The Cincinnati Bengals are riding high after beating the Bills to extend their winning streak to four games.
However, to keep that streak going, they may have to do so without the services of Ja’Marr Chase, who could be out next week against the Houston Texans with a back injury. And with the following game being a short turnaround vs. the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football, there’s a real chance Chase misses the next two contests.
While that is really unfortunate, let’s not forget that Chase missed four games last year with a hip injury and that the Cincinnati Bengals offense was able to stay afloat, thanks to guys stepping up.
Here’s who will have to make bigger contributions this time.
The fourth-year receiver just had his best game of the season against the Buffalo Bills, with eight receptions on nine targets for 110 yards. But he has been held to under 25 yards in four of the other seven games he’s played. Part of that was due to a rib fracture Higgins suffered in Week 4, but he seems to be healing well from it.
If Chase can’t go, Higgins will be seeing more than the 7.2 targets per game he has so far this year. We all know he has the talent to make the most out of those opportunities.
Now, he just needs to go out there and do it on a weekly basis.
Boyd is one of those guys who are always there when you need him. He doesn’t make as many highlight plays as Chase or Higgins, but if you want to feature him more in the offense, he never disappoints.
This year, Boyd is averaging a career-low 8.3 yards per reception. He is also on pace for the second-fewest yards of his career, just barely ahead of the pace of a rookie year in which he had 603 yards. In other words, we all know Boyd can do more. He just hasn’t had to yet.
Saying this, Boyd is coming off one of his best games of the season, catching three passes for a season-high 56 yards, including a monster grab on the Bengals’ final drive that helped put the game on ice.
picture perfect all around— John Sheeran (@John__Sheeran) November 6, 2023
single high safety is shaded overtop chase to the boundary (out of the play).
slide protection check is only applicable if you trust the RB on an island (mixon got it done well enough)
timing of the throw couldn't have been better
incredible play call https://t.co/fQdvNh3kiq pic.twitter.com/kDGfEaoldI
Tyler Boyd with some beautiful change of pace and hesitation to set up this touchdown. Great tracking, late hands, and body control as well to finish it with a touchdown. The throw is an absolute dime as well. pic.twitter.com/mDp4tAWfvy— mike (@bengals_sans) October 31, 2023
Last year, when Chase missed Week 8 through 12, that was when Irwin finally got his chance. And he responded with some solid plays.
More importantly, though, just getting on the field gave him and his QB the confidence that he could be a contributor.
After that run, it was made clear that Irwin knows the offense and his place in it. So, while he might not be a burner like Chase, he should be good for 40 to 70 of Joe Burrow’s passing yards per game.
Just this season, Irwin stepped up in Week 5 when Higgins was out with his rib injury, catching eight of 10 targets for 60 yards in the 34-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
The fifth-year undrafted tight end got his chance on Sunday Night Football, and he definitely delivered. He was shielding his body from defenders and gobbling up four of the five passes thrown in his direction.
Now, he could be called upon to provide that production every single week.
Tanner Hudson is having himself a game pic.twitter.com/gGljpVqNDx— WINCINNATI (@WINCINNATI_) November 6, 2023
Irv Smith Jr.
The man who had previously disappointed in replacing Hayden Hurst had a redemption moment in the Bills game, scoring the first touchdown of the game. He is a gifted receiver, and now he could form a strong tight end tandem with Hudson.
In fact, more two tight end formations could be just what this team needs as the cold months approach and the Bengals have upcoming clashes with all three AFC North rivals remaining on the schedule, including at Baltimore in Week 11 and vs. Pittsburgh in Week 12.
Irv Smith Jr too physical and quick for Jordan Poyer to slow with a hand on his arm pic.twitter.com/ExbfVzo3hM— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 6, 2023
Others to watch
- RB Chris Evans: Evans has been used more as a pass catcher and will even line up at wideout.
- TE Drew Sample: Was Sample’s 22-yard touchdown vs. Buffalo a fluke, or is it a sign that the Bengals are finally finding a way to make Sample useful in the passing game?
- RB Joe Mixon: Joe Burrow has targeted Mixon 17 times over the last four games, including six vs. Buffalo, and he caught five of those for 31 yards.
- WR Andrei Iosivas: While he has two touchdown grabs in his rookie season, Iosivas has yet to be targeted more than twice in a game this year.
Who do you think needs to step up the most? Let us know in the poll or the comments below.
Who most needs to step up if Chase misses time?
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