Jordan Evans: learning on the job.
ESPN analyst Jon Gruden told the world Jordan Evans was not good on Monday night's most bizarre play on a night of bizarre. Evans may be the Bengals' 22-year-old rookie linebacker in the process of playing the most NFL snaps of his life and trying to replace the team's most productive players, but even he knew where that one ranked.
"Y'all see it, but I feel it. It doesn't look good or feel good," Evans said before Wednesday's practice.
Early second half. Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell continues his career-long torture of the Bengals when he turns another simple check-down pass into unchecked chaos. After racing 10 yards with the ball in the open field, Evans and cornerback William Jackson close on him on the sideline at about the Bengals 25. Jackson thinks Evans has pushed him out of bounds and let's Bell slide past. But Evans doesn't get enough of him and Bell walks in untouched to cut the Bengals' lead 17-10.
"Two rookie players," said defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
Jackson had picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty earlier in the game on a punt on a hit out of bounds and told Guenther he was afraid of getting another flag if he hit Bell out of bounds and got tossed out of the game because of second such penalty. The problem is Evans didn't get him out of bounds.
"When he got that step on me, I tried to push him," Evans said. "I thought I pushed him enough. Obviously I didn't. That's not going to happen again."
The Bengals love Evans. At 6-3, 240 pounds, he's big, he can run, and he hits like they weren't sure he could hit when they drafted him out of Oklahoma in the sixth round. He played a career-high 66 snaps Monday and that's going to be the norm the rest of the way. He replaced Nick Vigil, their leading tackler, on Monday night and Vigil may be done for the year with an ankle injury and Vontaze Burfict, the other outside backer and second-leading tackler, probably won't go this Sunday because of a concussion.
But despite the play, Guenther liked what he saw. Bell ended up with 101 yards receiving, but 68 came on two plays marred by missed tackles or no tackles. Holding the NFL's leading rusher to 76 yards on 18 carries is good enough to win.
"Better. I have to get better," Evans said.
On the Jackson-Evans play, Bell started it out with an exaggerated high step and Evans has filed that away. He knew Bell's strong suit is his patience. Now he's lived it.
"I didn't want to get kicked out and pushed outside," Evans said. "You know what he's capable of. I played over cautious and let him get a little edge on me."
Gruden told the world, but Evans already knew.
"I feel like I let the team down. I gave them a touchdown," he said. "It motivates me to go harder and finish the play all the way through."
Cincinnati Ben-Gal Cheerleaders perform during the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals game - 12/06/2017 *Photos taken by Steve France