Though the season didn’t end as well as it began for the Bengals, contributors to their six 2018 wins can be found in a lot of different places. It wasn’t just the starters who were the only primary reasons for the victories, either.
There are varying pieces of criteria for our Unsung Hero nominees. Sometimes it’s in playing an unheralded position, or being a role player who sees somewhat-significant snaps. It can also be a guy who played well when called upon in the wake of injury.
Cast your vote and sound off on your winner!
Clayton Fejedelem: Cincinnati’s special teams captain had quite the year. As a major cog in that unit, he had a blocked punt and rushed for a first down on a fake, while also racking up 12 special teams tackles and becoming a first alternate as a special teams Pro Bowler.
On defense, Fejedelem played as a rotational backup to Jessie Bates and Shawn Williams, racking up 23 defensive tackles. He also had one of the plays of the year with a 73-yard fumble return for a touchdown to seal the Week 1 win over the Colts.
C.J. Uzomah: One could argue that Uzomah was the team’s “2B” option at tight end when the season began. But, major injuries to Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft propelled Uzomah into the primary role at the position by the time Week 6 rolled around.
The fourth-year tight end stepped up, racking up 43 receptions in 2018—good for a tie for third-best on the team. His 439 yards were also third on the team, while his three touchdown receptions were fourth on the team.
Alex Erickson: The versatile wide receiver didn’t have a huge effect on offense because of limited snaps, but he did step up there when called upon. He had 20 catches for 187 yards, highlighted by a six-catch, 63-yard performance against the Steelers in Week 17 with the receiving corps decimated by injury.
Of course, he shined on special teams. His 1,049 kick return yards were second in the NFL, and his 212 punt return yards were 14th. Erickson was also second in the league in returns of 20-plus yards and 40-plus yards this year.
Jeff Driskel: The team’s backup quarterback had his struggles during the five games he started in relief of Andy Dalton, but did throw just two interceptions in his first regular season starts in the NFL. Driskel threw six touchdowns, while running for tow more on the ground along with 130 more yards. Seeing he hadn’t had any regular season action before 2018, you could label it a “nowhere to go but up” designation, I suppose.
Trey Hopkins: When rookie center Billy Price went down with an injury, Hopkins stepped in and started six games in the middle of the line to decent results. He also started three combined games at each guard position this year, proving his value and versatility as a utility player on the interior of the offensive line.
Giovani Bernard: This yearly award may as well be called the honorary “Gio Bernard Award”. The scrappy running back is a multi-dimensional weapon for the Bengals’ offense, as he is continuously valuable as a runner, receiver and pass protector.
Bernard’s stats were a bit down from previous years, both from Joe Mixon’s emergence and in his missing of four games this year. He had 211 rushing yards and three touchdowns, as well as 35 catches and another 218 yards through the air.
Who gets your vote for the Bengals’ Unsung Hero of the Year?
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