The season is officially over and now it's time to not only look ahead at things like free agency, the combine, the draft and minicamps, but it's time to look back at the team's and individual player performances. One great tool to look back at individual performances is ProFootballFocus.com, which allows you to look at every snap a player took and offers a grade for each aspect of their game play.
PFF published their most improved Bengals player, the player that had the biggest decline and the player that needs more snaps to judge how good they really are based on the numerical grades given to them at the end of the 2010 season to the end of the 2011 season.
The most improved player was right tackle Andre Smith.
2010 grade: -18.0
2011 grade: +0.2
While Smith may never live up to his draft status, he took a giant leap forward this year with his play on the field. The Bengals lowest-rated offensive player in 2010, Smith earned his grade on just 288 snaps-largely the result of giving up a steady supply of pressure. Looking like a different player (in performance terms), Smith only gave up three sacks, though you'd want to see his number of penalties (eight) reduced.
Smith didn't necessarily play like a No. 6 overall pick in 2011 but he did play like a starter. There are some that still like the idea of re-signing Anthony Collins, starting him at right tackle and moving Smith to guard, but that's unlikely to happen. If Smith continues to improve the way he did between 2010 and 2011 and he stays healthy, the Bengals could have a great right tackle on their hands. This is a contract year for Smith and he still has a lot to live up to. Hopefully he shows everybody he was worth the hassle he was in his first two seasons.
PFF's player with the biggest decline was wide receiver Jerome Simpson.
2010 grade: +2.1
2011 grade: -11.9
Simpson finally looked like delivering on his potential with a strong finish to 2010, but 2011 was filled with problems off the field, and plenty of inconsistent moments. His acrobatic touchdown in Week 16 may have got a lot of people forgetting his nine dropped passes that characterized a season where he was very much hit-or-miss. He simply blew a golden opportunity in his contract year.
Blown opportunity pretty much sums up Simpson's career to this point. There's no question that he's talented -- he proved it with his ridiculous touchdown in Week 16 -- but he has been unreliable and his off-field issues could turn out to be a big problem. At best, he'll probably have to serve a four-game suspension and at worst, he'll have to spend time behind bars thanks to his drug charge. I would be shocked if the Bengals re-signed him, especially if they re-signed him to be the team's No. 2 receiver again.
And the player that PFF believes needs more snaps to judge him is defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
2011 grade: +31.3
2011 snaps: 423 snaps
We very nearly gave Andrew Hawkins the nod because Dunlap played a fair amount of snaps. But given the Bengals insisted in using him as a backup and situational rusher, he has to be the one player who sees more action for Cincinnati next year. Despite playing just 423 snaps he finished 5th overall in our 4-3 defensive end rankings. Imagine what he could be capable of as a starter.
Dunlap had a good season when it came to rushing the passer but missed some time due to a hamstring injury. He also missed quite a bit of time in his rookie season but still managed to break the rookie sack record. It would be nice to see Dunlap play every down instead of as a situational pass rusher and maybe that will be the case in 2012. We just need to hope that he can stay healthy for an entire season.
Who would you say are your most improved players, players with the biggest drop and players that you need to see more of?