We are officially through eight weeks of the NFL season, so this is a great chance to check in on who the most valuable Bengals player has been so far this year.
We have seen a lot of ups and downs this year, but as the Bengals sit at 3-4, we should consider that without this player things could be so much worse. First though we will start with the honorable mention that I couldn’t in good conscious leave out.
Geno Atkins: Atkins always seems to be the key to starting up the entire defense. He is the player most offenses worry about coming into the game, and that opens things up for everyone else.
Players like Carl Lawson and Michael Johnson can partially attribute their success this season to Atkins. These players rarely see their offensive linemen get help, because Atkins is soaking up all the attention with his five sacks this season. Atkins is tied with the Cowboys’ David Irving for the most sacks by a defensive tackle so far this season.
Many people will view Vontaze Burfict as that defensive catalyst since the team is 3-1 since he returned from suspension, and he may be the emotional leader. However, this defense was playing well before Burfict returned, and a lot of that can be traced back to Atkins in the middle.
Atkins may not be a vocal guy, but when the ball is snapped he is the guy on the Bengals’ defense who constantly wrecks what the other team is planning to do.
A.J. Green: I mean this is too easy. Green is the best player on this Bengals’ roster, and when the offense is getting him the ball the team is better for it.
His game against Buffalo in Week 5 was weird because you could attribute three turnovers to him, but when the game was on the line he made the play to set up the eventual game winning score from Joe Mixon.
Green has done his typical routine of being one of the best receivers in the NFL. Green currently sits as the fourth leading receiver with 572 yards. He has seven plays of more than 20 yards, which is easily the highest among all of their players. He is doing this while being the singular focus of opposing defenses.
It is frustrating because Green’s season could be so much better than it is. The team has looked away from him at times, and the offensive line has been so bad at times that Andy Dalton hasn’t even had a shot to even look for his star receiver. It’s a problem when you get the feeling the Bengals are forgetting about Green, their best player.
Overall though, Green opens things up for other offensive players, which makes him even more valuable. Do we remember what it was like when he missed extensive time last season? Tyler Kroft owes a lot of his success to Green pulling coverage toward him on every play. Kroft has three touchdowns on the season, and he is only one behind Green’s four touchdowns. Imagine how close safeties would be to the line of scrimmage if they ween’t concerned with Green beating them over the top. A running game that is already struggling would never have a chance.
Green will probably always be the MVP of this team unless John Ross ever becomes a star receiver as well. Dalton could enter the argument, but right now Green is responsible for four of Dalton’s 11 touchdowns. He also accounts for roughly one third of Dalton’s passing yards. It is hard to see the Bengals anywhere close to 3-4 without Green on the field.