Five By Five: Biggest Disappointments With The Cincinnati Bengals

Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

With our top encouraging and positive players in the bag, we focus on the more dreadful of subjects.

+ True. Jermaine Gresham is second on the team with 28 receptions, on pace to set a career-high in receptions (64) and yards receiving (743). The third-year tight end is generating his highest average in his career, thanks in large part to a 55-yard touchdown reception -- also a career-high. Yet, it's not enough. Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden following the team's loss to the Houston Texans in the Wild Card game:

"He's just got to continue studying, learn and rep, rep, rep, rep and rep. He's just got to mentally get into it and see the looks. He's very raw. He's never done this type of thing before where option routes, reading the safeties, two deep, three deep or whatever it might be. The more he sees the better he's going to be and once he gets it, he will be a dominate force."

Prior to the 2012 regular season, Gruden followed up on the topic of Gresham:

"Jermaine has got to work at it every day, no question about it," Gruden said. "He's come a long way with his route discipline and knowledge of the offense with the run game, especially. Just have to keep repping him. Some of the concepts where he has to read coverages on the move he has to get better at.

"When he's right, he can be an awesome target for Andy. And it's our job to get him right more often than not and it's his job to keep working.

"We've got to do a good job getting him more involved downfield and he's got to make sure he's more accountable for the quarterback," Gruden said. "The quarterback has to feel the confidence he can go to Jermaine when Jermaine is ready and in the right spot. When he gets to that point I would expect him to put up some strong numbers."

Gresham is a rare case where no matter how well he plays, the overtures of his production lacks too much. Talent and athleticism are comparable to the best tight ends in the NFL, yet his very inconsistency and dropped passes have left too much to be desired.

+ We know that Andrew Hawkins fired out of the gates hot as a spicy tamale under the Arizona sun. Four games into the regular season, Hawkins was on pace to generate 988 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. Three games later that torrid pace has fallen to 791 yards for only 4.5 touchdowns. Yet it's not Hawkins' respectable season that were necessarily hinting; rather the complete absence of a reliable No. 2 wide receiver to complement A.J. Green while giving quarterback Andy Dalton options.

Though Hawkins isn't a problem with 27 receptions, Armon Binns, Brandon Tate, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones and Ryan Whalen have combined for only 34 catches and two touchdowns. Simply put. No one is stepping up.

+ We've pounded on this several times this year and we hate doing it. But we're continuously drawn by it from the sheer disappointment of linebacker Rey Maualuga this year. We weren't looking for mediocre or average. Instead we've seen a once fiery linebacker with a propensity to over-pursue and violently clash into rushing lanes, become hesitant and somewhat unsure of himself.

+ This was to be Taylor Mays' season. After starting (and badly struggling) during the regular season opener, Mays was benched on defense, collectively playing only two defensive snaps during the last three games -- both against the Cleveland Browns. Alright. What about Jeromy Miles, who had a fine enough preseason to force a competition debate at strong safety? Only 15 defensive snaps in the past five games.

Instead the Bengals moved Nate Clements to safety; a move enthusiastically demanded by Bengals fans even before the departure of Chris Crocker. Lacking a tough-guy instinct against the run has nearly slashed his snaps in half; ironically enough, in favor of Crocker (especially the last two weeks).

+ Now the unfavorable selection that will have this writer promptly exiled. Andy Dalton. Forgive our opinion of minority. Yet saying that we're disappointing doesn't qualify a translation into such phrases as sucks, horrible, awful, bum. Not at all. Disappointed? A little bit.

Last year was the year of comebacks, led by a rookie quarterback and filtering through the pressure only to discover valor within victory with late comebacks. Now admittedly the magic slowly dissolved late last season, into a blowout playoff game and the succeeding regular season opener this year.

We're not here to put this all on Dalton either. He remains one of the more impressive quarterbacks in the NFL. But right now he's not playing well. Sure it's likely the result of others around him, but he's also not making those players better. Sure. Give us the excuses; just don't make them the same excuses during the Carson Palmer era, just with different names.

Dalton's already three interceptions shy of tying last year's total of ten, while on pace for 23 total picks. On the other hand his passing percentage is up while on pace for over 4,000 yards.

Look at it this way. Where would the Bengals and Dalton be without A.J. Green?

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