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Bengals’ mid-season Pro Football Focus grades point to disappointment

Currently sitting at 3-4-1, the Cincinnati Bengals have only seen a handful of players receive particularly favorable grades from Pro Football Focus this season.

Washington Redskins v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

At the midway point in the Bengals’ 2016 season, things are strangely looking much less dismal than they could be. Yes, three wins, four losses, and a tie do not make for a very encouraging record heading into the second half of the season. But, with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens both sitting at 4-4 and the Cleveland Browns still wondering when their first win will come, the Bengals are actually in a surprisingly good position to push for the playoffs.

Each week, I cover and analyze the Bengals’ weekly grades from Pro Football Focus based on their performance in that game. This week, the Bengals were on bye, so there is no game to analyze. But, we can still analyze how the team has played throughout the season and why they are in the position they are in now. Offensively, the team has looked inconsistent but relatively solid. After eight games, the unit is led by A.J. Green (90.3*), Andrew Whitworth (89.9), Tyler Eifert (87.2), Andy Dalton (83.5), and Kevin Zeitler (82.6). Notice that all of these performers are key components of the passing game, which has actually performed respectably this year.

On the defensive side of the ball, there hasn’t been much to get excited about. The unit is led by Vincent Rey (87.3), Geno Atkins (84.7), and Carlos Dunlap (83.7). But, that’s where the impressive performances end. The next two best performers have been Shawn Williams (78.2), and Josh Shaw (72.9). After that, the grades all register as Fs by K-12 grading standards. It’s also interesting that the highest graded defender is a backup, who only started games due to Vontaze Burfict’s suspension. We’ve said it before, but, it would be a good idea to get Rey on the field with more frequency.


It is worth pointing out that, as up and down as the rest of the team has been, A.J. Green has consistently been a huge factor in nearly every single game. Save for poor games in Pittsburgh and Dallas, he has recorded at least six catches and near or above 80 yards every week. He has recorded 100+ yards receiving in each of the Bengals last two games and currently leads the NFL in receptions (59) despite the fact that his closest competition, Amari Cooper (58) has yet to have his bye week. Green’s 90.3 overall grade currently ranks No. 2 in the NFL behind only Julio Jones (91.0).

There are a few other interesting points to pay attention to with the mid-season PFF grades, such as Tyler Eifert recording such a high grade despite being thrown in at the middle of the season without being given much time to prepare. But, by far the most interesting set of grades to pay attention is that of the starting offensive linemen.

Through eight weeks, the Bengals’ offensive line has given up the second most sacks in the NFL (25), behind only the Indianapolis Colts (31), who have yet to have their bye week. This week, as the Bengals were on bye, the Colts surrendered four sacks to the Green Bay Packers, making up for most of the discrepancy between the two teams.

That said, most of the Bengals’ offensive linemen have performed admirably this season. Andrew Whitworth (89.9; #2 ranked OT) and Kevin Zeitler (82.6; #13 ranked guard) were already mentioned among the best offensive players earlier, but it is also worth noting that the Bengals have also seen good performances this season from Russell Bodine (75.8;#24 ranked center) and Clint Boling (74.9; #33 ranked guard).

That’s four of five positions on the offensive line that have performed up to par this season. Then, you have Cedric Ogbuehi, who clocks in as the 60th ranked offensive tackle in the NFL with an overall grade of 44.8. With very few injuries on the Bengals’ offensive line and almost no impact from the backups at the other four positions, it is safe to say that Ogbuehi is a huge part of the problem for the offensive line this year.


What a year it has been for Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey, who has only started five games, but has managed to record 23 tackles, three pass deflections, an interception, and a fumble recovery in that short amount of time. That level of efficiency has helped him reach the closest grade to being considered “elite*” that any member of the Bengals’ defense received at the midway point (87.3). Unfortunately, the rest of the Bengals’ linebacker corps haven’t had the same level of success. The next best performer at linebacker is Karlos Dansby (49.5), followed by Vontaze Burfict (47.7), then Rey Maualuga (34.7).

Despite Rey’s great performance so far this season, you could make the argument that Geno Atkins (84.7) is the Bengals’ best defensive player this year. Sure, he isn’t graded as highly as Rey, but he is an every-game starter and the highest ranked defensive player at his position on the Bengals. Atkins comes it at No. 7 among all defensive tackles, while Rey only comes in at No. 10 among linebackers.

Furthermore, we would be remiss if we did not discuss Carlos Dunlap’s great season so far. He is ranked No. 3 among Bengals defenders (83.7) and his five sacks, two forced fumbles, seven pass deflections, and 19 tackles are absolutely irreplaceable for the Cincinnati defense this season.

Unfortunately, just about everyone else on the Bengals’ defense has not performed up to par. Defensive backs Shawn Williams (78.2) and Josh Shaw (72.9) managed to record passable grades. But, save for George Iloka (61.3), every other Bengals defender recorded a very poor grade under 50.0. That level of inconsistency within the defense alone is enough to explain why the Bengals are a half a game under .500 through eight games in 2016.

*PFF grading key:

90+ = elite

89.9-80 = High quality

79.9-70= Above average

69.9-60= Average

59.9-50 = Below average

49.9-40 = Poor