This offseason has featured extensive concerns regarding the state of the Cincinnati Bengals offensive line. It’s too bad some of the below-mentioned former Bengals can’t step in and help out. As we continue our ranking of the top 50 Bengals of all time, some old, and some new players are featured when considering the franchise’s greatest players.
30. Vontaze Burfict, Linebacker
An undrafted rookie, Burfict managed to make the Cincinnati Bengals' roster in 2012, exceeding expectations with ease. He played in all 16 games and started 14, finishing the seasons as the Bengals' top tackler with 127 combined tackles, including 18 tackles in the team’s final game of the year against the divisional rival Baltimore Ravens. When Burfict was on field, the Bengals defense allowed only 4.5 yards per play compared to 6.9 when he was off the field.
Burfict finished the 2013 season leading the NFL in tackles with 171, and was the only Bengals defensive player selected to the Pro Bowl. He was the first Bengals linebacker to make the Pro Bowl since Jim LeClair in 1976.
A knee injury limited Burfict to only four games in 2014 and forced him to miss the first six games of 2015, as well. Still, Burfict finished with 74 total tackles in just 10 games, five passes defensed and two interceptions.
Burfict missed the first three games of 2016 with a suspension, but came back with a vengeance. Despite a slow start, Burfict finished with 101 total tackles, eight passes defensed and two interceptions in just 11 games and was arguably the best linebacker in the NFL at season’s end.
His sometimes reckless play has gotten him in trouble, but it seems he’s set to change the reputation he’s created for himself and is working toward further greatness. 2017 is set to be Burfict’s final year under contract with the Bengals, but the front office is surely looking to change that. Burfict’s relentless desire to excel on the field, sure tackling and football IQ rank him among the team’s best-ever linebackers and players overall.
29. Willie Anderson, Offensive line
Anderson was selected in the first round (10th overall) of the 1996 NFL Draft. He made Dr. Z's Sports Illustrated All Pro team, and was a first alternate to the Pro Bowl in the 2001 and 2002 seasons. He was selected to represent the AFC in the 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 Pro Bowls and only missed two games between the 1999 and 2006 seasons.
In his rookie season, it was said that he was able to bench press 675 pounds. Anderson asked to be released by the Bengals on August 30, 2008, after he refused to take a pay cut. He went on to play one season with the Ravens and retired after that year in an effort to spent more time with his family.
Though he’s not in the Hall of Fame, there’s a good argument to be made that he should be. He’s not only one of the Bengals’ greatest-ever offensive linemen but also one of the NFL’s best-ever.
28. Corey Dillon, Running back
The Bengals selected Dillon with the 43rd overall pick in the second round of the 1997 NFL Draft. During his rookie season, Dillon rushed 39 times for 246 yards and 4 touchdowns in a 41-14 win over the Tennessee Oilers. That effort broke Jim Brown's rookie single-game rushing record, which had stood for 40 years and remains a Bengals rookie record for carries, yards, and touchdowns. His 1,129 yards that season is also still a Bengals rookie record.
For six seasons, Dillon was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise horrible Bengals team. From 1997 to 2002, he rushed for over 1,000 yards each year, and made the Pro Bowl three times (1999–2001). On October 22, 2000, Dillon set an NFL record for most yards rushing in one game (278 yards) against the Denver Broncos, breaking Walter Payton’s single-game mark of 275 yards set on November 20, 1977. The record has since been broken, but his efforts in that game remain a franchise record for yards and yards-per-carry (12.64).
In 2003, injuries limited Dillon to only 541 rushing yards and helped precipitate his trade to the New England Patriots for a second-round pick. Dillon left the Bengals as the team's all-time leading rusher with 8,016 yards, surpassing James Brooks' 6,447 yards. He also remains the franchise record holder in carries (1,865) and rushing yards per game (75.3).
There was some drama when Dillon left the Bengals but that doesn’t take away from what was a great career in Cincinnati. He too could be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he actually has a Super Bowl victory to his name (XXXIX) with the Patriots.
27. Max Montoya, Offensive line
Montoya was drafted by the Bengals in the seventh round of the 1979 NFL Draft. He was a four-time Pro Bowl guard who played in two Super Bowls with Cincinnati. He played 11 seasons for the Bengals, from 1979 to 1989, and became a starter in his second season. After 11 years with Bengals, he played give years with the Los Angeles Rams. He played 223 total games in his NFL career and like Anderson, will go down as one of the Bengals' best-ever linemen.
26. Andy Dalton, Quarterback
Dalton was selected by the Bengals in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Since 2011, he and All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green have become a top quarterback/receiver tandem among all NFL teams. In 2011, Dalton and Green broke NFL records for completions and yards for a rookie quarterback/receiver combination.
During his rookie season, Dalton had four wins featuring fourth-quarter comebacks (vs Buffalo, at Jacksonville, at Tennessee, and vs Cleveland). He became the first quarterback in NFL history not drafted in the first round to start all 16 games in his rookie season. Dalton also is just one of five rookie quarterbacks with more than 3,000 passing yards and at least 20 touchdown passes, joining Cam Newton, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Charlie Conerly in that category.
At the conclusion of his rookie season, Dalton received the Emerging Player Award from the NFL Players Association. The other nominees for the award were Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, and Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Dalton shocked the entire NFL community, many of whom thought the Bengals could be as bad as 0-16 in his rookie year. Instead, the Bengals made the playoffs, marking the first of many future postseason appearances for Dalton.
Dalton was initially named as a Pro Bowl Alternate after his first year, and was added to the roster after the New England Patriots won the AFC Championship, forcing Tom Brady to withdraw from the game. Dalton and Newton became the first pair of rookie quarterbacks to make the Pro Bowl in the same season.
In 2012, Dalton threw for 3,669 yards, 27 touchdowns and 16 interceptions and led the Bengals to a record of 10-6 and a wild card berth. Dalton finished 2013 with 4,293 passing yards for 34 passing touchdowns, 20 interceptions, and an 88.8 passer rating. His passing yards and touchdowns were both career highs and Bengals single season franchise records. The Bengals finished the year with a record of 11-5 and won the AFC North Division crown.
2014 proved to be a down year for Dalton, although the Bengals still finished with a record of 11-5-1 and made the playoffs as a wild card entry, once again. Dalton threw for 3,398 yards and recorded just 19 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. Even so, Dalton earned his second Pro Bowl invitation that year.
Dalton was on his way to an MVP-type season until a thumb injury cost him the last three games of the season and the playoffs in 2015. Before his injury, Dalton threw for 3,250 yards on a career-best completion percentage of 66.1%, recorded 25 touchdowns as opposed to only seven interceptions and owned a quarterback rating of 106.2. He had guided the Bengals to a 10-3 record before his injury and was firmly in the MVP discussion for his efforts.
Despite being sacked 41 times and throwing a career-low 18 touchdowns in 2016, Dalton again threw for more than 4,000 passing yards (4,206) for the second time in his career, had just eight interceptions on 563 passing attempts, and contributed four rushing touchdowns. Head coach Marvin Lewis praised it as "the best campaign of [Dalton's] career", and he earned his third Pro Bowl trip, again replacing Super Bowl-bound Tom Brady as an alternate.
Dalton is one of six quarterbacks in NFL history to have thrown for over 3,000 yards in each of his first three seasons, alongside Newton, Manning, Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson. He is also one of only five quarterbacks to have passed for at least 20 touchdowns in each of his first three seasons, joining Manning, Luck, Wilson, and Marino. Dalton is the only quarterback to lead the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons and is the Bengals’ franchise record holder for passing yards and touchdowns in a season.
As of the 2017 NFL offseason, Dalton held at least 18 Bengals franchise records, including:
- Completions: playoff game (29 on 2014-01-05 SDG), rookie season (300 in 2011)
- Pass attempts: season (586 in 2013), playoff game (51 on 2014-01-05 SDG), rookie season (516 in 2011)
- Passing yards: season (4,293 in 2013), rookie season (3,398 in 2011)
- Passing touchdowns: season (33 in 2013), rookie season (20 in 2011)
- Passer rating: career (89.1)
- Pass yards/game: career (238.9)
- 300+ yard passing games: season (6 in 2013), rookie season (2; tied with Carson Palmer)
- 4,000+ passing yard seasons: career (2; tied with Carson Palmer)