Through the first three weeks of the NFL season, the Bengals are off to a poor 1-2 start. Their most recent loss came on Sunday to the Denver Broncos in the Bengals’ first home game of the season. For the most part, the Bengals put up a strong effort through most of the game. At times, it looked like the Bengals not only had a good chance to win, but were actually going to. But, a fourth quarter collapse led to the Bengals losing by 12, a score that doesn’t really do the game justice for being as close as it was.
Despite the loss, there were a handful of players who impressed in Sunday’s game. The Bengals will need more consistent performances like these if they want to bounce back and fight for a playoff spot going forward. But, these players still deserve credit for receiving the team’s top grades from Pro Football Focus. The Bengals’ offense was led by Andy Dalton (84.9), Andrew Whitworth (82.2), Kevin Zeitler (77.1), Russell Bodine (76.7), and A.J. Green (75.1). Things looked a bit better on defense, a unit led by Vincent Rey (87.3), Shawn Williams (85.0), Karlos Dansby (84.6), Geno Atkins (82.0), and Carlos Dunlap (82.0). Williams’ grade comes despite a key dropped interception that really could have turned the tide of the game.
Although the offense ultimately was unable to come up with a strong enough showing to get the job done late in the game, certain aspects of the Bengals offense looked pretty good on Sunday. In particular, Dalton looked good in just about every aspect. He threw one bad interception, but otherwise had an 82.1 adjusted completion percentage. When plays broke down, he took a very heads-up approach, running the ball six times for 40 yards.
Unfortunately, Bengals receivers struggled against the Broncos’ tight coverage. The Bengals saw poor grades given to their top two receivers behind Green, Brandon LaFell (48.1) and Tyler Boyd (51.0).
Interestingly, Dalton’s impressive performance came despite being pressured on 11 dropbacks and recording a QB rating of 2.8 on those plays. He did make up for it on the other 28 drop backs, recording a QB rating of 97.1.
Those pressures were mostly a result of new right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi continuing to get up to speed at his new position. For reference, Whitworth only allowed a single sack on the left side, but Ogbuehi allowed a sack in addition to six quarterback hurries.
That sack was Whitworth’s first allowed of the season. He has only allowed three pressures in 133 snaps this season and has recorded the fourth best pass blocking efficiency in the NFL so far (98.1). Ogbuehi (35.6) has been playing better than Andre Smith, who he replaced this offseason. But, that’s not really saying much, as Smith is currently the 69th ranked tackle in the NFL. Ogbuehi is currently ranked 58th.
Carlos Dunlap finally recorded his first sack of the season, after recording the fourth most in the NFL last year (13.5). He also recorded a QB hit and two QB hurries for an impressive overall grade (84.6). Unfortunately, his counterpart, Michael Johnson, did not have nearly as good of a game. His overall grade (40.2) was a result of only recording a single QB hurry in 50 snaps. Dunlap was ranked the fifth best defensive end in the NFL this week, but Johnson was ranked 73rd.
Despite the struggles of one starting defensive end, the Bengals got a decent game out of backup Margus Hunt. He was unable to record a QB pressure in 28 passing snaps. But, he earned a very good grade against the run (84.2) and blocked an extra point on his way to an impressive overall grade (78.5). That grade ranks 21st among defensive ends in the NFL this week.
Bengals fans are excited to get Vontaze Burfict back this week from suspension. But, the Bengals’ starting linebackers performed great in coverage without him. Rey Maualuga (81.5), Karlos Dansby (82.6), and Vincent Rey (85.2) all recorded very good grades when defending the pass.
Chris Lewis-Harris‘s limited time on the field displayed a lapse in his ability to play coverage. He allowed a 55 yard touchdown reception by Demaryius Thomas on his only target of the game, resulting in an extremely poor overall grade (39.9).
In the defensive backfield, Shawn Williams recorded a very good grade this week (84.9) despite dropping a key interception. For the most part, he was lights out in coverage. Interestingly, PFF felt George Iloka was unable to play up to Williams’ level, receiving only the 65th highest overall grade among safeties in the NFL this week (44.9).