2012 Record: 10 – 6 (2nd in Division)
General Manager: Mike Brown
Head Coach: Marvin Lewis
Offensive Coordinator: Jay Gruden
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Zimmer
Special Teams Coach: Darrin Simmons
Overview: At the end of the Carson Palmer era in Cincinnati, things were looking quite bleak for the Bengals and coach Marvin Lewis. The 2011 off-season was the year of the lockout and it would also be the year the Bengals got their act together and ended up back on track. Some say that the lockout helped teams like Cincinnati because no teams were able to prepare by having a full off-season What actually helped the Bengals was selecting the top receiver in the 2011 NFL Draft in A.J. Green in the first-round and in the second-round taking their current franchise quarterback, Andy Dalton. With the new mindset and the turnaround in 2011, the Bengals are now considered a perennial playoff bound team, but can they take the next step to become Super Bowl contenders?
Offense: Total Offense (22nd), Passing (17th), Rushing (18th), and Scoring (12th).
I personally thought the Bengals would be ranked higher in most of these categories. Obviously this offense features Dalton and Green, but there are other play-makers such as Jermaine Gresham, Mohamed Sanu, and BenJarvus Jeremy Green-Ellis. Now granted, Green-Ellis is not a home-run hitter at running back, but he is a solid piece in the Cincinnati puzzle. The Bengals had a strong 2012 draft on both sides of the ball that actively produced in 2012.
To get over the hump and into the contenders talk, from an offensive perspective, Dalton needs to lower the amount of interceptions he throws. This is obviously a easy stat to pick out, but his 27 touchdowns in 2012 was really good for the the offense. The 16 interceptions, not so great. This can also be due to having young receivers, but with a full season under their belt they will be on the same page for the 2013 season.
The primary concern for the Bengals right now should be resigning Andre Smith. The Bengals line gave up 46 sacks. That isn’t awful for a team, but at the same time it isn’t good. Bringing back Smith would keep their line together and they would have more cohesion among themselves, therefore keeping Andy Dalton on his feet more.
Defense: Total Yards (27th), Passing (26th), Rushing (21st), and Sacks (3rd).
The Bengals have a great defense and that is what most come to expect from the AFC North teams. It is slightly confusing when you look at their team stats, and if you followed the NFL Draft this past year you may have been a little confused in all of the defensive talk. The front seven for 2012 was full of studs like Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, Michael Johnson, and Vontaze Burfict. Maualuga and Lawson were suspect at times, but helped fill out a great front seven.
On the back-end Cincinnati proved themselves in the team stats column, but you wouldn’t believe it if you saw their secondary. Leon Hall is probably the only sure starter in it. Adam Jones held his own, but the problem was the lack of play from first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick. He had nagging injuries that kept him out of camp which buried him on the depth chart because of the injuries and lack of practice. He could burst onto the scene in 2013 once he gets a shot.
If the Bengals offense can catch up to their defense, they will be a Super Bowl contender.
Special Teams: Field Goals (T – 7th), Kick Returns (19th), and Punting (15th).
In charge of the kicking duties for the Bengals in 2012 were Mike Nugent and Kevin Huber. Nugent was proficient in his kicking in 2012 going 33 of 38, including 14 of 16 from 40 yards out or further. This is what Josh Kirkendall of SB Nations’ Cincy Jungle blog had to say about Nugent:
“Mike Nugent simply has one thing that Shayne Graham, who holds mostly all of the team’s efficiency records as a place-kicker, doesn’t. The ability to perform under pressure.”
This past March Huber signed a five year extension with the Bengals. The contract extension for Huber must mean Cincinnati likes what he is doing and believes he can continue to do it for them. In 2012 Huber had 33 punts fall inside the 20 yard line. I consider that doing your job as a punter. As Rich Eisen of NFL Network says:
“Punters are people too!”
Brandon Tate was the kick returner for the Bengals in 2012. He had 32 returns for 795 yards and no touchdowns. Tate got the job done, but was not a game changer on special teams. To help the Bengals contend it would be a wise idea to get themselves an impact player to return kicks.
2012 Off-season Impact:
Key Acquisitions: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, S Reggie Nelson, G Travelle Wharton, CB Jason Allen, CB Adam Jones, DE Jamaal Anderson, and DE Derrick Harvey.
Key Losses: DE Frostee Rucker, G Nate Livings, G Mike McGlynn, DE Jonathan Fanene, and WR Andre Caldwell.
Round 1, Pick 17: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Round 1, Pick 27: Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin
Round 2, Pick 53: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Round 3, Pick 83: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
Round 3, Pick 93: Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
Round 4, Pick 116: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
Round 5, Pick 156: Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa
Round 5, Pick 166: Marvin Jones, WR, Califorinia
Round 5, Pick 167: George Iloka, S, Boise State
Round 6, Pick 191: Dan Herron, RB, Ohio State
The Bengals 2012 offseason was not sexy by any means, but it did harvest some solid players that contributed in 2012. Green-Ellis, Nelson, and Jones provided solid stop gap players to get by in 2012 while Harvey and Anderson were solid backups. As far as their draft goes, a year later I would grade it a B+. The reason it doesn’t get an A from me is that Kirkpatrick didn’t play in 2012. Zeitler was very solid on the line and Sanu was a situational receiver and he did have a thrilling 73 yard touchdown pass. Still and Thompson were both steals who will be added to the already very talented defensive tackle position for the Bengals. Charles, Prater, Jones, and Iloka all have the potential to contribute in many was and some have already. Iloka was one of my favorite players in the 2012 Draft.
The only problem with this draft for the Bengals is that the did not pick up a running back with the ability to be a home-run hitter.
Key Acquisitions: OLB James Harrison, QB Josh Johnson, G Mike Pollak, and QB John Skelton.
Key Losses: K Josh Brown, QB Bruce Gradkowski, OLB Manny Lawson, and RB Brian Leonard.
Round 1, Pick 21: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Round 2, Pick 37: Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
Round 2, Pick 53: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
Round 3, Pick 84: Shawn Williams, S, Georgia
Round 4, Pick 118: Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M
Round 5, Pick 156: Tanner Hawkinson, OT, Kansas
Round 6, Pick 190: Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska
Round 6, Pick 197: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas
Round 7, Pick 240: Reid Fragel, OT, Ohio State
Round 7, Pick 251: T.J. Johnson, C, South Carolina