Bengals News

Bengals report card through first quarter of the 2022 season

By Christopher Kokaliares
Miami Dolphins v Cincinnati Bengals
Miami Dolphins v Cincinnati Bengals / Dylan Buell/GettyImages
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Cornerbacks

For the most part, the cornerbacks have played just as well as they did last season en route to Super Bowl 56. Awuzie, although having some trouble against Tyreek Hill this past game, has played great against other teams' number-one wideouts. He may not have the interceptions to show for it, but the Colorado product has allowed just 13 receptions out of 32 passes thrown his way.

Hilton may not be as good in coverage as Chidobe, but the former Steelers back is a solid piece on a position that used to be downright abysmal before he and Awuzie's arrival. However, even outside of pass plays you will see these two given 110% to bring down a running back who got through the first wave of tacklers and even getting in the backfield themselves from time to time to bring the ball carrier down for a loss, especially Hilton.

As for Eli Apple...well, the fans still seem pretty divided on how valuable he is to the defense, though I will say that he has played well outside of getting torched by Cowboys receiver Noah Brown in Week 2. He can make the big plays, whether that be a huge tackle on third down to end the drive or getting a game-sealing interception (which we saw against the Raiders last season), however, Apple is also flawed in many aspects.

Coverage seems to be his biggest issue, again he got torched repeatedly by Noah Brown, and unnecessary penalties are also a big problem for Apple, though he has thankfully toned that down since last season.

I won't get too hung up on Apple, since he's mostly been mistake-free, and for generally being good in coverage and tackling, I'll give the cornerbacks a B+. I just hope we see more interceptions from them going forward.

Safeties

Whenever an opposing quarterback airs it out 50-yards down the field, it's always reassuring to know we got Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III back there to help in coverage. Last year they came up clutch in the AFC Championship game as Bates smothered Hill on a deep pass which would be picked off by Bell and eventually set up the game-winning kick.

It seems their clutch factor has carried over into this season as well. Bell notched two interceptions against the Dolphins, which tied his career total, one of them coming late in the game on a series where Bridgewater & the offense was driving and just outside of the red zone.

Besides interceptions, it constantly feels like these two are all over the field whenever you watch a game. Whenever a running back is about to take off, or a wide receiver makes a catch and is going to take it the distance, either Bell or Bates is there to make sure that doesn't happen. I always find myself saying "Thank you, Bell/Bates!" whenever a tackle is made after a large gain because they stopped it from being six points.

While I would like to see more snaps outside of special teams for Dax Hill, Bates and Bell have been perfect throughout the first quarter of the season and earn an A+.

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