Who is the face of the Cincinnati Bengals?
One could argue it's the guy who plays the most important position on the field and is about to sign a deal that makes him one of the highest-paid Bengal. Andy Dalton seems to think he should be called 'the face of the Bengals.'
It'd hard to argue with him, given that he's one of the mot successful QBs in NFL history over his first three seasons. Few players have come in and done nothing but win since becoming a rookie starter.
But Dalton hasn't done it alone, and the help of others who deserve to be called the face of the Bengals have helped him. A.J. Green is the one who comes to mind.
No receiver has ever caught more passes (260) in NFL history during their first three seasons than Green. He's also established himself as one of the two or three best receivers in the game, whereas Dalton is the 15th or 16th best QB.
But what about the defensive side of the ball? That unit has consistently been among the NFL's best over the past three seasons, and a big reason why is All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
Prior to going down with a torn ACL last year, Atkins had registered six sacks, giving him 29 in his 4-year career. His 26 sacks since the 2011 season started is the most by a defensive tackle over that span. Again, Atkins is one of the best at his position, which should probably be a requirement to be called the face of any NFL franchise.
When he was out though, it was linebacker Vontaze Burfict who became the star of Cincinnati's 3rd-ranked defense. He led the NFL in tackles in just his second season, and is quickly becoming one of the best defensive players in the league.
You could make a compelling argument for any of these four players to be the face of the Bengals. NFL.com's Bucky Brooks believes Green deserves that distinction.
With extraordinary ball skills and hands, as well as three Pro Bowl nominations in three NFL seasons, Green is clearly one of the most talented pass catchers in the league. He is a dominant No. 1 receiver capable of taking over the game at any time, which allows the rest of his teammates (including Dalton) to thrive in their respective jobs.
This is a quarterback-obsessed league, and Dalton drives a lot of discussion -- with much of it, of late, focusing on his uncertain financial future -- but Green is the most transcendent figure on this offense.
Hard to argue against that. As for who would be next in line to earn that distinction, Burfict would get the call.
Granted, Burfict might continue to be "next in line" for the foreseeable future, as Green's still just 25 years old. But Cincy's other emerging young face merits your attention, too.
The third-year pro has been an exceptional addition to the Bengals, exhibiting tremendous leadership skills and playmaking ability while establishing himself as a menacing presence in the middle.
Those traits not only embody the preferred mentality of the Bengals' defense, but they're part of the large-scale mental makeover that has helped this team become a legitimate contender in the AFC.
In the end, it's a good thing to have multiple players worthy of being called the face of your franchise. Dalton, Green, Burfict and Atkins would be the face of many other NFL franchises. That's just how special they are, and Cincinnati is glad to have all four of them on the same team.