First thing's first. I've been writing this for over three days, totally interrupted by "real life" issues. Here's The CincyJungle Mid-Season Award Selection Specifically Awarding Bengals Players. And yes, as hard as it is to believe, I'm making some praises. I'm a fan, I still want them to succeed.
Offense - T.J. Houshmandzadeh leads the NFL with 61 receptions through nine games. More relevantly, he leads the team with 577 yards receiving -- also the most yards total on offense. Until last week (when Chad Johnson recorded two touchdowns), Houshmandzadeh led the team with three total touchdowns.
For the past few seasons, specifically since 2005, Houshmandzadeh has limited the long-standing argument that the Bengals "needed" a tight end (though it would be nice, he's been a wide-out tight end type of receiver). Not only does he have just enough deceiving speed to make a play down field, he can mix it up over the middle like the best tight ends in the league today. If Houshmandzadeh performed at this level since his rookie season, there's Hall of Fame consideration. Take 2004 until this season (and add his projections this season), expand it over a 10-year career, and Houshmandzadeh is pushing 1,000 receptions, 12,000 yards receiving, 40 touchdown receptions and nearly 600 first downs.
Honorable Mention: Eric Ghiaciuc (haha, I'm just playin'). Though I will give Cedric Benson a shout for upgrading the terrible performance by Chris Perry, and jump-starting the offensive rush.
Defense - Chinedum Ndukwe and Dhani Jones . This was actually a tough call for me. While I've highly appreciated Dhani Jones' start (61 tackles through six games and three passes defensed), he's sloped recently recording only eight tackles in the team's last three games (two during their worst losses of the year). However, his pass coverage against the Jaguars led to an interception that set up favorable field position for the offense; ending with a Cedric Benson score on a seven-yard touchdown run.
With one interception and two sacks, Chinedum "The Duke" Ndukwe is third on the team with 51 total tackles, recording at least six tackles in eight consecutive games. His second quarter sack against the Browns was on third-and-ten. On the Browns first drive of the second half, Ndukwe picked off a deep pass on the Bengals side of the field, ending the threat of a Browns scoring drive (if such a thing exists).
It's not like Jones and Ndukwe will compete with other defensive players in the NFL for player of the year awards. And even though they've given up a few big-plays, Jones and Ndukwe have been rock solid.
Honorable Mentions: Rashad Jeanty, Marvin White and Johnathan Joseph (touch football not withstanding).
Goat (or worst player performance based on expectations, or Man He Sucks Award) - Chris Perry. If there's any player more disappointing than Chris Perry, please tell us. However, a run for the award could have gone to Chad Johnson, having clearly the worst season in his NFL career.
Still, any disappointment in Johnson is solely from our expectations of him, knowing his average production levels. Perry, on the other hand, was so terrible that he was demoted after the team brought in a guy that was labeled as an isolationist, resolving his court appearances and rubbing his Bears teammates the wrong way. Not even Johnson could reach the levels of "suck" by Perry.
Not only did Chris Perry disappoint whatever stupid expectations we had of him, but he earned the title as worst running back in the NFL. If his 2.6 yards-per-rush wasn't bad enough, fumbling the ball in four straight games (five times) and losing three (all in close games) were huge contributions for fans slapping their hands to their forehead saying to themselves (or to anyone willing to listen), "man, he sucks".
Honorable Mention: Eric Ghiaciuc (for real this time) and Levi Jones.
Winner of the Free Agency Bust Award. If you take value of contract over expectations, then this one is easy. Antwan Odom joined the Cincinnati Bengals after signing a five-year deal worth $29.5 million with $11.5 in guaranteed money. Odom suffered a "major injury" (headlined at the time), returning for the first game of the season after speed-rushing a sprained foot (fifth metatarsal).
Through nine games, Odom registered only two sacks after recording eight in 2007 with the Tennessee Titans. Granted, we imagine a bum foot could be a slight annoyance for a speed rushing defensive end, so he might not be healed just yet. On the other hand, he's handsomely paid with two sacks to show for it.
Honorable Mention: Ben Utecht
Winner for Bi-Polar Award. Not attempting to make light of a true disorder, but is there a man that showed two vastly different personas than Chad Johnson? In early January, Johnson went on a campaign to declare that he wants to be traded. On the Mike and Mike Show, he said, "Fingers were pointed at me this year. If the team and the organization wants to further itself, I think you need to get rid of the problem. To do me that way and not to have my back. Things were said, and nobody came to my defense." He even offered Bill Parcels an invitation to call him. Johnson went on the Jim Rome show in late January.
Do you want to be traded?
"I'm going to leave that to the Shark (agent Drew Rosenhaus)"
Are you happy in Cincinnati?
"I'm not allowed to say. I get the blame......the so called best player ....I'm the problem. Somebody in-house is spreading this. Maybe they want me to quiet down, stop being me. That is not going to happen. I can't function that way.
I tried it ...I sucked. There was no excitement."
Can they make it right with you?
........long pause .......I think I could be here with you all season...on your show"
Is it blown up...not fixable?
"I'm leaving that to Drew. It's been bad (in Cincinnati)....I'm the scapegoat...alot of stuff in house is happening I'm not fond of. It doesn't sit well with me. I have fun. I'm a little outlandish. I produce. I do everything to help us win.
Reports came out that Johnson is threatening to sit out if he's not traded. Trades were subsequently offered. Tampa Bay and Philadelphia were reportedly interested. Eventually the Washington Redskins made their trade offer public; a 2008 first-round pick and a 2009 conditional third-round pick based on receptions in 2008 (80 receptions for a second-round pick, 95 receptions for a first-round pick).
The Bengals never budged.
During the first day of minicamp, Chad Johnson and Marvin Lewis had this little exchange.
Marvin Lewis: “When you gonna come give me some love?”
Chad Johnson: “Ain’t no love no more. It’s business.”
Marvin Lewis: “Oh, okay. Good. Business is playing.”
Chad Johnson to Lewis: “It’s scary when you got someone great, and he’s playing pissed off.”
Johnson refused to practice in the morning, becoming steadily more active until he returned fully three days later. Eventually, while Drew Rosenhaus was in Cincinnati, all sides met coming to an agreement that one of two things will be done after the season; a trade or contract extension. These days, Chad Johnson says all the right things. He's encouraging of his teammates, even offering a second half prediction that will see the Bengals finish 8-8.
Award for Jerk That Basically Killed Our Season. New York Giants' Corey Webster. Third game of the season. In other words, the jerk that hurt Carson Palmer's elbow.
Award for Dumbest Front Office Decision. <Servers crashing>.
Moving onto the season for mid-season awards, via SBNation. Many in the SBNation group conducted the annual mid-season reviews -- of which I didn't take part in this year -- offering their collective opinion of the league's best and worst.
Clinton Portis is playing like an MVP right now.
NFL Mid-Season MVP: Clinton Portis, Redskins
Comment from David the Falconer at The Falcoholic:
The homer in me wants to say Michael Turner, but he's done the majority of his damage against the league's weakest defenses. Portis has put the Redskins on his back and carried them 100 yards or more down the field most games, and for that he deserves my vote.
Best Player on Offense: Clinton Portis, Redskins
Comment from Skins Patrol at Hogs Haven:
He also has 150 yards receiving and has had his role increase with the injury to Ladell Betts Not everyone knows this, but Portis is the best pass protecting RB blocker in the league and is a big reason why Jason Campbell is playing well this season.
Best Players on Defense: Joey Porter, Dolphins
Comment from BigBlueShoe at Stampede Blue:
I thought this guy was DEAD. How the hell does he have 11.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles? I mean Jeezus, it is only Week Nine and he has 11.5 friggin' sacks! The hell are they feeding them down there in Miami?
Best Rookie: Chris Johnson, Titans
Comment from cgolden at Revenge of the Birds:
No explanation needed. Just watch this kid play and it's obvious why he's truly special. Were we really questioning his status as a first round pick six months ago?
Best Coach: Jim Zorn, Redskins
Comment from WCG at Windy City Gridiron:
I hate doing this, but in that division the Redskins should have easily been the worst team.
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio has seen better days.
Mid-Season Worst Player: JaMarcus Russell, Raiders
Comment from Dave the Falconer at The Falcoholic:
Consider that this guy was the first overall pick in the draft. Then consider that he can't throw a pass without collapsing into a heap.
Mid-Season Worst Rookie: Vernon Gholston, Jets
Comment from cgolden at Revenge of the Birds:
He's learning a new position so this probably isn't fair but seven tackles in eight games for a top six pick is simply unacceptable. You'd think he could at least be a situational pass rusher.
Mid-Season Worst Coach: Jack Del Rio, Jaguars
Comment from Chris at Big Cat Country:
Can I vote for Del Rio and the Jaguars for every possible spot?
Editor's Note: I know, not one Bengals reference!
This site lists Keith Rivers as a "dishonorable mention" for rookie bust of the year. No, it's not Ricky Williams' blog.
This site lists Chris Perry as the "least valuable player" while also giving Lewis the "coach who doesn't deserve to be called coach" award. Hint to that site, Lewis isn't leading with players arrested.