The Cincinnati Bengals haven’t gotten much good news when it comes to their rookie class. Cincinnati’s first-rounder, William Jackson III, tore his pectoral muscle early in training camp which could cost him his rookie year. A few days ago, word came out that Andrew Billings will join him on Injured Reserve with a torn meniscus.
With those two key losses, it might seem Cincinnati’s rookie class has no hopes of contributing in year one. However, there is one man who still has a shot at making an early impact - wide receiver, Tyler Boyd. The way things are shaping up, Cincinnati might need him to step up early on.
Cincinnati drafted the Pittsburgh product with designs on him becoming a compliment to A.J. Green. Losing both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency forced Cincy’s hand in the draft and made it so Boyd would have a good shot of playing right away. However, the presence of solid pass-catchers like Green, Giovani Bernard, Tyler Eifert and Brandon LaFell meant he could be at least somewhat eased in.
Circumstances of late, though, make that seem a lot less likely. To start, Eifert suffered an injury in the preseason and, due to complications, it’s one that could cause him to miss games. Then, word came down that a hand surgery could see LaFell join the inactive list. A cupboard that wasn’t all that full, to begin with, could be down a few critical pieces for at least the season opener.
So now the Bengals aren’t just hoping that Boyd can step up, they need him to. Fortunately for Cincinnati, some early signs indicate he’s up to the challenge.
Boyd got his pro career started with a 40-yard grab in Cincinnati’s preseason opener. Admittedly, much of the credit has to go to AJ McCarron for throwing a perfectly placed ball, but the rookie completing a difficult catch under tight coverage is nice to see nonetheless.
Boyd continued to build on his strong debut in yesterday’s matchup with the Detroit Lions. He ran with the starters and made a few impressive plays on the night. First, he sunk low to make a diving catch on a ground ball from Andy Dalton - that grab was good for 26 yards. What Boyd is more likely to remember, though, is his first pro touchdown.
There wasn’t anything spectacular about the scoring catch, but the Bengals should still be happy to see that Boyd isn’t shrinking from the moment.
Three catches is a small sample size to go off of course, but, with two long gains and a touchdown to show for those three grabs, Boyd seems to be living up to the big-play ability he showcased in college. According to this piece from Cincinnati.com, that’s something the Bengals have grown used to.
Now, in spite of what his first catch might suggest, Boyd isn’t much of a vertical threat. In terms of size (6’1″, 197 pounds) and speed (4.58 40-yard dash) he’s just average in terms of NFL receivers. But, early on, he’s shown just why he left Pitt as it’s all-time leading receiver. The strong route runner has a knack for finding holes in a defense and has strong enough hands and body control to make even the toughest of catches look mundane.
Boyd will likely face some struggles as a rookie. Everyone this side of Odell Beckham Jr. did. But the confident young man will dole out as many hits as he takes. If he continues to make plays like the diving catch linked above, Andy Dalton will take a liking to him. And, when, not if, he does, don’t be surprised if it’s LaFell who takes a back seat to Boyd.