The Bengals were able to come out of Jacksonville with a crucial win after getting big contributions from second-year players like Andy Dalton (3 TDs), A.J. Green(200 yards receiving), and Geno Atkins(2 sacks), but there were some small but positive contributions made from some of the less heralded Bengals rookies today.
Rookie weakside linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who played the middle during his entire college career, has made the transition very well and recorded his first career sack today while accounting for a team-high 8 tackles. He’s filled in very nicely for the veteran Thomas Howard, who is out for the year with a torn ACL, and was a key piece in limiting All-Pro RB Maurice Jones-Drew to a meager 38 yards on 13 carries (2.9 yards per attempt).
Rookie receiver Marvin Jones also saw significant action today. He was in on the teams’ first offensive series, and made his first NFL catch for 5 yards, but didn’t make another catch the rest of the game. Still, its good to see the Bengals have enough faith in him to put him in the game that early, and hopefully he can develop into a legitimate threat as the season goes on.
Tight End Orson Charles also recorded just his second NFL catch on the teams’ first touchdown drive, as his 10 yard reception gave the Bengals a first down and eventually lead to an early 10-7 lead that the Bengals never relinquished. Both of his catches have come in the past two weeks, and with Donald Lee and Richard Quinn both being cut this week, Charles is clearly the teams’ #2 TE, a significant role in Jay Gruden’s pass-heavy offense.
Kevin Zeitler had another solid day on the offensive line, and he looks to be the player the Bengals hoped he would be when they drafted him in the first round. The team has yet to get any contributions from Brandon Thompson or George Iloka, and Devon Still has played in limited snaps thus far. Still, its a positive sign to see these rookies becoming more comfortable in the NFL while their coaches continue to gain confidence in their abilities.