Cincinnati Bengals Mid-Season Awards

I'm Marvin Jones and I'm going to make y'all s*** your pants. - Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals are eight games into the season, opening the second half this Thursday against the Miami Dolphins. First, we take a look at the first half of the season with some awards.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Josh Kirkendall: I get all of the whimsical complaining about quarterback Andy Dalton, and after the team's performance against the Cleveland Browns, I was in the same boat. But here's the thing: Criticism and frustration with Dalton doesn't make one a disbeliever. It's acceptable to be frustrated with his performance against the Browns but remain firmly resolved in supporting him as your quarterback. However, instead of being the game-manager that puts Cincinnati in a position to win, he's actually the reason why the Bengals are winning by doing things that former Bengals quarterbacks have never done. The general consensus is that if the Bengals are to make the Super Bowl, it'll will depend on Dalton. And based on how he's playing right now, that expectation is looking pretty realistic.

Nick Seuberling: Andy Dalton had a rough patch to start the year and lots of scrutiny. He's currently ranked fourth in passing yards, fourth in touchdown passes, sixth in yards per attempt and eighth in completion percentage. If you put Josh Johnson behind center, this team is nowhere near 6-2.

Mickey Mentzer: At times Dalton has struggled, but he has more than made up for it and in the last three games he has put his doubters to rest. An important stat that is measured is yards per pass attempt. Andy Dalton's is 8.06. This is better than Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler and Matt Ryan. All big arm quarterbacks. In the last 3 games Dalton has completed 66% of his passes for 1,034 yards and 11 touchdowns. Boom.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER

Josh: Dalton is clearly the Most Valuable Player to me, but it's A.J. Green that remains the explosive glue that gives Cincinnati every opportunity to win games on offense. Green has surpassed 100 yards receiving in four games already, including an active streak of three consecutive 100-yard performances. Prior to Jones' four touchdowns against the Jets, Green was the touchdown leader and he's currently second in the league with 734 yards receiving while leading the team with a 16.0 yard/reception average.

Mickey: This was a tough one between Marvin Jones and Andy Dalton. However, one of the major question marks for the Bengals entering the season was who was going to fill the number two spot opposite A.J. Green. Marvin Jones has climbed into that role. He leads the team with seven touchdowns. His 369 yards ranks second to only Green. The output he is generating will force defenses to change the way they cover which is going to allow Cincinnati's superstars more single coverage.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER

Mickey: Vontaze Burfict is on pace for 200 tackles this season. He seems to be everywhere on the field. He has a chip on his shoulder, he stares down offensive players and generally looks a little unhinged on the field. Basically he is the attitude this defense has been seeking. Marvin Lewis does not need to call for any more 'bite'.

Nick: Vontaze Burfict is constantly around the ball on every single play. Has become a huge leader on this defense.

Josh: Everyone will go with the solid and logical selection in Vontaze Burfict, who has six billion tackles. But I'm going with Carlos Dunlap. Currently second on the team with four quarterback sacks, Dunlap has also accumulated seven additional hits and 14 hurries on the quarterback. But he's not just a pass rusher; he's one of the team's best run defenders, grading as second-best by Pro Football Focus on the team, accumulating 21 stops (which constitutes as an offensive failure and 32 tackles (fifth on the team and first among the defensive line). Dunlap also leads the team with two forced fumbles and five passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage. Dunlap just makes big plays.

BEST ROOKIE

Nick: I was honestly expecting more from Tyler Eifert but Giovani Bernard got off to a fast start but has slowed down some of late.

Mickey: As a rookie, Giovani Bernard is averaging 3.9 yards/carry and has four touchdowns. (two rushing and two receiving). More interesting are his projections. If he continues to evolve as a receiving threat, he projects at 532 yards receiving. This would rank him third all-time behind only James Brooks for yards receiving from a running back. That's good company.

Josh: Despite not really getting into rhythm on the ground, Giovani Bernard is second on the team with 26 receptions and he's only four away from overtaking Jermaine Gresham for second. That being said, it's not the numbers that's impressed me. It's how he runs. The dramatic cuts, vision, and his ninja-like reactions dicing through an unsuspecting defense is worth the price of admission alone.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Mickey: Two minutes remain in Cincinnati's week five game against the Patriots and the Bengals are clinging to a lead while being forced to punt from the 17-yard line. Kevin Huber caught the snap at the two and kicked the ball in a driving rain to the Patriots 26. Huber has been good for the Bengals so far this season in flipping the field and winning the field position battle, with equally important punts against the Bills and Lions.

Josh: Huber has been fantastic. Despite missing a few this year, it's hard to go against someone like Mike Nugent who has converted two game-winning kicks this year against the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions, both in a hostile environment. And we're not talking about convenient chip-shots either. During overtime in Buffalo, Nugent smoked a 43-yarder to give Cincinnati the win. A week later, he lined up and crushed a 54-yard field goal in Detroit; had he missed that, the Lions were already at midfield. Beautiful pressure kicks in clutch situations for the win; someone who fondly recalls the Shayne Graham misses during must-convert situations, Nugent has been a blessing from heaven.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Mickey: The comeback against the Packers was not the choreographed game that we typically see from the Bengals. After leading by 14, the Bengals gave up 30 unanswered points. Typically the Bengals fold and we make excuses why it shouldn't have happened. This was the first glimpse into the kind of team the Bengals have this season. They manned up and fought back, eventually winning the game on a fumble return for a touchdown. How does that happen? Huge gutsy effort from the team and a great moment for the season.

Josh: Never did I think Marvin Jones would go off like he has. Not only breaking a franchise record for most touchdowns receiving in a single-game (4), he did something that hasn't been done in the league since 2007. Not only that, he has an active streak of touchdowns caught in three straight games. But look at this: Andy Dalton has targeted Jones only 34 times this year while playing a fraction of the snaps accumulated by A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu. Talking about making the most of your opportunities. Jones is actually arguing why he's not a complimentary player to A.J. Green. He's saying, "I'm a threat too."

Nick: I think we all knew he had speed, but over the last three weeks Marvin Jones has been huge and not just for himself professionally, but for this team. His presence has allowed Jay Gruden to open up the offense and free up A.J. Green, Gresham and others.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Mickey: Has to be the loss to the Browns. Not so much for the record or the outcome, but more for the fans. This gave the naysayers a little more of a foothold to preach about how some players are not good enough (cough cough Dalton). Instead of the Bengals being argued as one of the top two teams in the NFL right now, that blemish dropped them just below and gave those that like to complain a little more ammunition in declaring that they know who is and who isn't good enough for this team.

Josh: Definitely the loss to the Browns.

Josh Kirkendall Nick Seuberling Mickey Mentzer
Most Valuable Player Andy Dalton Andy Dalton Andy Dalton
Offensive Player A.J. Green Andy Dalton Marvin Jones
Defensive Player Carlos Dunlap Vontaze Burfict Vontaze Burfict
Best Rookie Giovani Bernard Giovani Bernard Giovani Bernard
Surprise of the Year Marvin Jones Marvin Jones Comeback against Packers
Disappointment of the Year Loss to Browns Running Game Loss to Browns
Special Teams Mike Nugent Kevin Huber Kevin Huber
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