It's hard to believe that the season is already half way over. The Bengals have played half of their 2012 regular season games and are sitting at 3-5, losing four games in a row, as they head into Week 10 to play the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants at home. Before we get into that game, though, let's take a look back and discuss how the offense looked through the first half of the season.
First a few stats:
Yards Per Game: 355.5 (17th)
Points Per Game: 23.6 (14th)
Passing Yards Per Game: 259.6 (11th)
Rushing Yards Per Game: 95.9 (26th)
Sacks Allowed: 22 (26th)
Turnover Ratio: -5 (25th)
Andy Dalton isn't in what I would necessarily call a sophomore slump as he's on pace to throw for 4,260 yards and for 28 touchdowns. Unfortunately those 28 touchdowns would come with 22 interceptions, which is almost double of what he threw last year. Dalton has looked good in some games and not so great in others. His connection with A.J. Green is obviously still there as Green is considered by many to be the top wide receiver in the league, but he hasn't formed that kind of connection with any of his other receivers. Maybe that's because there's a lack of talent or maybe there's another reason, either way, Dalton has forced passing to Green when others were open on more than one occasion. Sometimes it works but sometimes it doesn't.
Dalton has also been sacked just two less times than he was all season last year through the first eight games and the defenses he'll face in the second half of the season aren't going to take it any easier on him. Of course, injuries to Kyle Cook and Travelle Wharton have taken their toll, but Dalton has been under a lot of pressure while looking to find an open receiver. He either needs to learn to get rid of the ball much quicker or the offensive line needs to be addressed first in the offseason.
I still believe that Dalton has what it takes to lead the Bengals deep into the playoffs. The issues with his arm strength were massively overblown and he's about as accurate as a quarterback can be in most situations. I think he just needs a little more help to get over the hump in the form of more time from his line and either more time to mesh with his young receiving corps or another talented wide receiver opposite of Green.
The Bengals signed BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the offseason in hopes that he could do for Cincinnati what he did for the Patriots, which was gain the tough yards, score a lot of red-zone touchdowns and not turn over the ball. So far, he has done none of those things.
Green-Ellis, the team's primary back, has averaged 3.4 yards per carry, a career low, and he's only on pace to score six touchdowns, which is nothing compared to the 24 he scored over the last two seasons for the Patriots. He has also fumbled three times, which are the only three fumbles in his career.
In his defense, the offensive line hasn't helped him out much, but he hasn't helped them either. The holes that are open are usually closed by the time Green-Ellis gets there and he just runs into a wall of linemen. I would think it's safe to say that the majority of Bengals fans are either hoping that they would have gone after Michael Bush instead or possibly even held on to Cedric Benson for one more year. At this pace, this will be the first time the Bengals don't have a 1,000-yard rusher in three years.
This is interesting because of A.J. Green. The Bengals receiving corps, made up of Green and then Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Tate, Armon Binns, Andrew Hawkins, Marvin Jones, Ryan Whalen and tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Orson Charles would be considered fairly average, if it wasn't for Green. However, Green has been so good that he pulls all the receivers up with him. There's no question that the guy is the real deal and his mid season grade is definitely an A+.
As for the other receivers, inexperience is their biggest problem. Binns, Hawkins, Jones and Sanu have zero experience and Whalen and Tate don't have much more. There's no question that there's talent there and we've seen flashes of what these guys can do, but until they have more time to learn how to play at the professional level and get on the same page all the time with their quarterback, they're going to be average.
Jermaine Gresham is a different story, though. For as talented of a guy that he is, he is an under achiever more often than not. He has had good games and he continues to be a red zone threat, but he has also dropped more than his fair share of passes and he just doesn't seem to be all there 100 percent of the time.
Due to Green's excellence and the relative lack of experience of the other receivers, their grade can't really be bad.
Injuries have been the name of the game here. The Bengals lost Travelle Wharton, who was signed to start at left guard, and Kyle Cook before the season. Clint Boling has stepped up to play for Wharton and the Bengals were forced to bring in Jeff Faine to replace Cook, but Faine was also injured and the Bengals had to start rookie Trevor Robinson, who was an undrafted free agent.
Andre Smith has turned into one of the better lineman on the team and right guard Kevin Zeitler has shown, both as a run blocker and pass protector, why he was chosen in the first round. On the left side, though, the team's top lineman Andrew Whitworth hasn't had quite the caliber performance that we're used to. He hasn't been bad, but he also hasn't quite been the same either. They have allowed Dalton to be sacked 22 times through eight games this season when they only allowed 24 all year last season. They also haven't really been very helpful when it comes to getting the run game going.
All in all, the offense has been good at times but they've also been pretty bad at times as well. Overall, my grade for the Bengals offense at the halfway point of the 2012 season is a C-.
What is your grade?