With midseason awards in full swing, it’s time for a look at the guys who have failed to live up to expectations this season.
Unfortunately, this Bengals team is full of them while sitting at 3-4-1. Football is a team game, so for this award, we went with a unit instead of one single player. It was too close to call with a number of players giving reason to be the biggest disappoint, not to mention no one player deserves to be called the ‘biggest’ disappointment with so many guys struggling badly at different points this season...
Without further ado, the award for biggest disappointment goes to...
The Bengals Secondary
According to Spotrac, the Bengals have the seventh-highest paid secondary in the NFL. They’ve gotten a terrible return on their investment this year. The defense has been the biggest reason why this team has failed to live up to expectations, and the pass defense is the biggest culprit.
They’re a big reason why this defense rank 25th in total defense, 19th in scoring defense, 21st in opponent third-down conversion rate, 23rd in opponent passer rating, 23rd in passing scores allowed, and 24th in yards per pass allowed.
That’s below average across the board for a unit that had been elite on an annual basis. For the kind of big-money deal the Bengals gave Adam Jones this offseason, he hasn’t provided a good return on the investment. Jones has struggled on a weekly basis at a rate we’ve never seen during his time in Cincinnati.
Ever since Jones became a full-time corner in 2011, he’s been a very reliable defender, and even played at an elite level in 2015. However, we’re seeing him take a big step back this year, but can we really be surprised a 33-year-old corner is struggling?
Darqueze Dennard has also struggled to live up to his billing as a first-round pick in 2014. He has been ineffective anytime he’s been on the field and has been benched as the slot man in favor of 2015 fourth-rounder Josh Shaw.
But no corner on this defense has struggled more than Dre Kirkpatrick. Entering Week 9, Kirkpatrick is Pro Football Focus’ 103rd-rated corner out of 117 players. Jones isn’t much better at 98th, but watching both guys, it’s clear who has struggled more recently and for the majority of his NFL career.
The safeties haven’t been much better. George Iloka has been decent in most games, but has also been a liability in coverage (67 safeties have a better pass coverage grade on PFF). Shawn Williams is hit or miss every week. Cincinnati is paying those two a combined $9 million this year, so you’d like to think they’d be making a bigger impact.
Again, there have been a lot of players on this team struggling, but as much as the secondary is being paid, there is little question they’ve been the biggest disappointment thus far.
The Dis-honorable Mentions
Cedric Ogbuehi has been awful, but he’s a second-year player, effectively in his rookie season with as much time as he’s missed due to injuries over his first two years. The Bengals are the biggest culprit here for thinking Ogbuehi would be ready with so little preparation and experience.
Tyler Boyd hasn’t gotten a lot of chances to make plays with only 4.8 targets per game, but he’s done little with the chances he has gotten. He’s on pace to finish his rookie season with 50 catches for 566 yards and no touchdowns. His inability to do more and get in sync with Andy Dalton has helped lead to this offense struggling.
Michael Johnson has been a ghost more often than not, despite being paid like an upper-echelon defensive end. He has just 1.5 sacks through eight games and is on pace to finish with just three, marking the fewest he’s had since 2010 (2.5).
Rey Maualuga is another guy who’s paid like a high-quality player, but has been a ghost on a defense that’s struggling. He is rated among the worst linebackers in football and should be benched if his poor play keeps up.