As Jason pointed out earlier Thursday morning, Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc offered a post-lockout grade for all 32 NFL teams. And as Jason pointed out, the Bengals received a very mediocre grade of "C-", with the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns being the only AFC teams with worse grades. Generally speaking if this were just ESPN writers arbitrarily publishing grades, we'd point out that the whole concept of publishing lettered judgments, a completely subjective opinion, with no context, no substantial benchmark, is beyond ridiculous.
Then again, it's Scouts Inc. that's grading the Bengals, who spend their days, nights and dinners earning their bread by studying football to the point that we would gladly classify it as a dream job. Though our own biased opinions with this team, saturated with a hopeful prognostication after what many defined this offseason as the worst offseason in recent memory, could render "expert" judgments moot.
But in truth, it's not just Scouts Inc that's offering bad grades for the Bengals. One of my more referred to sites on the net, Pro Football Focus, graded Cincinnati worse with a solid D.
Big Signing: Nate Clements. After losing a cornerback the caliber of Johnathan Joseph the Bengals needed to find someone to replace him. Clements may be on the downside of his career, but he’s a more than capable number two.
Under the Radar: Cedric Benson. Legal troubles aside, the Bengals were in a bad way at the RB spot without Benson.
Big Loss: Evan Mathis. It says something that the biggest loss is a guy who didn’t a game last year. Losing Mathis means chronic underachiever Nate Livings will be starting again.
Grade: D. Not getting anything for Carson Palmer, managing to worsen their offensive line and failing to upgrade their secondary. The Bengals have fallen further adrift this off season.
Agreed on the secondary and I only partially agree on the Mathis point because it's very possible that Livings may not even start -- especially when you factor in the competition from Clint Boling and Max Jean-Gilles. Completely agree on the Palmer part. Yet I completely disagree on the offensive line point. Transactions were, at best, a push and then you have to factor in that Andre Smith appears to finally be climbing that hill he should have started climbing his rookie season. We shall see with Smith, though and in reality, the grades PFF is adjusting is mostly subjective about a team's free agent activity.
And the point about running backs keeps me torn. Benson fit perfectly in Cincinnati during the team's AFC North championship. Not so great in 2010, compounded with legal issues made his return non-celebrated. The bigger point we should examine here surrounds the team's rookie running backs. Are they impressing coaches so much to the point that free agency was really a secondary thought? Jay Finley and Jonathan Williams are having good training camps. If they're effective, then free agency, which is completely over-hyped (yes, I said it) is pointless on the matter of running backs.
Let me make this abundantly clear. I think lettered grades is one of the weakest representations of judging anything in the NFL. Representations of lettered-grades provide no benchmark. For example where as Pro Football Focus may drop the Bengals with a "D", I may argue that they deserve at least a C+, maybe even a B-. What's the difference between the two grades? Subjective thought. Nothing more.
But it does provide good commentary, doesn't it?