 238
- Special teams snaps: 42
- Main position: 3-technique
Replacing DJ Reader (and later Josh Tupou) for over a month became a combined effort for the entire defensive line, and Carter was exposed to nearly a full workload.
Ideally, Carter was supposed to play 15-20 snaps at most per week behind B.J. Hill and develop his craft as a pass-rusher. Reader and Tupou’s injuries forced Carter into a starter’s role. From Weeks 4-9, he averaged just over 31 snaps per game, and the production was minimal. PFF has him with just one pressure generated in 100 pass-rushing snaps on the year.
Perhaps Carter isn’t going to become a serviceable pocket-pusher this year, and that’s fine. The increased role has given him experience against the run, and that’s where the most growth has occurred with his game. Carter showed out against the Atlanta Falcons with four stops in the Week 7 win. He’s slowly turning into an asset, which has helped slow the bleeding while Reader’s been away.
Now that Reader is back in the middle of the defensive line, Carter’s usage will go back down to a reasonable level.
- Defensive snaps: 148
- Special teams snaps: 8
- Main position: Cornerback
Volson and Carter have both taken unique paths to earn their roles, and Taylor-Britt is no different.
The second-round pick was pegged to come in and directly challenge Eli Apple as one the starting cornerbacks. Whether that was the plan or not, that didn’t transpire. A training camp injury seemingly halted any and all plans of Taylor-Britt playing during the first half of the season, but he got his chance in Week 7 while Apple was entering a lull.
Since that game, in which he was was hardly tested, Taylor-Britt has experienced few victories and many critical teaching moments—such is the life of a rookie cornerback. At the very least, he’s flashed in run support with 10 tackles (and only one missed) in 76 snaps. It’s the three penalties in nearly as many coverage snaps that is a cause for concern.
The game slows down differently for each player, but the Bengals will need him to get up to speed for the remainder of the year. He’ll get to finish the season as a starter with Chidobe Awuzie now recovering from a torn ACL.
- Defensive snaps: 48
- Special teams snaps: 111
- Main position: Cornerback
Hill showed everything you wanted to see from a rookie safety in the preseason. After taking all the first-team reps during offseason programs and training camp, Hill played admirably in his two exhibitions before Jessie Bates III returned to take his spot. In a way, that was Hill’s main goal this year: to prove that he had the tools to eventually replace Bates for the long-term.
Seeing Hill on the field in the regular season has been a rarity, and the injuries at cornerback only slightly increased Hill’s playing time of late. He repped out 20 snaps in Week 8 against the Cleveland Browns, but just three snaps against the Carolina Panthers. You could argue that he would’ve played more in that second game had he not injured his shoulder.
Hill will start the second half of the year recovering and will be implemented back into a special teams role once he returns. If there was ever a plan to consistently rotate him in the starting defense, it was never apparent to us.
- Defensive snaps: 13
- Special teams snaps: 63
- Main position: Left edge defender
Another preseason star-turned-backstory, Gunter didn’t have great odds finding a role in this year’s group of edge rushers. The seventh-round pick has been the fifth on the depth chart and opportunities to crack the rotation just haven’t existed with the group being completely healthy aside from Trey Hendrickson’s stinger.
Perhaps the most notable development has been the team keeping Gunter and demoting Khalid Kareem to the practice squad after the latter returned from Injured Reserve. We’ll see if his role changes as the season progresses.
- Special teams snaps: 64
- Main position: Long snapper
Not every team starts the year with a long snapper on the practice squad. The Bengals picked a great year to have one ready and available.
Adomitis has been damn near flawless since taking over for the injured Clark Harris after Week 1. Cincinnati’s special teams has taken a dip this year, but chemistry between Adomitis and punter/holder Kevin Huber hasn’t been the catalyst for it. That is something to watch for if Huber is supplanted by Drue Chrisman in the near future.
- Defensive snaps: 20
- Special teams snaps: 6
- Main position: Cornerback
Adomitis got signed from the practice squad, while George has only been elevated from it once this year. He became the defense’s fifth cornerback in their most recent game against the Panthers and played well. His services may be needed down the stretch if further injuries occur in the secondary.
No snaps played:
- S Tycen Anderson (I.R.)
- OL Ben Brown (I.R.)
- WR Kwamie Lassiter II (Practice Squad)
- OL Devin Cochran (Practice Squad)
- S Yusuf Corker (Practice Squad)