There was not much to like in the Cincinnati Bengals home opener, but one play stood out as an extremely exciting moment: Charlie Jones’s 81-yard punt return touchdown.
The fourth-round draft pick plays receiver, but it was expected he’d make his biggest impact in the return game.
It didn’t take him long to do just that, but he got some help from a few fellow rookies.
The Bengals have needed a dynamic punt returner for some time, and it seems like they finally got it in Charlie Jones. The rookie didn’t take long to make his presence known and strike fear in the hearts of opposing special teams coordinators.
Jones catches the ball cleanly, finds a seam, and leans away from the pursuit on this impressive return, but he didn’t do it alone. Some of the keep blocks came from a few of his fellow rookies.
Second-round cornerback DJ Turner (20) started the play spread out to the left of the screen. He is responsible for blocking the gunner who is screaming down the field, looking to make the tackle.
Turner does a phenomenal job of getting in front and making a key block. Forcing the defender to cut behind him gives Jones all the room he needs to make a play. This was a fantastic rep by Turner.
Sixth-round wide receiver Andrei Iosivas (80) was one of two players lined up on the gunner to the right of the screen.
You’ll see him come flying in with the gunner in this clip. With the return coming his direction, Iosivas has an even more difficult job to do, but he gets it done and gives Jones just enough room to make a play.
A fantastic effort by Iosivas.
Perhaps the most impressive block came from fifth-round running back Chase Brown. He does an excellent job of running with the defender, then engages on an epic block. He drives his opponent way out, creating a huge lane for Jones to run through.
Brown was not active in Week 1, but after showing special teams chops like this, I expect to see a lot more of him.
There is one unblocked player on the coverage team who nearly makes the play here. As Jones cuts up field off of Iosivas’s block, the defender (30) alters his angle. When Jones cuts back outside, the defender lunges and reaches his arm out, but Jones is able to get away.
As Jones breaks into the open field, there is one more defender who has a chance to make the play, it’s Ravens punter Jordan Stout. Jones messes with his angle by leaning toward the sideline as he runs past. Then it is off to the races.
The recent influx of young talent on defense and at the offensive skill positions will pay major dividends on special teams this season. I expect big things from all of these players and the special teams unit as a whole this season.