Now that 2011 is officially in the books, let’s compare notes on the various personnel groups did over the season. Some brought a lot of value, and a some were not as good as they needed to be. Here is how I would rank them in terms of value to the team (#1 being most value). Let me know if you agree.
- Defensive line
- Special teams
- Wide receiver
- Tight end
- Offensive line
- Running back
Defensive line is the clear winner. They were the teeth to the defense, which was the dominant side of the ball all season. I also graded special teams highly because, except for some FG misses late in the season, they were solid all season. Coverage was good all season. More pop from Tate would have been nice.
I put CB so high because of how decimated they were at the start of the season. JJoe left and Adam Jones began the season on the PUP list. I expected them to get roasted all season. However, Nate Clements proved to be a solid addition, and the Bengals finished #9 in pass defense.
Andy had an incredible season compared to what we expected. 3398 yds and 20 TDs in the regular season. But his numbers in the last 5-6 games were just not that great. Maybe he started to get tired. Maybe the rest of the league started to figure him out. Maybe both. With a full offseason, Andy needs to take a step forward in his game next year.
I had similar reasons to the CBs for putting LB at #5. Rivers, Muckelroy and Moch were all sidelined for the season, and the coaches had to put together a patchwork crew while moving Maualuga back to the middle for the first time. Work still needs to be done here, but they turned in a nice year given where they started.
I wanted to put the WRs higher because A.J. Green is just awesome. But the rest of the crew, except for Andrew Hawkins, was a disappointment overall. Simpson disappeared too often, and Caldwell couldn’t get it done. I doubt either returns next year, or they will be at the back of the depth chart if they do.
Who was the last game-changer the Bengals had at safety? Neither Nelson or Crocker were awful, but they weren’t great either.
Putting the TEs this low is as much a result of how they were used as how they performed on the field. Gresham gets too few targets for a guy with his type of mismatch ability. But he is prone to whiff at times. Lee and Cochart were nice pieces but did not make big impacts through the season.
The O-line was surprisingly good in pass protection, allowing only 25 sacks all season. But the run blocking was paltry. The Bengals desperately need upgrades at both guard spots.
For me, running back was the clear deficit. Imagine the exact same offense, only with LeSean McCoy or Matt Forte or Ray Rice or Arian Foster in the backfield. That punch changes everything. Cedric Benson just doesn’t have what those guys do. This could be the single biggest move the Bengals make this offseason.
So there is my list. Let’s hear your opinion. It’s all among friends here.