In the summer months of 2014, talking heads, radio programs and other media members believed last season's Bengals team to be one of the most well-rounded rosters in team history. The main questions centered on the play of the quarterback, the adjustment to two new coordinators and the effectiveness of two injured stars from 2013. Otherwise, the arrow was pointing up.
Unfortunately, the negative aspects of each one of those questions combined with even more devastating injuries to create a similarly disappointing end to the Bengals season. Were the 2014 Bengals really as good as most thought and just had too many key injuries, or were they simply not as deep as was projected?
An argument could be had for both sides of the coin. On one hand, the Bengals won 10 and a half games despite all of those major injuries in a division that had a collective 38 wins across the four teams. On the other hand, what did the Bengals really do well this season? Special teams? Plus, having the AFC South on the slate and their 22 combined wins maybe puffed up the win column for each AFC North squad.
If you like the work done over at ESPN, they created an interesting feature charting how far away each team was this year from getting to and winning the Super Bowl. Their criteria is as follows:
What makes a Super Bowl contender? When Pro Football Focus analyzed the 28 teams that played in the conference championship games for the 2007 to 2013 seasons, it found that, on average, 40 percent of those rosters were composed of good/elite players (you had to play 250-plus snaps to qualify). Using that methodology, PFF determined how many above-average players stood between your team and contending for this year's Super Bowl.
So, if you don't believe the metrics and data put out by PFF, this post might not be for you. Regardless, the formulas used by ESPN show that the Bengals were 13 players away from getting to the big game. At No.13 on the list, they sit behind five non-playoff teams, including the Cleveland Browns, who were said to be seven players away.
PFF states that the Bengals are eight "above-average players away", with only one elite player (Andrew Whitworth), three good players (A.J. Green, Kevin Zeitler, George Iloka), 21 average players and three bad players (Emmanuel Lamur, Domata Peko, Robert Geathers) on the roster. Furthermore, Andy Dalton's play was graded as a "C".
Lamur, Peko and Geathers have become easy targets for fan ire this offseason, with many hopeful they will be replaced or demoted. ESPN's Bengals reporter, Coley Harvey notes that offensive line, defensive line and tight end are all major needs for the Bengals this offseason.