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Bengals rookie report: Dax Hill gets a shot at cornerback

Injuries may force Hill to quickly adapt.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Welp. This is where they are.

The benefit of having a healthy and talented veteran roster is there’s no need to rely on rookies before they’re ready. That luxury has expired in an instant.

Three rookies for the Cincinnati Bengals started in Monday night’s loss to the Cleveland Browns, and one became a very important reserve late in the evening. They all combined for 194 snaps from scrimmage, which is a season-high for the team. And with the defense hurting from losses in the secondary, expect that number might be topped very soon.

Cam Taylor-Britt

In a game of inches, Taylor-Britt came that close to preventing the Browns’ first explosive play of the night.

Knowing that he had help inside with Jessie Bates as the centerfield safety, Taylor-Britt correctly played with outside leverage as Donovan Peoples-Jones stemmed his route to the inside, but the third-year receiver broke off to the outside under Taylor-Britt at the top of the route, and the rookie cornerback couldn’t quite catch up to the throw. By risking it all and diving at the pass, Peoples-Jones had space to gain 20 yards after the catch.

Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo had a simple message to Taylor-Britt after the play: “Don’t ever do that again.”

It was the first of four receptions—for 60 yards—Taylor-Britt allowed for the night. He was targeted four times.

The most unfortunate rep came much later in the third quarter. Playing off coverage, Taylor-Britt carried a vertical route from Amari Cooper despite Bates doing the same. This led to Peoples-Jones running free in a vacant zone for an easy completion downfield. This is what’s known as a Yankee concept, and the Browns executed it perfectly.

One of these two is supposed to fall off and carry the deep crosser, and it’s (probably) not Bates.

When the secondary is at full strength, Cincinnati is able to cover route concepts with instant recognition of who’s supposed to carry and who’s supposed to stay.

Taylor-Britt may be fine in man-to-man situations, but his inexperience with the rest of the group may continue to cost the Bengals big plays on defense if opponents can capitalize on their opportunities like the Browns did.

Dax Hill

Right after he was drafted, there was a conversation amongst Bengals fans if Hill could play cornerback this year.

This was before Taylor-Britt entered the picture, and when there was belief that Eli Apple was on the hot seat for a roster spot. Hill hasn’t played the position since high school, but his time at multiple spots in Michigan’s secondary and his general athleticism made the idea plausible on the surface.

When Tre Flowers went out of the game due to injury, the Bengals had no choice but to put Hill out on the boundary along with Taylor-Britt. His first snap in coverage happened before anyone on the field seemed to be ready for it.

As soon as center Ethan Pocic got his hand on the ball, the play began while Hill was adjusting his chinstrap. The rookie immediately resorted to recovery mode, trying to not get stacked by Cooper on the outside. When Vonn Bell came to help over the top, Hill and Cooper seemed to slow down, assuming the ball wouldn’t come there way, and Brissett flung it deep anyways as Cooper left both Hill and Bell in the dust.

It was just one of his two coverage snaps on the outside, and if Eli Apple—who’s day-to-day with a hamstring—can’t play this week, we might see more of him this week.

Where on the field was Dax Hill?

  • Wide corner: 10 snaps
  • Box: six snaps
  • slot corner: three snaps

Zach Carter

There’s not going to be tougher weeks for any defensive lineman than going up against Cleveland. Carter played 50+ snaps against Joel Bitonio and company, and the results weren’t that much different compared to what he’s been during his first seven games. From that perspective, it’s a relative win.

Still, Carter’s run defense grade on the year is 27.1, which is almost identical to what it was from this game: 27.0. For every rep where he holds his gap, he’s getting blown off the line about four more times. He at least made a nice backside tackle for loss on Nick Chubb!

Cordell Volson

Five sacks allowed usually means the entire offensive line gets thrown under the bus, and that’s not fair. The disastrous reps from Jonah Williams and Joe Mixon shouldn’t bring down every one else.

Along with Ted Karras and Alex Cappa, Volson played more than well enough against the Browns. The trio combined for an average pass-blocking grades in 14 true pass sets of 76.9. Volson was the only one to allow a single pressure.

Since Week 5, Volson is first in true set pass pass-blocking grade (70.0) and efficiency (97.8) among seven starting rookie guards.