The Cincinnati Bengals are 5-3 and while the confidence level in the team’s postseason viability is wavering, they are a much improved team from 2016-2017. A big reason for the step forward this year is in younger players bearing fruit through the first half of the year.
As the team is through the first half of its schedule, we are doling out mid-season awards to Bengals players and these youngsters are highlighted in the breakout player nominations.
Joe Mixon: Though he flashed as a rookie, Mixon had to split carries with both Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Hill left in free agency, so Mixon became the feature back.
He has made the most of his opportunities, rushing for 509 yards with five total touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving). At 4.8 yards per carry this season, he’s averaging almost a yard and a half more per carry than he did in 2017.
Jessie Bates III: The rookie safety wasn’t on many fans’ radars early in the draft process, but his name began popping up in the days leading up to the draft. While he’s been on a steep learning curve after supplanting George Iloka and has had some ups and downs, Bates has also come up with some huge plays.
He has three interceptions on the year (one being a pick-six), along with leading the team in total tackles with 60. He’s also been a Pro Football Focus favorite this season.
Jessie Bates was the Bengals standout player on defense in the win over the Buccaneers. pic.twitter.com/gj0e6Ns3mN— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 30, 2018
Sam Hubbard: The rookie defensive end has been a rotational player, but has made the most of opportunities. While there have been some dry spells, Hubbard has some of the bigger plays made by the Bengals’ defense this season.
Hubbard has two sacks, 19 total tackles and four tackles for loss. His fumble recovery and subsequent return for a touchdown against the Dolphins helped to cement that critical win in Week 5.
Andrew Billings: Though the team’s run defense has been up-and-down, Billings has taken a step forward from last year. He’s fourth on the team in quarterback hits with five, has a quarterback sack and 12 total tackles.
Tyler Boyd: The third-year wide receiver is either first or second in all major receiving categories this year. He has made a big jump and have made the Bengals’ brain trust look wise in their decision to let Brandon LaFell go this summer.
Boyd is second on the team with five touchdown receptions, first with 49 catches and second in yards with 620. Both he and A.J. Green are on pace to have 1,000-yard receiving seasons with double-digit touchdown receptions.
Who gets your vote for the 2018 Bengals’ midseason award for breakout player?
This poll is closed
WR Tyler Boyd
RB Joe Mixon
S Jessie Bates III
DE Sam Hubbard
DT Andrew Billings