This is a new feature that I'll be doing every Saturday. It's my chance to put my spin on some of the bigger/controversial/interesting stories of the week. I'm no Joe Goodberry, but I've spent a lot of time researching the Bengals roster and watching film and scouting and things like that. I know the full roster like the back of my hand, and I hope my information-heavy look at things helps put a new perspective on how you see the Bengals. Here we go.
+ All this offseason, we've seen reports come out that Andy Dalton's arm strength is his biggest weakness. In the last two weeks, film gurus Ron Jaworski and Greg Cosell have both mentioned it. In May, Greg Cosell's comments about Andy Dalton's arm strength incited a storm of reactions where offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese, Cris Collinsworth, and A.J. Green all jumped to Dalton's defense.
It's all made Bengals fans feel a little uneasy, but I think we should remember one big thing about all this criticism directed at our possible franchise quarterback. These guys - Jaworski and Cosell - are looking at last year's tape of Andy Dalton and making these conclusions. Sure, Dalton floated more than a few deep balls to A.J. Green last year. His intermediate passes, though, had a lot of zip, which no one seems to talk about. More importantly, Dalton is taking the proper steps in this offseason to fix what was his biggest weakness in his rookie season - his deep ball. He and Zampese are focusing on improving Dalton's footwork and technique, and Dalton has bulked up his upper body as well. Like Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and others, Dalton can improve upon his arm strength, and potentially become an elite quarterback. Don't get too hung up on all this arm strength talk. It's not a fixed weakness, nor is it a major problem.
+ BenJarvus Green-Ellis versus Cedric Benson has been talked about quite a bit this week. First, Pro Football Focus released their numbers on the most elusive running backs in the NFL over the past few seasons, and both Green-Ellis and Benson were in the bottom ten. This topic also surfaced in a fan post.
Having watched quite a bit of film on them both, I think Bengals fans should know what they are getting, and what the Green-Ellis allows the Bengals to do in 2012.
Firstly, BenJarvus is going to break a lot more tackles. He's got much, much better balance, and runs upright, as opposed to falling forward as soon as he hits the hole. Benson had the horrible habit of running into players, instead of running through the hole. Where Benson seeks contact (thumping into safeties, hitting his own linemen, trying to power through two defenders), BenJarvus picks his opportunities wisely. With his tree-trunk torso and quick feet, Green-Ellis can knock people over, but he won't do it to the point of annoyance. He can actually juke someone out for a change. Last year, according to Pro Football Focus, Green-Ellis had 21 missed tackles in 190 touches. Benson, on the other hand, ranked second-last in the league in miss tackle efficiency, with 22 missed tackles in 288 touches. Additionally, Benson's elusiveness was dropping off a cliff. He forced 37 missed tackles in 2010. Green-Ellis is trending the other way, improving from his 2010 campaign, when he had only 20 missed tackles in 241 touches. The Green-Ellis of 2012 will be able to find a lot more hidden yards than Benson of 2012 would have.
Secondly, Green-Ellis is a better "between the tackles" runner. That means that he is better in tight spaces and navigating traffic. Benson would crash into the line of scrimmage when he didn't see a hole. He didn't make good decisions, and lost the sense of patience that he had early in his career. Green-Ellis has better vision, and knows when to cut up field or cut back. Green-Ellis's balance also means that he won't be knocked over as easily from the side, like Benson. Because Green-Ellis is better at working through tight spaces (and, of course, with Tom Brady in the backfield with him), he was a much better goal-line running back. In the last three years, Green-Ellis had 18 touchdowns in 35 goal line attempts. In that same time frame, Benson has managed just 12 in 39.
Thirdly, Green-Ellis doesn't fumble, which you already knew. He's never fumbled in his NFL career. Benson has gone on long streaks without fumbles, but he's still managed 15 fumbles (7 recovered by Bengals) in his Bengals career. That's why Green-Ellis is great in a Bengals offense that likes to play smart football. Control the clock. Don't turn the ball over.
Fourth, the passing game. Green-Ellis and Benson are probably equal as pass protectors, but as pass catchers, Benson doesn't pass the eye test. He looked like a scared waterbug when the ball was in the air coming towards him. He had four drops in 23 targets last year. Green-Ellis looks much smoother when the ball is thrown to him. He's never had many catches in a season, but I think Jay Gruden and Andy Dalton will trust him far more than Benson to run proper routes and catch the ball with ease.
Lastly, the intangibles. Green-Ellis is a hard worker and a great teammate. Benson worked hard, but often caused rifts and problems with his attitude and ego. How many times did we hear about Benson wanting the ball more? And how many times was Benson in the news for being arrested? Green-Ellis brings none of those problems.
+ Evan Silva made a lot of enemies in Cincinnati with a few criticisms this week. He said he thought the Bengals "have been the NFL's most overrated team this offseason" (and then toots his own horn by saying that he thought the Eagles were the most overrated last year). He followed that tweet up by saying he thinks Andy Dalton is much more likely to slump than Newton. Cincy Jungle commenters have reacted by calling Silva all the names in the world and denouncing him as knowing nothing, an idiot, just some mainstream talking head, fat, never played football, and on and on.
Ok. So, clear your eyes from that bloodrage right now and hear me out. Silva is not an idiot. First of all, I disagree that Dalton will slump in 2012. From a statistics standpoint, I think Newton is far more likely to slump. 14 rushing touchdowns from a quarterback is just unrepeatable. Honestly, it's all a matter of perspective. Newton has a much higher standard of success to live up to. But anyway, Silva is one of those guys that actually does watch film (unlike a Tedy Brushchi, Damien Woody, Meclius Wiley, or anyone else that works as ESPN). He's basing his opinion on what he's seen from Andy Dalton in his rookie year, and what he's seen in college. Most scouts has Dalton as the third-sixth best quarterback in the 2011 draft. The fact is, Dalton surprised all the scouts in the world with how well he played in 2011. He was the only rookie ever to throw for 3,000 yards, 20 touchdowns, and win 8 games. It's going to take more than a year of success for Dalton to convince Silva and the rest of the scouting community that they were wrong about Dalton. Especially that Dalton is less likely to have a sophomore slump than Cam Newton, the number one overall pick and golden boy for NFL scouts.
Point is, I'm okay with disagreeing with Silva's opinion of Dalton, but I still think that Silva is one of the smartest football analysts out there. You should feel that way too. Silva knows a lot about football, and he can definitely help you win your fantasy league this year if you pay attention to him.
I really can't, however, defend Silva's opinion of the "overrated" Bengals. Maybe he thinks that people are blowing the draft out of proportion. I don't know, but no one has come out and said the Bengals are Super Bowl favorites this year. So the Eagles comparison is extremely far-fetched. The Eagles were hyped by every body, thanks to their big time signings in free agency. The Bengals have had a great offseason. We kept our coordinators, had a great draft, and had a solid, hole-patching free agency. Nothing overrated about that.
+ The NFL decided to reduce the blackout rule this week. They now allow teams to set their own blackout benchmark, as long as it is 85% or higher. That's the news that caught everyone's eye, but I was more interested by the attempts to improve the in-game stadium experience. In an age where college football is so fun, exciting, and loud, it's a shame that the NFL experience is nowhere near that. Hopefully though, more people will come out to enjoy NFL games, now that the league is finally stepping up the in-game experience.
Here are some of the things that the NFL will be implementing this season, according to the report.
This season, for the first time, fans in the stadium will be able to watch the same instant replays the referees see during reviews of controversial calls.
In hopes that professional football can mimic the wild stadium atmosphere typical of college football games, the NFL says it has "liberalized" its restraints on crowd noise. Stadiums will now be free to rile up crowds with video displays, and public-address announcers will no longer be restrained from inciting racket when the opposing offense faces a crucial third down.
In the NFL, negotiations are under way for leaguewide wireless Internet inside stadiums. At least four teams are likely to have wireless Internet in their stadiums this year.
The idea is that bolstering cell reception and adding wireless will enable fans to re-create the living room in their stadium seats. Fans can receive highlights and replays of the game on the field, or other games across the country. Pete Ward, chief operating officer of the Colts, said this year that the team will unleash a new app for on-demand highlights for fans at the game. "Your smartphone is your replay screen in our stadium," Mr. Ward said.
Owners have granted permission for the league to place microphones on certain players so that fans can hear on-field commentary via an in-the-work app that would distribute raw feeds. That is a privilege previously awarded only to networks holding broadcast rights.
Under consideration is a plan to make fans in the seats privy to the conversations between referees during reviews of disputed calls. It is a "long way off," said Mr. Grubman, but it represents a desire to welcome in-stadium fans into long-secret huddles on the sideline and in the locker room in the name of helping attendance. "You have to be able to make the game open, you have to give explanations, you have to give information," Mr. Grubman said.
We'll see how quickly these ideas are implemented, but at least the NFL recognizes there is a problem and is making progress towards fixing it. Now, if only Mike Brown will decide to get rid of that awful tiger walking through the jungle pregame graphic. Or maybe an updated version. The video looks like it's from the early 90's, and it's a slightly embarrassing way to start off a game.