Late in the first quarter of their week two match-up with the Dallas Cowboys, the Cincinnati Bengals defense surrendered a rushing touchdown to Tony Pollard. The one yard score gave Dallas a 14 – 3 lead. The Cowboys would win the game 20 – 17, but linebacker Logan Wilson and crew wouldn’t allow another touchdown in the game.
The New York Jets wouldn’t score a touchdown in week three either. Week four brought the undefeated Miami Dolphins to town. They also would fail to find the end zone.
The 2022 season has not started how Bengals fans envisioned it, coming off a Super Bowl run last season. The offense sputtered and the team started with consecutive losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and a Cowboys team led by their backup quarterback.
Joe Burrow struggled throwing the football and took a number of sacks. Meanwhile, running back Joe Mixon couldn’t find any room to maneuver. The passing game, which thrived on big plays last year, was bottled and the offense suffered.
On the other side of the ball, though, an identity was being established. Led by Wilson, the Cincinnati Bengals defense was quietly establishing itself as one of the league’s best. Calling them a ragtag group might be pushing it, but the starting lineup is loaded with free agent cast-offs and mid-to-late round draft picks. They’re underrated, but after four weeks, it’s time they start getting the credit they deserve. Here are the names everyone needs to know.
Stars of the Cincinnati Bengals Defense
A 2020 third round pick, Logan Wilson has become a force in the middle of the Cincinnati Bengals defense. His instincts in the run game are terrific, and though he’s not as fast as some, he moves down the line and gets downhill in a hurry. He’s a sure tackler, but his versatility really makes him stand out. In his time in the NFL, he already has seven interceptions, which leads all linebackers since 2020. He’s building a Pro Bowl resume thus far in 2022.
The 2020 off-season saw the Bengals go on a spending spree, with defensive tackle DJ Reader as the centerpiece. The big run stuffer got a big payday — and has been worth every penny. An injury has him sidelined for a few weeks, but so far this season, he’s been dominant.
The power he generates allows him to fend off double-teams and even when he appears to be out of a play, he still manages to make tackles. His ability to shut down running games is a big part of what the team wants to do.
A former second round pick of the Cowboys, Chidobe Awuzie joined the Bengals prior to the 2021 season. While he’s neither the biggest, nor the fastest, cornerback in the league, his technique is as good as anybody’s and he rarely finds himself in a bad position. He and the rest of the secondary do a good job of limiting big plays and keeping opposing teams out of the end zone.
The 2020 off-season saw safety Vonn Bell as another addition to the Cincinnati Bengals defense. In his two seasons in Cincinnati, he has made some of the defense’s most iconic plays.
His hit on former Steelers receiver Juju Smith-Schuster is still social media fodder. He also sealed a trip to the Super Bowl with an overtime interception of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. This season, he has brought physicality to the secondary and had two interceptions against the Dolphins.
Defensive lineman Sam Hubbard is one of the veteran leaders of the defense. He doesn’t get the recognition that his opposite, Trey Hendrickson, gets, but he is a playmaker nonetheless. He excels as a run defender, but is underappreciated as a pass rusher. He’s not flashy, but he has to be accounted for by opposing offensive lines.
The Bengals are a team loaded on offense. Burrow and his skill players are as talented as any offense in the league, despite the slow start. The defense, on the other hand, doesn’t have multiple top draft picks leading the way. But they’re getting it done anyway.
Logan Wilson and company aren’t grabbing headlines, but through four weeks, they’re putting their team in position to win games. Their names may not be well-known right now, but if they keep it up, it won’t be long until everyone knows who they are.
The Cincinnati Bengals’ Week 13 position grades might surprise you a bit. Despite the Bengals really bad looking 41-22 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, I don’t think they performed all that badly. Sure, there were some really bad aspects and those issues will be reflected in the grades. But, overall, the final score looked worse than the game really was. There are no moral victories in the NFL, but position grades aren’t black and white. So, I think we need a bit more nuance to properly talk about what happened.
Cincinnati Bengals Week 13 Position Grades: Offense
Quarterback Grade: B-
Joe Burrow has been really confusing to get a read on in 2021. He’s been mostly great at driving this offense and helping them put points on the board. In fact, he did that this week with 300 passing yards and two all-purpose touchdowns. He put them in position to score a few more times than that and, unfortunately, was unable to get it accomplished. Had it not been for the killer mistakes, he probably would have deserved a grade in the “A” range this week.
But man those mistakes really sucked. You could make the argument that his first interception intended for Ja’Marr Chase was more on Chase than Burrow. Burrow hit Chase in stride and should have gotten a touchdown instead of a pick. But, that second pick was unacceptable. He must have just not seen Chris Harris right infront of CJ Uzomah.
When he tried to find his reliable tight end in the back of the endzone, it ended up in the defense’s hands and all hopes of making up the 16-point deficit with 8:07 left in the game were basically dead.
I’m not sure why Burrow seems to have a few plays like this every game that potentially doom the Bengals’ hopes. But, it’s starting to become a pattern and that’s a bit worrisome.
Running Back Grade: D+
One unit that really doesn’t deserve much more nuance than they’re already getting is the running backs. I feel I’m giving them a very fair harsh grade in the Week 13 Position Grades because 2.8 yards per carry and a game-ruining fumble from Joe Mixon are absolutely unacceptable.
The one redeeming factor was Mixon and Samaje Perine’s combined 4.7 yards per carry and a touchdown during the team’s mid-game comeback attempt. The problem is those 80 yards and a touchdown accounted for almost all of the unit’s production on the day during a 21.5 minute stretch in the middle of a 60-minute game.
Wide Receiver Grade: C-
Emotionally, I want to give this unit an ‘F’ for Ja’Marr Chase’s absolutely disgusting bobbled deep pass that turned a game-breaking touchdown play into a game-breaking interception. Luckily for them, that’s not how I operate in the Week 13 Position Grades. Tee Higgins’ performance alone deserves commendation. 138 yards and a touchdown on nine catches is pretty impressive, especially considering he’s been struggling to break out this year.
With Tyler Boyd coming close to the 100-yard mark this week as well, it seems like the thought process of “you can’t stop all of us” is starting to come to fruition. Teams are respecting Ja’Marr Chase’s ability to break a game open, so Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are getting favorable matchups more often. They’re starting to take advantage of some key situations.
But, my god, Ja’Marr. You can’t do this.
Tight End Grade: C-
CJ Uzomah showed up a few times this week to make plays, which is why this unit’s Week 13 Position Grades aren’t too harsh. Drew Sample didn’t get a lot of playing time this week. But, when he did, he performed well as a pass blocker (74.6 per PFF) and ok as a run blocker (59.6). The interception Joe Burrow threw toward Uzomah was 100 percent not Uzomah’s fault. So, I think this unit deserves a coasting grade. They didn’t do much, but they also didn’t screw too much up.
Offensive Line Grade: C-
I really don’t understand, at all, why Jackson Carman is on the bench. Hakeem Adeniji looked like an absolute liability on the field this week. He graded below average in both pass blocking (51.1) and run blocking (48.0). He also was charged with two penalties on the day, one of which was a hold that killed every bit of momentum the Bengals had on a fourth quarter drive.
Joe Burrow ended up making lemonade out of lemons with a 12-yard pass to Tee Higgins that set them up in field goal range. But, I feel like they would have probably gotten a touchdown on that drive and brought the score to 24-20 and taken the lead on the following drive were it not for that hold.
Also, Carman did come in for 11 run blocking snaps this week and graded as the best offensive lineman on the team in those 11 snaps (77.9). Does the coaching staff just not like his attitude? Is he in Zac’s dog house the way John Ross ended up in Marvin’s? The difference is Carman tends to perform well on the field, unlike Ross. So, I don’t understand what’s going on here.
But, I thought the overall unit deserved a bit of a shoutout in the Week 13 Position Grades, at least compared to the talk surrounding them. Adeniji was the only one who graded below average on the day. I’m sure it doesn’t help that Burrow was sacked six times and that’s always going to look like a complete reflection on the offensive line.
Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense
Defensive Line Grade: B-
For the most part, the defensive line had a good day against the Chargers. Trey Hendrickson, in particular, was constantly in the backfield making trouble for Justin Herbert. He hit the young quarterback twice and brought him down once, in addition to recording three other tackles on the day.
BJ Hill and DJ Reader combined for stifling interior trench play and Josh Tupou even showed up for a nice run stop in the second quarter. Larry Ogunjobi was a bit of a liability though. He did get to the quarterback a couple of times, but he also had an awful miss on one of his two tackling attempts.
Linebacker Grade: A
Overall, a really solid performance from the linebacker corps deserves some love in the Week 13 Position Grades. Without a doubt, this was the best performing unit on the team this week. Germaine Pratt, in particular, might have had one of the best games of his entire career. He received an elite grade from PFF for his performance (90.6) for basically letting nothing happen at the point of attack. Well, other than that one tackle he missed. But, that just goes to show how well he played on his other 61 snaps.
The liability this week was Logan Wilson. He did well wrapping up when he got to the ball carrier. But, too often he looked lost during the day. We’re still waiting for confirmation on how severe the injury that caused him to be carted off the field was. You never want to see that happen, especially for a player who has mostly been really solid all season. But, for the sake of the Week 13 Position grades, it should also be noted that Joe Bachie performed extremely well in Wilson’s absence.
Cornerback Grade: C
Any individual cornerback on the team did not deserve a ‘C’ in the Week 13 Position Grades. The issue is there was a WIDE disparity between the high performers and low performers. Chidobe Awuzie left the game with an injury, although it sounds like he’s going to be fine.
However, when he was on the field, dude was electric. That interception on Justin Herbert at the end of the first half didn’t end up yielding any points. But, it did take a potential score off the board for the Chargers. That ended up being huge for the Bengals comeback that almost was. Aside from that, he only allowed a 58.3 passer rating on the day. Eli Apple also played great. Strangely enough, he is starting to become a reliable No. 2 cornerback for the team.
Safety Grade: D
Overall, Von Bell actually played pretty well this week in every area other than coverage. He was pretty bad in coverage though, allowing a 108.3 quarterback rating. Unfortunately, that’s going to be the biggest judgement on a safety’s performance. Jessie Bates… woof.
He allowed a 158.3 passer rating in coverage this week. I’m starting to get worried about him because 2021 was supposed to be a prove-it year. He hasn’t seemed like he’s proven much other than the Bengals may have been right to withhold a major extension. Perhaps he’s playing distracted because of the contract? I don’t think that’s an excuse though.
Special Teams Grades: F
Perhaps the most Chargers way to lose a game of all time is to do so because the special teams unit was SO BAD. Funnily enough, it was the Bengals who fit that bill this week. Evan McPherson did hit a 48-yard field goal, which was nice. But, he also missed an extra point. Kevin Huber was mostly a liability as a punter all day, only downing one inside the 20. And then, the special teams coverage. Yikes. What are we even doing at this point, guys?
Coaching grade: D-
I felt the Bengals went into this week with a pretty solid gameplan. That’s pretty much where my praise for the coaching staff in the Week 13 Position Grades ends. Some of the way that players were placed on the field made no sense to me through much of the game. The decision to play Logan Wilson on special teams looked really stupid BEFORE the injury.
You have to wonder what Darrin Simmons was thinking on that one. I think Lou Anarumo went into this game with a pretty solid idea of how to handle the Chargers. But, Simmons, Zac Taylor, and Brian Callahan absolutely dropped the ball this week. The offense looked sloppy, unprepared, and regularly in unfavorable positions. That’s definitely not Coach of the Year material.
That might have been one of the Cincinnati Bengals’ best bye weeks of all time. Things started to look bleak after losing to the lowly Jets and falling 41-16 at home to the Browns. So, the bye week seemed like it was coming at a good time anyway. It was an opportunity to rest, relax, and reset after this young Bengals team appeared to be letting early success get to their heads.
Then, the Baltimore Ravens fell to the even lowlier Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football. The New England Patriots completely upended the Cleveland Browns 45-7. It looked way worse than what the Browns did to the Bengals the week before. The Pittsburgh Steelers failed to win against the winless Detroit Lions.
Had the Lions converted a missed extra point earlier in that game, the Steelers would have lost and the Bengals would be back in control of a playoff seed. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. But, it was still a monumentally useful bye week for the Cincinnati Bengals, who are still looking fully alive at midseason.
Cincinnati Bengals Midseason Position Grades: Offense
Quarterback grade: A-
Most of Joe Burrow’s 11 interceptions this season have not been his fault. Although, he is tied for third in the NFL with five turnover worthy plays. But, perhaps it provides some context for the main area he’s been struggling this season.
For what it’s worth, he’s also tied for third in the NFL in Big Time Throws. They’re defined as “a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window” per PFF.
So, yeah, he’s been a bit erratic and inconsistent. But, he makes it work. In the last four games, he’s led the Bengals’ offense to 30+ point outings in all but one game. That one game against the Browns is the one freshest in our memories. But, it shouldn’t hold any more weight than any other game in the midseason position grades.
Running Back grade: B+
Joe Mixon is currently on pace for his best rushing season yet. If he continues his current production, he’d finish with 1,201 yards and 13 touchdowns. Samaje Perine is also on pace for his best season since his relatively solid rookie season in which he started eight games for Washington.
The Bengals are still trying to find ways to incorporate Chris Evans into the game plan. But, he still has 133 all purpose yards and a touchdown. That’s pretty impressive for a third string running back who has only touched the ball 13 times, in five of nine games.
The one area this unit could stand to improve in the midseason position grades is pass blocking. For the most part it’s been ok, but inconsistent. Chris Evans has done a solid job filling in for Giovani Bernard’s vacated pass protecting role when he’s been on the field. Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, on the other hand, have had as many struggles as they’ve had good plays in this department.
Wide Receiver grade: B
At the midway point, Ja’Marr Chase’s overall rookie season has been legendary. Especially, considering the general narrative surrounding his awful preseason. To be fair, he had a rocky last two weeks. The Jets locked him down and he and fell apart against the Browns.
But, even then he’s still on pace to shatter Bill Groman’s rookie receiving yards record of 1,473. Even in a 16 game season he would be on pace to break it with 1,484. But, with the extra game, it would be more of a surprise if he didn’t at this point. Especially considering he’s currently on pace for 1,577.
It hasn’t been as lucrative for Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, whom some were expecting could join Chase as 1,000 yard receivers in 2021. Neither are currently on pace for it, whether due to drops or simply not getting open enough.
With NFL teams starting to pay more attention to Chase, opportunities for Higgins and Boyd could certainly open up soon. But, they’ll need to take advantage of those opportunities to get there.
Tight End grade: B-
CJ Uzomah has been a revelation this year. He’s currently on pace for 591 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s not exactly going to be shattering any records (other than his own) with those numbers, but it’s still impressive for a tight end room many considered to be the worst in the NFL heading into this season. Uzomah’s fantastic season is a big reason why this unit grades so well in the midseason position grades.
Drew Sample, on the other hand, hasn’t been quite as impressive. He’s been below average as both a run and pass blocker. He’s been targeted only eight times as a receiver and, even then, only caught five passes for 45 yards. I think the Bengals were expecting a lot more out of their No. 52 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Offensive line grade: C-
Joe Burrow has been sacked 25 times this year. That’s seventh most among quarterbacks in the NFL, and fifth most for quarterbacks who aren’t known as a habitual scrambler. The Bengals’ offensive line ranks 23rd in the NFL this season in PFF’s pass blocking grade (57.8). That’s largely due to the revolving door at right guard for the second year in a row.
Second round pick Jackson Carman appeared to be doing a decent job of holding the position down, but has seemingly fallen back out of favor among the coaching staff despite earning their stamp of approval earlier in the season.
The run blocking has been better, although still not perfect. In this category, they rank 17th in the NFL (66.0). It’s a testament to how well the running backs have been performing that they’ve been putting up as much production as they have.
Overall, the offensive line appears to be a step forward from where they were last year. Hence, their slightly below average result in the midseason position grades. It’s not a complete train wreck. But, there are still clear and obvious areas for improvement next year.
Perhaps Jackson Carman isn’t the answer at Right Guard? Maybe Tre Hopkins can be replaced at center? The tackles are doing fine, but the interior still has a lot of issues.
Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense
Defensive line grade: B-
Another unit that looks massively improved from last year in the midseason position grades is the defensive line. Last year, they were a major part of an abysmal 17 sack season that ranks among the worst in franchise history. Through nine games, they’ve already passed their mark from last year. They are tied at No. 11 in the NFL for most sacks (23). Granted, it hasn’t really shown up much the past couple of weeks.
They also rank No. 10 in the NFL per PFF’s run defense grade (61.7). I know it hasn’t looked like it the past few weeks, but this defense is performing like a top 10 unit this year. If they can get themselves back on track after the bye week, there’s no one the Bengals can’t beat in the NFL.
Linebacker grade: C+
Logan Wilson’s hot start this season, with the turnovers and the sacks, has been mostly reversed after he’s struggled to make a major impact in recent weeks. Granted, he’s still the team’s leading tackler virtually every week. But, there is an argument out there that the Bengals’ best overall linebacker in 2021 through nine games has been Akeem Davis-Gaither.
Unfortunately, he’s going to miss a good chunk of the rest of the season with a serious foot injury that sent him straight to Injured Reserve.
Cornerback grade: C+
For the most part, Chidobe Awuzie has been a godsend to a Bengals’ cornerback room that was bereft of talent in 2020. He has missed an uncomfortable number of tackles (seven, 11th among cornerbacks). But, he’s been lethal in coverage. He is only allowing 54.2 percent of the passes thrown his way to be competed. And, has the 13th most stops in the NFL (13).
You’d like to see him come down with more interceptions. But, overall the Bengals love what the results of their most recent free agent acquisition at cornerback.
What holds this unit back is the No. 2 cornerback spot. Last year’s big money free agent signing at the position, Trae Waynes, has only gotten on the field twice this year. When he was on the field, he didn’t look particularly good.
In fact, the much maligned Eli Apple has had more good games this year (3) than Waynes has played in his entire Cincinnati Bengals career. This unit really needs someone to step up at CB2, which is why I can’t grade this unit higher in the midseason position grades.
Safety grade: C+
We were all hoping Jessie Bates would step up and make a huge impact in his contract year. His All-Pro performance in 2020 led to a lot of people hoping he could be a major player on defense in 2021. But, he’s looked pretty average, in general.
Vonn Bell has been a major player this year, lining up all over the defensive backfield and making big plays that really helped this defense get off to a fast start. Even Ricardo Allen got in on the action before going down with an injury he just recently got back from.
Overall, however, this unit needs Jessie Bates to go back to playing at an All Pro level. Their midseason position grades are suffering as a result.
Special teams grades: A
Despite some of the week-to-week mishaps than happen for any NFL team, Darrin Simmons has coached up on of the best special teams units in the NFL this year. Their 91.4 overall grade per PFF ranks second in the NFL, behind only the also 5-4 New Orleans Saints.
Players like Joe Bachie, Wyatt Ray, Chris Evans, and Mitchell Wilcox, who generally struggle to make much of an impact in their primary roles, have really stepped up this year. Stanley Morgan, of all people, leads the unit with four tackles.
Rookie kicker Evan McPherson has had a few struggles, missing three of his 14 field goal attempts. Two of those misses happened in the same game. But, he hasn’t let it rattle him and has converted the winning field goal twice already this season, despite never having the opportunity in college.
Coaching grade: B
In general, I think Zac Taylor has done a solid job in 2021. The Cincinnati Bengals are 5-4 through nine games, despite analysts across the country squawking about how they wouldn’t win more than 6 games in 17 attempts. It seems more likely than not they’ll wind up in the playoffs, after going just 6-25-1 through his first two seasons.
Lou Anarumo has looked much improved as well. Granted, the recent two week skid makes you worry his unit overperformed through the first seven weeks. The last two have looked a lot more like what they’ve looked like the last three years. So, for the coaches to get up to an ‘A’ after the midseason position grades, Anarumo will need to get his unit back on track to playing at a high level.
The Cincinnati Bengals received an absolute beatdown when they hosted the 96th Battle of Ohio, and the Bengals position grades for week 9 reflect it. There was all this talk about how much better this team looks and how they look ready to contend a year earlier than many expected. Then, they get trapped by the New York Jets immediately after crushing the Baltimore Ravens.
They followed that up with a terrible 41-16 beatdown at home to the division rival Cleveland Browns. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Ravens found a way to win their game. Suddenly, the Bengals are two games behind the Ravens in the race for the AFC North crown after being hyped up as the AFC’s No. 1 seed two weeks ago. Rest assured, the Bengals position grades will reflect just how infuriating that game was.
Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Offense
Quarterback grade: D+
Those two interceptions were brutal. The first one was a 14-point swing as the Bengals were on the Browns’ 3-yard line. The second one stung because it confirmed the Bengals weren’t going to have what it took to pull off the miracle comeback. But, with the game already at a 31-10 beatdown, it didn’t really affect the final outcome.
Other than that, Burrow played a pretty good game. He was able to help drive the Bengals down the field fairly often and would have easily gone over 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns if his receivers didn’t drop the ball. But, I don’t think I can emphasize enough how much those two interceptions killed any hope the Bengals had this week.
Running Back grade: B
Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine both averaged at least four yards per carry this week. In theory, you could make the argument they should have run the ball more because that was mostly working. Mixon, in particular, also put both of the Bengals’ touchdowns on the board.
Joe Mixon went over 100 all-purpose yards today. Samaje Perine did pretty good in the passing game as well. But, I just can’t get that stone cold drop on third down out of my mind. The Bengals were driving in a first half that, at the time, looked like it was turning into a shootout, rather than the beatdown it turned into.
But, Perine’s drop led to a fourth down attempt that fell short. On the very next play, Baker Mayfield connected with Donovan Peoples-Jones for a 60-yard touchdown and the game was never in doubt after that point.
Wide Receiver grade: F
Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins both had some brutal drops this week. In one case, Ja’Marr Chase dropped a ball that he already caught. That’s called a fumble, and it capped off a disastrous first 23 minutes of the game for the Cincinnati Bengals. This was also the second week in a row Chase dropped a ball IN THE ENDZONE.
He also dropped what would have been another 80-yard touchdown pass. In his defense, that one was a bit overthrown. But, he got his hands on it with no one around him. He should have come down with it. Bengals receivers combined for 154 yards today. I don’t care. They never came through when it mattered.
They made the game look like more of a beatdown than it should have been, and that’s why they get an ‘F’.
Tight End grade: B+
Finally, Drew Sample made an impact! Joe Burrow found both Sample and CJ Uzomah for some key plays this week. Considering how little the Bengals’ offense seems to emphasize tight ends, it’s pretty impressive they combined for seven catches and 60 yards. But, without either player finding the endzone, I can’t quite put them in the ‘A’ range.
Offensive line grade: D+
I will give the Bengals’ offensive line this – there were almost no killer penalties this week. Almost. Quinton Spain did ruin the one breakout play Ja’Marr Chase managed to pull down with a holding call. But, that was midway through the fourth quarter when the game was basically over anyway.
But, Joe Burrow was under pressure all game. You could possibly chalk up quite a few of his bad decisions to all the pressure that was constantly in his face. Myles Garrett and co. put an absolute beatdown on the Bengals’ offensive line. He was only sacked twice, but that was largely due to his recent propensity to scramble around in the pocket and create space.
It’s nice to see Burrow doing that again, but you’d hope it didn’t come under such dire circumstances.
Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense
Defensive line grade: C-
Missed tackles. They’re becoming a pattern. The common theme in all of the Bengals’ losses this year have been a mind-numbing number of missed tackles by the defense. As inconsistent as the offense has been, it’s been a defensive issue that seems to herald. This week, so many of those missed tackles came from the defensive line.
To their credit, Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson generated some pressure and each recorded a sack. In fact, they were all over the place. But, they were the only ones. The interior defensive line was virtually non-existent throughout the game. Larry Ogunjobi alone, who we all were hoping would have a revenge game, led the team with three missed tackles.
Linebacker grade: D+
Despite recording one of the many infuriating missed tackles on the day, Germaine Pratt did pretty well this week. In general, he didn’t let much happen in coverage. Despite the one missed tackle, he still led the team in tackles. He only allowed a 79.2 passer rating when targeted and recorded three stops against the Browns’ rushing attack. That’s second only to BJ Hill, who had four.
Logan Wilson, on the other hand, looked awful. Part of the reason the Bengals’ defense appears to have taken such a step back is because he has looked really bad the last two weeks. His 29.4 overall PFF grade was the worst among all Bengals players who took at least five snaps.
He was a liability in coverage and constantly looked out of place when trying to defend the run. It was a huge factor in the Browns dropping 41 in a beatdown of the Bengals’ defense.
Cornerback grade: C-
Although it wasn’t a perfect day for him, Chidobe Awuzie generally kept the Browns’ passing game in check in his area of the field. He did allow one 26-yard pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones that annihilated what was shaping up to be a pretty good defensive drive for the Bengals. But, that play also happened late in the fourth quarter when all hope was virtually extinguished.
Mike Hilton played ok. It wasn’t great, and he did miss a tackle. But otherwise, he had a serviceable game. This unit probably would have graded in the ‘B’ range had it not been for Eli Apple, who got absolutely worked all afternoon. In fact, Baker Mayfield recorded a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating when targeting him.
He allowed 101 yards on four catches. He was responsible for covering Donovan Peoples-Jones on that 60-yard touchdown pass that broke the game open early in the second quarter. The Bengals never recovered from that play. Eli Apple is back to being a liability.
Safety grade: D-
For all of the hype surrounding Jessie Bates, he hasn’t exactly performed at a high level in 2021. This week, he did hold Baker Mayfield to an impressive 39.6 passer rating when he was targeted. But, he looked regularly out of place against the Browns’ rushing attack.
He had one missed tackle on the day, and it was an absolute doozy. He had Nick Chubb dead to rights on what should have been maybe a one or two yard pickup on the Browns’ first offensive possession. In a split second, the Bengals went from likely holding the Browns to a field goal and flexing a bit of defensive muscle, to trying desperately to keep them out of the endzone and sparking a beatdown.
That, of course, didn’t end up happening. The Bengals’ defense did hold the Browns out of the endzone to fourth down. But, safety Ricardo Allen was called for a completely unnecessary pass interference on the third down play, which gave the Browns the ball at the 1-yard line.
The infuriating thing was he didn’t need to, because Baker Mayfield overthrew Austin Hooper on the play. Two plays later, Nick Chubb took the Browns up 14-7.
Special teams grades: B
Evan McPherson converted his lone field goal attempt and the one extra point. He actually came out of it looking like the better kicker. Browns kicker Chase McLaughlin shanked a 45-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter. But, it wasn’t the best day for Kevin Huber, who averaged 40.7 yards per punt and only put the Browns inside the 20-yard line once.
His first punt was a weird, wobbly one that set the Browns up at their own 30. You could argue the short field position really didn’t matter as Nick Chubb’s ensuing 70-yard touchdown run would have gone to the house from anywhere on the field. But, maybe the Browns approach that drive with a different scheme from the 20 instead of the 30.
Punt and kick coverage was pretty solid though, only once allowing a return of more than 5 yards. That was an 11-yard return on a short kickoff intended to run out the remaining two seconds on the clock after the Bengals scored a field goal going into the half.
Coaching grade: D+
For the most part, I don’t really have a lot of negative things to say about Zac Taylor this week. I thought his offensive playcalling was solid. The biggest letdown on offense was the lack of execution from guys like Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. But, he seemed to regularly have them in position to make big plays and do what they needed to do to stay competitive in this game.
However, Lou Anarumo’s defensive gameplan might have been one of the worst I’ve ever seen him put together. That’s two weeks in a row now his defense has received a beatdown, looking completely lost and out of place all game.
You can’t discount the progress they’ve made through the first seven games. But, they need to get things turned back around soon or you have to start wondering if they’ve regressed back to the point they were at last year, when everyone was calling for him to be fired.
Bengals vs Jets was never supposed to be a ‘trap game’, but it defiantly was. A trap game is typically defined as a game where a team that has been flying high gets surprised by a supposedly inferior team. Generally they happen on the road and when a team has an important game coming up the following week. Quite a few have been calling the Bengals’ 34-31 loss to the New York Jets a trap game. It’s hard to argue with them after the way they played.
The Bengals’ defense is going to get a ton of crap this week. Deservedly so, because the 34 points they allowed to Mike White’s Jets was the most they’ve allowed all season. This comes a week after pummeling Lamar Jackson’s Ravens. But, despite the offense putting up over 30 point this week, I think they deserve just as much blame for this complete TEAM loss.
Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Offense
Quarterback grade: B-
As bad as the Bengals looked this week, I thought Joe Burrow looked mostly fine. There were a few inaccurate passes and one killer interception. That said, how can you plan for the defender tipping the ball to himself at the line of scrimmage? I’m taking that pick into consideration, but I’m also not going to kill him for it either.
Other than that, Burrow had a mostly respectable day completing 21 of his 33 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns.
Despite an awful first quarter from everyone, Burrow led the Bengals to 24 unanswered points in the second and third quarters. I don’t think Joe Burrow fell victim to the trap game. The Bengals have had slow starts all season, but he got things going as he typically does.
Running Back grade: C-
The running backs didn’t get much help from the offensive line this week. But, Joe Mixon was personally responsible for two of the Bengals’ four touchdowns on the day. Samaje Perine occasionally showed up to put up key first down plays that made up for some ugliness on the prior plays.
But, at the end of the day, the running backs only combined for 41 yards rushing and 74 yards receiving. Joe Mixon was able to get loose for a few decent gains throughout the day. But, on the whole, he looked like he couldn’t get anything going consistently behind that OL.
Wide Receiver grade: C-
If there is one offensive unit you could point the finger at in this loss, it’s the wide receivers. To their credit, Tyler Boyd and Ja’Marr Chase both made up for otherwise awful days by pulling in a pair of touchdown grabs that helped the Bengals pull away at important times in the game.
But, I’m not here to talk about the nice highlights the Bengals’ social media team will surely try to push. I’m here to remind you that Ja’Marr Chase returned to his preseason form this week with THREE killer drops. One of those drops was in the endzone. He had the ball in both hands and just dropped it. That dropped touchdown pass turned out to be the difference in the game.
Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins didn’t have perfect games either. But, to be fair, all three receivers had their share of good plays. For Tyler Boyd, it was this really fun looking 46-yard pass to Joe Mixon.
Tight End grade: C-
C.J. Uzomah had a few good plays this week. He was a big part of the reason the Bengals drove down the field early in the fourth quarter to go up 31-20. But, he was almost non-existent the rest of the game. Drew Sample was COMPLETELY non-existent. Again. The Bengals’ offense isn’t really designed to feature tight ends much. But, when the Bengals are struggling to get much accomplished in the intermediate area of the field, the position sticks out like a sore thumb.
Offensive line grade: D+
I was originally going to give this unit an ‘F’. Joe Burrow was under pressure regularly and constantly had to scramble around to get much of anything accomplished. Then again, Burrow was sacked three times. The run blocking was absolutely horrendous. I’ll give them credit for generally playing a pretty clean game. The only two penalties on the day ended up not making much of a difference. But, this offensive line got absolutely worked all day by an underrated Jets defensive line. This unit did not look prepared and seemed to fully fall victim to the trap game.
Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense
Defensive line grade: C
The Bengals’ defensive line came to play this week, although you would have liked to see more consistency. Mike White was sacked twice, which was nice to see. But, Michael Carter averaged 5.1 yards per carry and looked basically unstoppable at the line of scrimmage.
That was a big reason the Bengals seemingly couldn’t get off the field on defense. You wonder what the game would have looked like if the Jets had attempted more than 22 carries on the day. The Jets insisted on passing a ton this week, which gave the defensive line ample opportunity to flex their ability to change the game. But, they couldn’t get it done when it mattered. That fact alone will stain what looked to be shaping up like a pretty solid day for this unit.
Linebacker grade: C
Credit to Germaine Pratt for pulling down one of those early interceptions that should have swung the game in the Bengals’ favor. Luckily, the Bengals’ offense actually capitalized on that interception. But, throughout much of the day, the Bengals linebackers seemed to be completely lost in coverage. It was a trap game for them too as Mike White shredded the middle of the field. At one point, it seemed like every single pass was a 11-12 yard gain. In fact, White averaged nine yards per pass attempt and seven Jets receivers averaged at least 10 yards per catch.
Cornerback grade: F
The Bengals allegedly have a really good cornerback corps. We certainly didn’t see that today. If any unit fell victim to the trap game, it was this one. They allowed Mike White 405 passing yards and two touchdowns. Were it not for some early heads up play by the defensive line to tip a couple of passes for interceptions, his passer rating would have been through the roof.
Oh, and that defensive pass interference from Eli Apple in the first quarter? It set the Jets up for an early 7-point lead. He gave up a few big receptions to opposing receivers through the rest of the night and came out looking like a liability again. I’ve been very complimentary of him in recent weeks for starting to get things turned around. But, not this week.
Safety grade: A-
Jessie Bates finally notched his first interception of the season. He’s had three every year he’s been in the league, so it’s nice to finally see him get one this year. It would have been nice if the Bengals didn’t completely waste the gift by losing 13 yards on the ensuing four downs.
It could have turned into seven points, but Ja’Marr Chase dropped the touchdown. Even then, it could have turned into three points, but Zac elected to go for it even though the Bengals’ offense had done nothing but go backwards on the drive. The Bengals’ complete inability to get anything done on offense on that drive was one of the many differences in this game.
But, Jessie should still get credit for coming away with a pick that should have swung the momentum of a truly ugly first quarter. He wasn’t the best in coverage overall this week, but he did enough to help this team win.
Vonn Bell did too, ripping the ball out of Jamison Crowder’s hands in the second quarter.
In fact, Bell was involved in both of the plays on that drive, stopping Elijah Moore for 2 yards on the other one. The Bengals’ offense managed to get a field goal out of the turnover.
If any unit deserved to win this game, it was the safeties. Unfortunately, the rest of the team let them down.
Special teams grades: B+
There was some questionable kick coverage this week. As a result, the Jets generally had better field position than they probably should have had. But, Kevin Huber and Evan McPherson were both machines this week. Huber put three of his punts inside the 20 this week and didn’t have a single touchback. McPherson wasn’t tested much with four extra points and a 21-yard field goal. But, he converted them all.
Coaching grade: C-
There was plenty to like and plenty to hate about the way the Bengals’ coaching staff approached this game. Perhaps the biggest criticism is how completely unprepared the defense looked for the Jets. We knew, going into this game, that the Jets’ biggest offensive weakness was their abysmal run game. Still, Lou Anarumo couldn’t cook anything up to hold the Jets to any kind of respectable yardage total. They averaged 3.6 yards per carry across the board, which is enough to simply waltz down the field if you run the ball on every play.
Also, I’d like to inquire exactly what Zac Taylor was thinking by going for it on fourth down after Jessie Bates’ interception. The Bengals’ offense did nothing but go backwards on that set of downs, so why would you think they’re suddenly going to do anything different on that drive?
Sure, Ja’Marr Chase dropped a touchdown catch on that drive. But, by not taking the field goal on fourth down, the Bengals left crucial points on the board that would have given them a chance at the end of the game.