We've got our first official glance of the 2012 Bengals roster thanks to the recent OTA sessions and the team is seeming to come together. We still don't know for certain who will be starting at certain positions yet, namely safety and wide receiver, but with Taylor Mays lining up as the starter and Mohamed Sanu getting rave reviews from A.J. Green, we're starting to get a sense as to what we might be seeing in Week One.
WIth this, my colleague here at Cincy Jungle, Joe Goodberry, tweeted me a question on statistical projections of some Bengals players for 2012. I find it to be an interesting inquiry, so I decided to make it the topic of this mailbag.
Joe asked me:
@CUIBengalsFan Do some 2012 stats projections for me. Dalton, Green, Gresham & BJGE.
I'll preface this with the disclaimer that these projections are based on the assumption that these players are fully healthy the full 16 games. I think the most interesting projections will come with new running back addition, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Last season, the tandem of Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott just didn't cut it, and it made life tough on then-rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. I think Green-Ellis will prove to be a solid pick up for the club, but I don't see him putting up a Pro Bowl type of season--especially in Jay Gruden's "running back by committee" approach that they'll apparently be taking this year. Where the club will improve with Green-Ellis and in guards Travelle Wharton and Kevin Zeitler, will be in the red zone. Last season, the club ranked 25th in red zone touchdown percentage. They were lucky to get a Pro Bowl-like season out of Mike Nugent, otherwise the team might not have made a playoff run.
Anyway, here's what I see happening with Green-Ellis: 220 attempts, 858 yards, 3.9 yards per carry, 1 fumble lost and 10 touchdowns; 25 receptions, 192 yards, 1 receiving touchdown.. Green-Ellis has hovered around the 4.0 yards per carry mark for his career and I don't believe that that will change all that much. He also hasn't been a home run threat in his career, so I am not expecting anything outrageous in terms of yardage and yards per carry. Though ten touchdowns is expecting a lot, Green-Ellis excels in this area and I think that they will lean on him quite a bit in the red zone. It might surprise some that I predict Green-Ellis to lose a fumble, but I just think that it's so hard for him to keep up the streak of not fumbling--especially in the brutal AFC North.
I expect Andy Dalton to improve his stats, but I expect it to be more of a product of improved talent around him. An improved running game and offensive line should help him immensely. I don't think we'll see a huge jump on the stat sheet, but his growth will be noticeable. I'm not a quarterback rating guru, so I'm not completely sure if my numbers will add up to the quarterback rating that I'm predicting, but it should be relatively accurate.
325 completions, 525 attempts, 62% completion percentage, 24 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 86 quarterback rating, 3857 yards. Dalton will prove to be more efficient and will have a handful more touchdowns because the team will be improved in the red zone. The team will put more on him this year, in terms of expanding the playbook and giving him more free reign. I foresee that that to both benefit and hurt his stats in 2012. I do expect an improvement in nearly all of his major stats though.
Predicting the 2012 stats for A.J. Green is difficult. Part of me wants to believe that he will put up astronomical numbers. The other part of me wonders if he will be consistent with 2011 or worse because of new targets for Dalton and defenses clamping down on him.
Green should have 70 catches, 1,112 yards, 8 touchdowns, 15.9 average. I see subtle improvements for Green and he should be a fringe Pro Bowl player again this year. I still don't think that I see an utterly dominating season from Green in year two, but he will be well on his way to superstardom.
Many people believe that tight end Jermaine Gresham is poised for a breakout year in 2012. He made the Pro Bowl last season as a second alternate and has been nominated as the top tight end in the AFC North and in the tope ten in the NFL by respected ESPN analysts. Still, doubts linger because of a lack of Gresham being one of the top two receiving targets on the team. It's likely that he'll have an important role this year, but like Green, I don't see his stats ballooning much more from where they were last year. I'm hoping that the addition of rookies Mohamed Sanu and Orson Charles really benefit Gresham. I don't see much improvement in the area of receptions and yards, but I predict that Gresham will have a huge season working the red zone.
58 catches, 655 yards, 11.3 yards per reception average, 8 touchdowns. Again, not a big jump in any area, but I think most fans would take this kind of season from him. He still won't be a household name like Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots, but Gresham will solidify himself as a good NFL tight end and will put up a season that shows that he is deserving of a contract extension.
What about the other major receiving threats in Jordan Shipley and Sanu? Shipley returning will definitely help the team, but I could see a rather big drop in statistical production from his rookie campaign of 2010. Why? First, Dalton has only played with Shipley in just over one game in the NFL. He was prematurely lost last season because of a knee injury and he's just now getting back. While it looks promising for Shipley to come in and contribute right away, one still has to be cautious with a player coming off of a knee injury. Secondly, the team has many more potential offensive weapons now. There's a potential of Shipley getting lost in the shuffle a bit, but he'll still make his impact by moving the chains and working the middle of the field.
For Shipley, I can see a season where he has 42 catches for 515 yards, two touchdowns and a 12.3 yards per reception average. It's a bit of a drop from 2010, but his impact will still be crucial to this team's offensive success this year. I really think that Shipley's 2012 season could be a feast or famine type, where he could put up numbers like the ones I predict, or he'll absolutely flourish like Wes Welker or T.J. Houshmandzadeh did in their roles as slot receivers.
I believe that Sanu will win the No.2 receiver job, and I can see him having a significant impact in terms of yardage and receptions. He excelled in those areas at Rutgers University and I think he'll do the same here. I think he'll have a limited red zone impact as a rookie because Dalton will be keying on Green, Gresham and Charles in those situations. But, I can see Sanu having 61 catches for 745 yards, a 12.2 yards per reception average and three touchdowns.
Dalton's remaining two touchdowns on the year should go to some combination of Scott, Charles and/or Marvin Jones. There's one player on defense that I'd like to focus on to close up these predictions, and that is Carlos Dunlap. He has been a bit of an enigma over his young career. Though he is going into his third year in the NFL, he's only accrued about a year's worth of game time, due to injuries and a lack of trust in him early on from the Bengals' coaching staff. He has flashed brilliance in his two years, but limited participation makes him a tough player to predict stats for. He is apparently poised for stardom, but needs that breakout season. Is 2012 that season?
I don't think it's an absolute breakout year for Dunlap, but it will be a solid one much like what I've predicted for Green. Seeing as how the Bengals use a defensive line rotation and that they rarely ever have a double-digit sack lineman, I have difficulty predicting some outrageous defensive stats for Dunlap. I can see 10.5 sacks for Dunlap, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, 45 tackles and nine tackles for loss. I still don't think that this pushes him into superstardom, but it will make him worthy of a contract extension after the season's end.
Thanks for reading and be sure to tweet or email me questions that you'd like to be discussed on this feature @CUIBengalsFan and/or firstname.lastname@example.org.