The 2012 season is over and since the offseason isn't technically here yet. While we'll soon be looking forward to free agency, the combine, the draft and offseason workouts, we still have some time to look back at the 2012 Bengals team to analyze what went right as well as what went wrong.
Our own Joe Goodberry did a great job throughout the season when it came to ranking the Bengals players week by week. Now let's look back at the season as a while and organize the Bengals players into groups based on their performances. Once the players are in their class, they're not listed in any particular order.
A.J. Green - Green proved his worth once again in 2012, earning his second straight Pro Bowl berth and racked up 1,350 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. He showed that he can't be covered in one-on-one situations and that he can catch almost everything thrown in his direction. He is one of the league's best No. 1 receivers and definitely deserves to be listed as an elite player.
Geno Atkins - Atkins had a huge year in 2012. He led the team in sacks with 12.5 and emerged as the league's premier interior defensive lineman. He anchored the Bengals defensive line, which was the strength of the team. The Bengals have reportedly begun talking with Atkins' agent about extending his rookie contract, which is up after the 2013 season, which is good because the Bengals cannot allow him to leave Cincinnati.
Leon Hall - Hall is the team's best cornerback and the best player in the secondary. He is constantly asked to cover the opposing team's best wide receiver and did a fairly good job at shutting players down. He was better when he was paired with Johnathan Joseph as the two could share that responsibility, but he's still worthy of being in this category.
Andrew Whitworth - Whitworth made it to his first Pro Bowl in 2012 as he was one of the best pass protecting left tackles in the NFL once again this season. Not only is he the team's second-best offensive lineman, but he is a great team leader.
Andre Smith - Smith emerged as the team's best offensive lineman in 2012. He not only did a solid job at pass protection but he showed the power as a run blocker that the Bengals were attracted to when they drafted him. He's a free agent now and the Bengals must bring him back into the fold.
Michael Johnson - Johnson was second on the team in sacks with 11.5 playing at defensive end. He started every game in 2012 and turned a lot of heads throughout the league. Like Smith, Johnson is set to hit free agency and is likely the team's biggest free agent.
Carlos Dunlap - Dunlap finished the season with six sacks. He didn't start in any games but he took the majority of the team's snaps at defensive end opposite of Johnson. He played well both against the run and as a pass rusher and worked well with Johnson as they constantly drove the opposing quarterback into the other.
Adam Jones - Jones is also set to bea free agent and has emerged as the league's most talented third cornerback. His athleticism has allowed Mike Zimmer to pair him up with some of the best wide receivers in the league. The Bengals need to re-sign him to keep him around for the next few years as they continue to rebuild the secondary. He's also a great special teams player as a return specialist.
Vontaze Burfict - Burfict emerged as the team's best linebacker in 2012 despite the fact that he was an undrafted free agent and a rookie. He led the team in tackles and was constantly in the right place at the right time. He has a nose for the ball and plays instinctively. He's inked himself into the starting lineup for the team's future.
Andy Dalton - In Dalton's second season he threw for 3,669 yards, 27 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. The offense struggled late in the season to move the ball through the air, but for the most part Dalton displayed promise in the future. His third season in the league will be a big one to determine how far he can take the Bengals.
Kevin Zeitler - Zeitler, the team's rookie right guard, seemed to be the perfect choice for the Bengals in the first round of the 2012 draft. Not only did he play extremely well as a run blocker, but he was a pretty decent pass protector too. What was most impressive was the fact that you rarely heard his name, which means he was doing his job.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis - Ellis gave the Bengals another 1,000-yard rusher as he carried the Bengals offense on the ground, especially since Bernard Scott was lost for the season early in the year. He isn't necessarily a homerun threat, but he had a few big plays and, most importantly, did a pretty good job at protecting the ball and not making mistakes. He was extremely impressive in goal line and short-yardage situations.
Clint Boling - Boling made huge steps in 2012. He went from being benched after a few starts in 2011 as a rookie to a starter throughout the entire season in 2012. He played well at left guard, both as a run blocker and as a pass protector and he gave the Bengals something to think about when Travelle Wharton, who was lost in the preseason due to injury, comes back in 2013.
Reggie Nelson - The team's biggest free agent signing before the 2012 season was bringing back Nelson, the team's starting free agent. Nelson had another pretty solid season in 2012, but he can play better with some more help at strong safety. Without Nelson, though, the secondary is much weaker.
Cedric Peerman - Peerman not only stepped in as a backup running back when Scott went down but he is likely the team's best special teams player. He isn't a long-term answer at running back for the Bengals, but he did a good job in 2012.
Brian Leonard - Leonard also got some more carries due to Scott's injuries, but his major contribution is as the team's third-down back. He catches the ball well out of the backfield and has good vision to find holes in the defense. Leonard has made a lot of big plays for the Bengals.
Mohamed Sanu - Sanu emerged as the team's No. 2 wide receiver before he was injured and lost for the year. He finished the year with four touchdowns, which were all scored in a three-game stretch. As he was beginning to emerge as the team's No. 2 receiver, the offense was clicking but after he was put on IR, the offense bagan to sputter.
Jermaine Gresham - Gresham had the best season of his career statistically, but he struggled at times as well. He was second in the division in dropped passes and many of those drops were in key situations. Gresham needs to improve if he's going to live up to his first-round status.
Wallace Gilberry - Gilberry was signed before the 2012 season on a one-year deal and finished the season with 6.5 sacks as a backup defensive end. He provided depth on the defensive line. Hopefully the Bengals bring him back for a couple more seasons.
Domata Peko - Peko started every game next to Atkins on the defensive line and while he wasn't the best run stopper or the best pass rusher, he is a solid contributor and helps the line more than he hurts it.
Marvin Jones - Once Sanu was placed on IR, Jones stepped up for the rest of the season. He finished the year with just one touchdown, but he helped take some attention away from Green. He likely isn't going to be the team's No. 2 receiver, but he'll definitely have a place on the team.
Manny Lawson - Lawson started almost every game at SAM in 2012. He was good against the run but struggled in pass coverage. He's a free agent and the Bengals may look to bring in a different outside linebacker in the draft, allowing Lawson to look elsewhere for a job. It wouldn't be a surprise, though, if they re-signed him.
Chris Pressley - Pressley finished the season on IR, but he opened holes in the running game for another 1,000-yard rusher. That's two years in a row of Pressley setting up running backs for 1,000-yard seasons with two different running backs.
Andrew Hawkins - Hawkins is a special kind of player. He's extremely small for an NFL receiver, but he's also two steps quicker than anyone on the field at any time and when he has the ball in space he can do incredible things. He finished the season with 548 yards and four touchdowns. Here's to hoping he gets many more looks in 2013.
Terence Newman - Newman was acquired from the Cowboys in the offseason and ended up starting every game at cornerback opposite of Leon Hall. He played well, much better than many expected, this season and finished the year with two interceptions and nine passes defensed. He only allowed three touchdowns.
Trevor Robinson - Robinson, an undrafted free agent, started the majority of the team's games at center. He wasn't the best center in the league by any means, but he played well enough. The weak point of the Bengals' offensive line is at center and the team will need to address the position sooner rather than later. It will be interesting to see what they decide to do.
Nate Clements - Clements started several games in 2012 at strong safety. He isn't a long-term solution for the position but during the season he didn't allow a single touchdown in one-on-one coverage. He did, however, struggle in run support.
Emmanuel Lamur - Lamur earned more and more playing time as the year wore on and started the team's playoff game in Houston against the Texans. He was strong both against the run and in pass coverage at SAM and there's a decent chance that he could be named the starter in 2013.
|Backups, Special Teams and Sub-Par Starters|
Rey Maualuga - Maualuga was pretty much awful in 2012. While there were flashes every once in a while, he was inconsistent against the run and was flat out terrible in pass coverage. It really showed in the team's playoff game against the Texans when Matt Schaub consistently picked on Maualuga, who was unable to cover anybody.
Brandon Tate - Tate has made a better name for himself as a special teams player than a wide receiver. He got some time at wide receiver but was unable to make anything of it. The team instead decided to go with two different rookies as the No. 2 wide receiver.
Bruce Gradkowski - Gradkowski is a serviceable backup quarterback for Jay Gruden's system. He will be a free agent and the Bengals will have to decide whether or not to re-sign him or bring in a new back up as a free agent or in the draft.
Ryan Whalen - Whalen hasn't gotten much playing time at wide receiver but the team is keeping him around for a reason. Whalen seems to run good routes and has solid hands. We'll have to wait until the 2013 season to see if the Bengals can get him more involved.
Orson Charles - Charles was drafted before the 2012 season as a second tight end to complement Jermaine Gresham. Many of us were hoping that the Bengals were going to create a Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez situation, but it didn't work out that way in 2012. Maybe it will in 2013.
Kyle Cook - Cook only played in a couple of games at the end of the season due to an injury suffered early in the year. He struggled in pass protection and in run blocking over the last few games of the season. However, much of this may have had to do with the fact that he didn't play the majority of the year.
Vincent Rey - Rey played in several games this season as a backup at WILL for Burfict. He barely got on the enough to get a good feel for how well he played, especially after Burfict really took off.
Pat Sims - Sims only played in the last half of the season. He isn't very good at rushing the passer but he's good at stopping the run and he showed it again in 2012. He is now a free agent.
Dennis Roland - Roland comes in as a sixth offensive lineman on goal line and short-yardage plays. The most snaps he took in a game was in Week 7 when he was on the field for 16 plays.
Anthony Collins - Collins barely got on the field in 2012. He only played in four games and took less than a third of the team's offensive snaps in each game.
Robert Geathers - Geathers started every game of the season opposite of Johnson at defensive end, but only played in slightly half of the team's defensive snaps, making way for Dunlap. Geathers is better against the run than Dunlap but isn't a good pass rusher. He did have four sacks, though.
Devon Still - Still, a rookie, only played in the team's first eight games and was a decent run stopper as a defensive lineman but struggled as pass rusher. His role will likely expend in 2013.
Brandon Thompson - Thompson, another rookie, only got on the field in three games in 2012.
Dan Skuta - Skuta backed up Maualuga in 2012. He played more on special teams than on defense. He is a free agent.
Jason Allen - Allen only played in three snaps all season long on defense.
Chris Crocker - Crocker was brought back by the team early in the year to help at strong safety and he started every game from Week 9 on through the rest of the season. He played decent in run support and in pass coverage. He's a free agent again and it's unclear as to what the Bengals' plans are at strong safety heading into 2013.
George Iloka - Iloka only got playing time on special teams in 2012. His role could expand in 2013, though.
Taylor Mays - Mays started the season at strong safety but he was quickly benched for Chris Crocker and Jeromy Miles. Mays struggled in pass coverage badly. He's extremely athletic and many Bengals fans were excited when the team acquired him from the 49ers, but so far he hasn't been able to help the team much.
Jeromy Miles - Miles only started one game at strong safety in Week 2 and after that he got less and less time on the field until the team's playoff game, when he played half of the team's snaps. He is a free agent.
Josh Brown - Brown came into Cincinnati to replace Mike Nugent as the team's kicker after Nugent's injury. He played pretty well, kicking the game-winning field goal that sent the Bengals to the playoffs and beat the Steelers. He is a free agent. He was 11 of 12 on the year.
Mike Nugent - Nugent played well until he injured his calf. Like Miles, he is also a free agent. He finished 19 of 23 in field goals on the year.
Kevin Huber - Huber had a very good season. He had an average of 46.6 yards per punt pinned the opposing offense back within the 20 yard line 37 times and only had seven touchbacks. He's also a free agent.
Clark Harris - I didn't see any bad snaps, did you?