When you really boil it down, the Cincinnati Bengals’ 0-2 start is not the most shocking development in the NFL.
This team is almost entirely the same as last year’s squad that started sluggish aside from the offensive line, and that unit has not played up to par. Just think back to the first two weeks of last year. Had Dalvin Cook’s fumble not been overturned, the Bengals start 2021 as an 0-2 team. A lot of the issues from early last year are popping up again in droves.
Such continuity, good or bad, also leaves little room for rookie contributors. Here’s how the four active rookies performed against the Dallas Cowboys.
There’s a lot of talking points regarding the offensive line right now, and about 2% of them involve hints of optimism. With the rookie at left guard, it’s a mixed bag right now. In comparison to his teammates at left and right tackle, Volson is doing fine in pass protection. The numbers indicated that he held up against Dallas, surrendering zero pressures and a Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade just below 90. That’s the macro-view of things; the micro-view paints an issue.
Volson and Jonah Williams are having issues dealing with twists and stunts. When Volson is taking aggressive jump sets, he’s sacrificing his depth relative to Williams on the edge. This leaves the gap between the two vulnerable for inside rushes from the edge, and passing off rushers to one another becomes much more difficult. Well-executed rushes can lead to pockets becoming broken even if neither blocker loses immediately. Volson never really lost as a pass-blocker on Sunday, but too many times he and Williams ended up in precarious spots that led to a disruptive pocket.
That can be ironed out with the two spending more time next to each other. Volson’s run blocking, on the other hand, is a problem he needs to address himself. It’s where he struggled the most against the Cowboys. Allowing quick penetration and missing assignments in their base zone packages is no bueno, and the latter can be further proof that this iteration of the line might be better suited to fully transition to a gap-scheme unit.
The only other rookie getting more than an ounce of playing time is also struggling on run downs. Carter saw the field early when the defense was getting gashed by the Cowboys and didn’t look great. It’s not uncommon for rookie defensive lineman to be late coming off blocks and losing the ball, but it doesn’t help when he’s their only defensive tackle coming off the bench when they deploy their base 5-down linemen fronts. Thus far, PFF has Carter at a 33.2 in run defense.
But again, early days for a position that’s not easy to play full-time.
Two snaps for a healthy first-round pick is alarming on the surface, but the context matters. Hill is still more of a reserve than an impact-player right now, and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo knows his skillset doesn’t translate as well in defending the run. Well, getting down early to a backup quarterback usually means the defense is going to be stopping the run for most of the game. Hence why Hill never really saw the field.
When (or if) the Bengals start getting into shootouts, the time to track Hill’s real usage will come.
Where on the field was Dax Hill?
- Free safety: one snap
- Slot corner: one snap
A solid debut from the undrafted rookie at long snapper. There’s not going to be much to say about Adomitis’ season, so this might be the lone time he’s mentioned here. Never getting mentioned for doing your job correctly comes with the territory.