The 2010 season may be one of the most disappointing for Bengals fans in the history of the franchise. The team, on the heels of a season in which they won the AFC North and hosted their second home playoff game in five years, was expected by many, professional and amateur analysts alike, to play in Super Bowl XLV. Instead they finished with a fourth overall pick worthy 4-12 record, winning only two games in the division that they swept the year before.
The only way to move forward from the 2010 season and fix the problems that caused them to fall from first to worst in their division in the span of a year is to move from position to position and diagnose all the problems. Over the next couple weeks, that's exactly what we're going to do. We'll start with the secondary and move our way through the defense, evaluating each group of positions (secondary, linebackers, defensive line, etc...) and then switch to offense and do the same thing.
So without further ado, the secondary:
As a unit, the Bengals secondary fell from their No. 6 ranking in 2009 (allowing 203.1 passing yards per game) to a No. 17 ranking in 2010 (allowing 216.8 passing ypg). The difference of 13.7 yards between the two years doesn't sound like much at all, especially when you consider that the Bengals played Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger twice in 2010 versus Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub, Brett Favre, Rivers and Flacco and Roethlisberger twice again in 2009. When you take into account the quality of quarterbacks that the secondary had the task of containing in 2010, they played fairly well, even though they were riddled with.....
The Bengals were plagued with injuries but no area of the team felt the sting of the injury bug worse than the secondary did. The Bengals placed seven -- that's right... seven -- members of the secondary on injured reserve this season. Just take a look at how many of the Bengals on the following chart have the positions of CB or S next to their name. They make up the majority of the Bengals in the infirmary.
|12/21/10||Terrell Owens||WR||left knee||IR|
|11/23/10||Tank Johnson||DT||right knee||IR|
|11/22/10||Chris Crocker||S||torn right MCL||IR|
|11/15/10||Mike Nugent||K||torn right ACL||IR|
|08/29/10||Gibril Wilson||S||left knee||IR|
At the end of the season, the Bengals were going into games against Rivers, Flacco and Roethlisberger with their starting cornerbacks, Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall, and one starting safety, Roy Williams. The other safety position was filled by fourth-year player Reggie Nelson, who the Bengals acquired via a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars in September of 2010. That doesn't mean that Joseph, Hall and Williams were healthy all year long either; Joseph and Williams spent a fair amount of time on the sidelines with injuries of their own. The only player in the secondary who accumulated stats in every game was Leon Hall.
The Bengals have one of the top cornerback duos in the NFL. Both Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph were coming off of six-interception seasons in 2009 where they both finished in the top-10 in the category. This season, Hall finished with four and Joseph with three.
Joseph is now an unrestricted free agent. The Bengals, having just announced that Marvin Lewis is to remain head coach, have yet to announce whether or not they will re-sign the cornerback.
There is some talent waiting in the wings behind Hall and Joseph. Adam Jones, a former first-round pick, is coming off of a season in which he looked impressive before he was injured. The Bengals also have talented and young cornerbacks Morgan Trent and Brandon Ghee who have looked impressive in the nickle position and are waiting for a bigger role.
Safety has been a position of some concern over the past couple of seasons. Even though the Bengals finished the 2009 season with a top-10 passing defense, the ability of the starting safeties, Chris Crocker and Roy Williams, to cover deep receiving threats has been questioned. Both Crocker and Williams are considerably better at stopping the run than covering receivers. Because of this, many thought that the Bengals would try to draft a safety like Eric Berry or Earl Thomas early in the 2010 draft but instead they went after game-changing tight end Jermaine Gresham (I'm not complaining).
Roy Williams and backup Chinedum Ndukwe are both free agents now that the 2010 season has come to an end. With the Bengals expected to address the safety position in the upcoming draft or free agency, they may not sign either Williams or Ndukwe. We'll have to wait and see.
Even though the Bengals secondary has fallen from a top-10 unit in 2009 to a middle of the road unit in 2010, much of the blame can be placed on the fact the unit was plagued by injuries throughout the season. Taking that and the fact that they faced some of the best passing offenses in the NFL into account, the unit as a whole didn't play terribly. Of course there are some holes that need to be filled, especially at safety, and the Bengals are going to need to re-sign Joseph or find a suitable replacement for the 2011 season. Even though the Bengals have quite a bit of work to do to make sure that the secondary goes back to where it was at the end of the 2009 season instead of continue to deteriorate. However, if they make the right moves in the off season, coupled with a possibly rejuvenated pass rush, the Bengals secondary could easily find themselves back in the top-10 next season.
Considering that they were battling with injuries all season long, my final grade for the Bengals secondary in 2010 is a B-.
What do you think?