Every week will bring win or losses. Those wins and losses will all have stand out players and players that underwhelm. Studs and Duds will highlight two players from each of those categories after every game. If there is a particularly bad game, there may be an extra dud and likewise for good games and the studs.
Tyler Boyd, Wide Receiver
Tyler Boyd was one of the lone bright spots in a less than desirable performance from the entire team. With 132 yards and a touchdown on six catches, Boyd was easily the standout player on offense. He had no trouble separating in coverage against a weak Panthers secondary. His route running has developed greatly but it might be his general awareness on the field that best explains his breakout campaign. He made clean releases off the line of scrimmage and found soft spots against zone coverage on a regular basis. Boyd is cementing himself as a top-tier second wide receiver.
Carl Lawson, Defensive End
Carl Lawson is not filling up the stat sheet quite like he did as a rookie last season. He is still being used as a pass rushing specialist and is even better at it this year. While the numbers don’t reflect it, I believe Lawson is a better pass rusher in 2018. Every time he saw the field on a passing down against Carolina he made an impact. Lawson lifted an NFL left tackle off his feet like it was nothing at one point. He was the reason that Cam Newton had to step in the pocket and release the football quicker than he wanted to at times. The sacks will come, but you can still see Lawson dominate every time he steps on the field.
- Giovani Bernard, Running Back – Bernard stepped up in a big way in the absence of up and coming star Joe Mixon. If the Bengals defense had held up their end of the deal, Bernard could have had a huge day on the ground.
- Tyler Eifert, Tight End – Bengals fans have been awaiting the return of the dominant Tyler Eifert we have seen in the past. Eifert made some tough catches throughout the game and showed flashes of the talent we all know he has.
Andy Dalton, Quarterback
The box score says Andy Dalton had an awful game. In reality, his day wasn’t great but it wasn’t as bad as those numbers suggest. Two of his four interceptions were dismissable – one came on a tipped pass while the other came on a throwaway Hail Mary attempt.
That said, he struggled in a big way against a supposedly-strubbling Carolina secondary. The accuracy he displayed in the first two weeks was absent. The Dalton we all know and loathe made an appearance against a decent pass rush that forced him from his comfort zone at times. Yes, his offensive line didn’t help much and yes, his receivers left some catches on the field (we’ll get to that in a second). Still, Dalton needs to step up and carry the team, even (especially) when other players are struggling.
John Ross, Wide Receiver
Quitting on a route mid-play and letting a rare on-target deep ball from Dalton go through his fingers may lead John Ross back to Marvin Lewis’ doghouse. I think the team could live with the dropped ball – it would have been a great play if he had made the catch – but quitting on a route is inexcusable. For a player trying to prove he was worth a top-ten draft pick, Ross sure doesn’t act like it. He did make a nice, tough catch over the middle in traffic but that deep route at the end of the game is hard to get past. The ball should have been thrown a little farther inside instead of straight over the head of Ross, but stopping on his route gave him no chance at it either way. With Boyd stepping up, Ross might be in for a long season.
- The Linebackers – Nick Vigil, Jordan Evans, and especially Hardy Nickerson all played a very bad game. Christian McCaffrey was supposed to out quick them in the passing game, not out tough them between the tackles. The Bengals desperately need Preston Brown and Vontaze Burfict on the field
- Bobby Hart, Right Tackle – Bobby Hart did not look outright horrendous for a second straight week but still looked very bad. I said he will continue to be in this section until he proves me otherwise and I plan on doing just that.