Bengals' ‘Bomb Squad’ gets it done vs. Titans

Cincinnati Bengals offensive guard Fred Johnson (74) reacts after a touchdown by Giovani Bernard in the first half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Emilee Chinn)
Cincinnati Bengals offensive guard Fred Johnson (74) reacts after a touchdown by Giovani Bernard in the first half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Emilee Chinn)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI -- As the Cincinnati Bengals were celebrating their win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in the locker room after the game, second-year offensive tackle Fred Johnson started drawing attention to “the Bomb Squad.”

That’s the name the Bengals (2-5-1) have given their scout team because backup quarterback Ryan Finley throws a lot of deep balls to the three receivers on the practice squad -- Trenton Irwin, Stanley Morgan and Scotty Washington.

All five offensive linemen that started the game Sunday were members of “the Bomb Squad” at times this season, including Johnson at right tackle, Alex Redmond at right guard, Billy Price at center, Shaq Calhoun at left guard and rookie Hakeem Adeniji at left tackle.

Price, the 2018 first-round draft pick whose struggled to crack the starting lineup, was considered a possible candidate to be moved ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline, but no last-day moves had been made at time of publication.

“For a group getting thrown together at the last minute, they did great,” Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. “It was actually kind of funny. … Fred’s yelling about the Bomb Squad. Really, it was always those guys that were out there. It was Hakeem. It was Fred. It was Billy and at one point Calhoun early in the game. It was all the guys who had been playing together on the scout team. I don’t think that can be underestimated. They really did have some familiarity with each other because they’ve been playing together for the last eight weeks against our defense. That part was kind of cool to see. They played good football. Again, winning football, for a day that they all got thrown out there to go play against a pretty stout front.”

Four of them were new starters Sunday, as center Trey Hopkins (concussion), left tackle Jonah Williams (stinger) and right tackle Bobby Hart (knee) went down in a Week 7 loss to the Browns and left guard Michael Jordan informed coaches he was sick Sunday morning. Redmond, who was among the final roster cuts ahead of Week 1, had stepped off the practice squad to take over at right guard in Week 4.

Calhoun was added to the gameday roster off the practice squad Saturday to be a backup and was thrust into the lineup for the first series before newly signed Quinton Spain replaced him for the remainder of the game. Spain signed Friday and was supposed to be the eighth lineman.

“It was exciting,” linebacker Logan Wilson said of seeing the scout team guys step up. “It shows their passion for the game and the work they put in to be able to get that win feels good for not only them, but for our whole team. One of my high school coaches always told me you’re only as strong as your weakest link. That means we need everyone -- on scout teams, too -- to be able to give us looks. That’s why I think our scout team players were just as excited as we were. They’re just as much a part of this team as the guys that play on Sunday.”

The Bengals didn’t allow any sacks on Joe Burrow, and they finished with more than 100 yards rushing for only the thing time this season – without Joe Mixon.

Adeniji, a sixth-round draft pick, was making his first career start, and Johnson – a second-year player -- got his first start at right tackle after previous snaps at left tackle and right guard.

“They played well,” Callahan said. “Hakeem got tested a little bit by Clowney, who statistically is not having a great season but he’s still a problematic rusher and we were very concerned about him going into the game. He’s a real deal, $15 million a year pass rusher. Hakeem did good. He had some battles with him. Won some and lost some. Ultimately, they didn’t affect us negatively and it was a good introduction for him as a rookie playing left tackle in the NFL. I’m proud of the way those guys fought. It was a lot of good there. They played really hard. They played well enough for us to win that game.”

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said he and offensive line coach Jim Turner received the same text that Jordan wasn’t going to be able to play, so he knew why Turner was calling on his drive to the stadium Sunday morning. Nobody panicked, and Turner just laid out the plan of what to do.

Callahan said Calhoun started ahead of Spain because he had been with the team the longest, and the plan was to rotate them. Spain ended up playing 85 percent of the snaps.

“That’s a testament to Quinton Spain’s experience,” Callahan said. “He’s played as an NFL starter for a long time. Football, ultimately, is kind of all the same everywhere to some degree. You just have to learn the language. That part was impressive. But we started out having Calhoun because we thought he had the most familiarity. We were planning rotating them at least the first two or three series, just to see where they were at and who was going to give us the best chance. When Quinton went in there, he kind of settled in and we felt like, going forward for the rest of the game, he gave us the best chance to be successful.”

Asked if any of the linemen that stepped in Sunday earned more playing time for themselves in the future, Taylor said that is still to be determined. The hope is the bye this week enables players to get back healthy for the Week 10 game against Pittsburgh.

“Those are questions that we get to work through this week,” Taylor said. “It was a really good performance by those guys. I also feel like the five linemen who had been starters had been playing really well the past two weeks. You don’t just rush to make decisions like that. We’ve got time. We certainly have confidence in a lot guys at that position right now.”

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