The Cincinnati Bengals had a special guest for their most recent round of OTAs.
It came as Cris Collinsworth, one of the franchise’s best-ever receivers, visited his former team. Collinsworth still lives in the Cincinnati area and is the majority owner in Pro Football Focus, the popular subscription-based analytics service that studies and grades every player on every play in every game.
Even as a former Bengals player, Collinsworth has never been afraid to rip his old team, but he’ll also offer praise when it’s deserved. For now, Collinsworth is just making observations and not rushing to judgment when it comes to the 2017 Bengals.
One player he’s high on is rookie running back Joe Mixon. The second-round pick out of Oklahoma is expected to take on a major role this year with the Bengals, and Collinsworth can see why.
“He’s 225 and he can block,” Collinsworth told Bengals.com. “He’s an incredible runner and tremendous receiver. Maybe not James Brooks, but you can begin to dabble in that category a little bit. At 225, that’s pretty impressive.”
Like everyone who has internet or a newspaper for that matter, Collinsworth knows all about Mixon’s past. However, in terms of pure football talent, Collinsworth loves what Mixon brings to the table.
“I’m going to leave the politics out of it for a little while and just talk about him as a football player,” said Collinsworth. “I thought he was the most complete back in the draft.”
Another Bengal Collinsworth remains high on is quarterback Andy Dalton. While Dalton doesn’t have elite arm strength or accuracy, what he does at is reading defenses and getting the ball out quickly. That’s big for a Bengals team that has two young starting tackles protecting him, and that special trait is exactly what this Bengals team needs.
“Andy is coming into his prime, and the burden is really on him to control the pass rush this year while the two new tackles figure it out,” Collinsworth said. “His ability to control the pass rush through his release time and audibles and his intelligence is going to be significant for this team.”
But until Dalton wins a playoff game, he’ll continue to get a level of respect from national media far less than he deserves. And even if Dalton does win in the postseason, that won’t guarantee he gets the credit he deserves, a la Kenny Anderson.
“You’ll never get rated until you win in the playoffs. For a quarterback that’s just the way it is,” Collinsworth said. “It’s the reason Kenny Anderson is not in the Hall of Fame. He didn’t win the Super Bowl in a game not even remotely his fault. We played horribly in that game and he played pretty well, but that’s the standard for those guys.
“For Andy, he’s in a small market and they haven’t won a playoff game. Win playoff games and he’s going to get recognition and people are going to start putting his numbers together. Pretty good numbers. But Kenny Anderson had pretty good numbers and never got credit.”
This Bengals team certainly has the potential to get Dalton that first playoff victory, so hopefully it happens sooner rather than later.