Cincinnati Bengals: Pro Football Focus

CINCINNATI -- To the relief the Cincinnati Bengals, the Indianapolis Colts are now in their rearview mirror. But before we completely move on from Sunday afternoon's game, let's take a quick peek at some of the ways our friends at Pro Football Focus analyzed and examined Cincinnati's Week 7 game.

As always, take the grades and notes you see below with a certain grain of salt because they can end up being amended. Bad grades also can sometimes simply be the product of particular schemes, coverage or formations a team happens to employ in a respective week based upon the opponent. (Although, virtually all of the bad grades following this week's shutout are probably indisputable)

Here are a few Bengals grades and notes following Sunday's 27-0 loss:

OFFENSE
  • At full health for the first time since the start of Week 2, the Bengals' offensive line had good reason to perform well Sunday. But like the rest of their unit, the line didn't play well overall, as Indianapolis' constant pressure caused them all kinds of headaches. Using PFF's grades, the two worst-graded linemen were right tackle Andre Smith and left guard Clint Boling. Smith had a minus-4.9 overall grade and a minus-2.3 run block grade. Smith's run-block grade matched a season-low and was an indication of how much trouble he had sustaining blocks in the little-used run game. He also had two penalties in the game, including a false start in the red zone. Boling had a minus-1.8 overall grade.
  • While those two struggled, rookie Russell Bodine has continued to impress. He allowed just one quarterback disruption this week, a hurry.
  • With receiver A.J. Green out the last two games and Marvin Jones now done for the year, the Bengals are increasingly turning to backup receiver Dane Sanzenbacher for help in the passing game. According to PFF, his 92 snaps across the last two games -- he had 51 on Sunday -- are more than he played all of last year on offense. In those two games, he has only been targeted five times.
  • Of the 41 passes quarterback Andy Dalton attempted, only seven of them traveled in the air more than nine yards. The Bengals were committed to using screens and other short-range passes.
  • Indianapolis sent 12 blitzes, according to PFF. As he has much of the season, Dalton managed them fairly well, completing six passes on the 12 rushes.
  • As mentioned earlier, the Bengals barely ran. They had 12 carries total, including one from Dalton. Running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill had a season-low 11 hand-offs. For the first time this year, Bernard also was unable to force a tackle.
DEFENSE
  • Cornerback Adam Jones had the highest PFF grade on the day, claiming a plus-4.3 score. He was targeted six times, allowing just two catches for eight yards.
  • As you'd imagine with two of their starting linebackers out for the afternoon, and a third making a quick exit due to injury, the Bengals' all-reserve linebacker corps was targeted often. Rookie Marquis Flowers and second-year backup Jayson DiManche appeared on 56 percent of the defensive snaps, and made all but six of the Cincinnati's special teams plays. Flowers was targeted seven times and allowed four catches for 41 yards, according to PFF. Another reserve who saw significant action, Vincent Rey, was targeted four times and allowed catches each time for 70 yards. A lot of the yardage on those catches came from Flowers' and Rey's three missed tackles.
  • Defensive tackle Geno Atkins recorded only his second negative overall grade in the last three seasons with his minus-1.8 mark. He didn't record any official stats.
  • Defensive end Carlos Dunlap had his best game as a rusher, disrupting five of the 26 passing attempts he could factor into.

PFF reviews the Bengals' Week 6 tie

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
7:45
PM ET
CINCINNATI -- The Carolina Panthers, for better or worse, are now in the Cincinnati Bengals' rearview mirror. But before we completely move on from Sunday afternoon's game, let's take a quick peek at some of the ways our friends at Pro Football Focus analyzed and examined Cincinnati's Week 6 game.

As always, take the grades and notes you see below with a certain grain of salt because they can end up being amended. Bad grades also can sometimes simply be the product of particular schemes, coverages or formations a team happens to employ in a respective week based upon the opponent.

Here are a few Bengals grades and notes following Sunday's 37-37 tie:

OFFENSE
  • The Bengals' offensive line had a strong performance against the Panthers' defense, PFF found. That was particularly the case with the left side of the unit earning the highest grades of all the linemen on the team. Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth held his own against Carolina's rush, providing clean pass protection all game. He earned a plus-2.2 overall grade, including a plus-3.0 mark in pass blocking. Only rookie center Russell Bodine at plus-2.3, had a higher overall grade from PFF. Left guard Clint Boling also was in positive territory, netting a plus-1.6 grade.
  • Right guard Mike Pollak, playing for the injured Kevin Zeitler, and right tackle Andre Smith had minus-0.4 and minus-0.3 grades, respectively.
  • There were eight positive grades awarded from PFF to offensive players, including the team high plus-4.0 that receiver Mohamed Sanu earned. He had one drop but caught a deflected pass, went up over a corner on another that ended in the end zone, and had a key block that opened a lane on the first Bengals touchdown. He played well in relief of injured Pro Bowler A.J. Green, appearing on all but one of the plays the Bengals' offense was on the field for.
  • Despite his 89-yard touchdown run, and his four carries for 21 yards that came after taking a hard shot that injured his right shoulder, Giovani Bernard still graded poorly by PFF. He was given a minus-2.1 grade. Bernard also saw 58 snaps compared with fellow running back Jeremy Hill's 27. Hill had just 12 snaps the week before at New England.
  • Against the blitz, PFF found that quarterback Andy Dalton was 11-for-16 for 121 yards and two touchdowns and an interception.
DEFENSE
  • Cincinnati still is having issues generating a pass rush, according to PFF. Only one Bengals defensive player had a positive grade rushing the passer, tackle Geno Atkins. The Pro Bowler had four quarterback hurries and one hit as he tried to chase after the elusive Cam Newton.
  • Linebacker Vontaze Burfict had trouble in pass defense. PFF found that he gave up all six of the passes that were thrown in his area, and that he also missed one tackle. He finished with 10 total stops.
  • Defensive end Margus Hunt was only on the field for 15 snaps. That was his lowest snap total of the season. He also logged his third negative overall grade of the year.
  • Safety George Iloka has been stingy in coverage this season for the Bengals, allowing just 27 yards on two catches all season. On one of PFF's signature stats -- yards per cover snap -- Iloka ranks among the league's best safeties, allowing just 0.11 yards.
CINCINNATI -- The New England Patriots, for better or worse, are now in the Cincinnati Bengals' rearview mirror. But before we completely move on from Sunday night's game, let's take a quick peek at some of the ways our friends at Pro Football Focus analyzed and examined Cincinnati's Week 5 game.

As always, take the grades and notes you see below with a certain grain of salt because they can end up being amended. Bad grades also can sometimes simply be the product of particular schemes, coverages or formations a team happens to employ in a respective week based upon the opponent.

Here are a few Bengals grades and notes following Sunday's 43-17 loss:

OFFENSE
  • It seemed like just about anything that could go wrong for the Bengals on Sunday did. But to its credit, the Bengals' offensive line held up much better than what may have been originally perceived, according to PFF. In pass protection, the group held its own with veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth leading the way with a plus-1.4 pass-blocking grade. Whitworth also had a plus grade in run blocking, collecting a 1.2 grade there. He was the only offensive lineman with a positive run-blocking grade.
  • As well as Whitworth played on the left side of the line, the right side struggled, according to PFF's evaluation. Right tackle Andre Smith, right guard Mike Pollak and center Russell Bodine all had run-block grades below minus-2.0.
  • Behind A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu, who both played more than 50 snaps, James Wright received the most at receiver, totaling 22 snaps.
  • The running back snap breakdown went as follows: Giovani Bernard (44), Jeremy Hill (12). It was tough to get the balance the Bengals wanted in the running game because they were down by so much so early. The Bengals were down immediately 14-0 before starting to come back, briefly.
  • Quarterback Andy Dalton was barely pressured. He received pressure on just seven of his 27 dropbacks.
  • With Darrelle Revis covering him, Green was targeted five times. On those passes, Green caught three for 64 yards, helping bolster his claim that he didn't think Revis shut him down.
  • The Bengals threw seven passes that traveled 20 yards or more downfield, the most they have attempted in a single game all season. Entering Sunday's game, 63 percent of Dalton's passing attempts had traveled 15 yards or less in the air, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
DEFENSE
  • New England targeted Cincinnati's linebackers all night, attempting 15 passes in their areas of coverage. Vincent Rey allowed six catches on six targets and Emmanuel Lamur allowed three on six targets.
  • Lamur also was credited with just one missed tackle by PFF (although from my personal recollection, I can remember him missing at least three) and received his lowest overall grade of the season: minus-5.0. He now has a minus-4.2 overall grade this season. Only Robert Geathers and Domata Peko have worse overall grades from PFF.
  • Cornerback Leon Hall also had his struggles. He allowed five catches on eight targets and missed three tackles.
  • Defensive end Wallace Gilberry recorded the Bengals' highest grades in overall play, play against the pass and play against the run. He had a plus-3.8 overall grade.
  • Defensive tackle Geno Atkins played 51 snaps, recording two tackles and a quarterback hurry.
CINCINNATI -- Often this offseason we have discussed how the strength of the foundation of the Cincinnati Bengals' roster.

Because of that firm, deep and experienced base, the Bengals really didn't need to focus this spring on drafting and signing players who could shake up the starting ranks. Free agency and the draft are two areas where the Bengals have mostly been slammed for a perceived lack of action, but truthfully, they didn't have much action that needed to be taken.

Why? Because again, they have a rather strong returning roster from a team that has been to the playoffs each of the past three seasons.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Whitworth
AP Photo/David KohlAndrew Whitworth is one of two Bengals starters rated as elite by Pro Football Focus.
Our friends at Pro Football Focus certainly believe so. In its 32-team rankings Insider the Bengals were tabbed as having the league's seventh-best roster. For a team that brings back the majority of its starters after finishing third in total defense and 10th in total offense, the ranking makes sense.

The rankings were compiled by PFF, which is known for its position rankings. Last month, PFF also published its version of the league's top 101 players. Bengals A.J. Green and Vontaze Burfict were in the lower tier of the rankings, but Pro Bowl offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth came in at No. 9. He was praised for his athleticism and versatility in playing both tackle and guard last season. He moved from left tackle to left guard after starter Clint Boling suffered an ACL injury with five weeks left in the regular season.

In the team-by-team roster rankings that are linked above, PFF used its analysts to grade each team using a color-coded system to rank projected starters. Elite players got blue colors, followed by good players who had varying shades of greens. Average and below average players were paired with yellow and orange, and poor players were red.

The Bengals had two players with blue codes: Whitworth and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins. One player, defensive tackle Domata Peko, earned a red. The rest were a mix of the greens, yellows and oranges. The Bengals had more green-coded players than other teams, including the No. 8 team on the list, Green Bay.

Because of what Cincinnati has coming back, it makes sense that it would have a top-10 roster. They have few question marks in the lineup and are not forced to start rookies and other inexperienced players like many teams. Second-year players Giovani Bernard (running back) and Tyler Eifert (tight end) are the youngest starters, and both made valuable contributions as rookies. Bernard's goal-line fumble in the playoff loss to San Diego was costly, but he showed enough promise to earn the light-green status from PFF.

PFF projects Bernard to be the No. 2 running back behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but notes the starter at running back is primarily a name-only designation in Cincinnati. Bernard likely will get the bulk of the carries this season, but Green-Ellis, rookie Jeremy Hill and reserves Cedric Peerman and Rex Burkhead will also get carries. The Bengals will be sharing the load in the backfield instead of using one premier back.

PFF's biggest question revolved around quarterback Andy Dalton. Monson wrote that if Dalton wasn't so inconsistent, the Bengals might have been ranked higher. Dalton isn't simply an average quarterback who does average things. He is at times a really, really good quarterback who also has a knack for doing boneheaded things. His stretch of 11 touchdown passes in three games coincided with the back end of a four-game winning streak last October. However, his back-to-back three-interception games just after that winning streak led to a pair of ugly midseason losses.

The bottom line: the depth is there. The experience is, too. PFF got this one right. On paper, Cincinnati has a top-10 team. The question is, will that translate to the field?

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