The 2015 edition of Pro Football Focus' All-Pro Team is here and only Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green and defensive tackle Geno Atkins made the second unit; no Bengals made the first team. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth and tight end Tyler Eifert received honorable mentions. This is up from 2014, where only Whitworth made the list and right guard Kevin Zeitler was acknowledged with an honorable mention.
The selection is made based on PFF's grades, which makes this list somehow less arbitrary than others. Nonetheless, some would have expected the Bengals, finishing the season at 12-4 for just the third time in franchise history, and with a division crown, to fare just a little bit better.
Green shares the wideout position with Steelers' Antonio Brown and Falcons' Julio Jones in the first team, and Texans' DeAndre Hopkins in the second. The five-year veteran has bounced back from an injury-plagued season in 2014 to claim back his spot among the best in the NFL. In 2015, Green has 86 catches for 1,297 yards and 10 scores, on par with the numbers he posted in previous campaigns. Even without quarterback Andy Dalton under center, Green has managed to produce in the last four games, notching 16 receptions for 260 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Atkins, arguably the Bengals' best defensive player, was joined at the 3-5 tech position by Rams' Aaron Donald and Texans' J.J. Watt in the first team, and Dolphins' Ndamukong Suh in the second. The Georgia standout reminded everybody in 2015 why he was considered the best inside lineman in the NFL before his injury two years ago. After a slow 2014 that allowed him to get back on track, Atkins exploded this season, recording 11 sacks, tied with Panthers' Kawann Short for most for a defensive tackle.
Despite ranking fourth in the league with 13 touchdown receptions, Tyler Eifert only managed to make it to the honorable mentions, being bested by Patriots' TE Rob Gronkowski on the first team and Titans' TE Delanie Walker, who get the nod for the second team. PFF explained this decision based on his blocking and the putrid offense he plays for:
Credit to Walker, though, who performed admirably in a struggling Titans’ offense. It’s not easy to catch 94 balls and score positive marks with your blocking, but the excellent former 49er did.
Eifert is not as strong of a blocker as those two, but he really made the difference this year for one of the best offenses in football, and has been arguably one of the top red zone targets in football. He might be a candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year Award, as he missed almost the entire 2014 season injured.
Whit has been great, as usual, but maybe a bit less elite than last season, when he only allowed nine hurries, which was ridiculous. The first team spot went to Joe Thomas of the Browns , and the second team went to Cowboys' LT Tyron Smith. Armond Armstead of the Saints was also given an honorable mention. The 10-year veteran from Louisiana has showed that at age 34, father time can't bring him down.
It is surprising that players like defensive end Carlos Dunlap, cornerback Adam Jones, special teamer Cedric Peerman and punter Kevin Huber were not even included in honorable mentions. The competition in their respective positions is huge, but Dunlap finished fourth in the NFL in sacks at 13.5, and Jones, when healthy, has been one of the leaders of one of the best defenses in the league. Huber might have regressed a little from his glorious past two seasons, but he is still very good. Peerman, the Bengals' special teams captain, is delivering huge hits and the University of Virginia standout should really get more recognition.
Safety Reggie Nelson finished the season tied for the lead in interceptions with eight, but at age 32 has lost a small step in some facets of the game, like open field tackling or tackling angles. He's still very good at the position, and has had to deal with a delicate situation in the secondary with plenty of injuries around him.
And you could also make a case for quarterback Andy Dalton, considering that Ben Roethlisberger got honorable mention and also missed time with injuries. The Bengals' play-caller, with all his weapons back, was having a very exciting season with 25 touchdowns with only seven picks, and a career-best 66.1 completion percentage and 8.4 yard average, more than a yard better than his previous best mark.
Did I miss anyone? Who do you think should be in the conversation?