Another week, another painful loss for the Cincinnati Bengals.
However, this week’s defeat at least offered a lot more promise and hope for better things to come. Our friends at Pro Football Focus sent us some weekly grades that highlight the Bengals’ improvements in a 27-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Over the past two weeks, quarterback Andy Dalton has the third-best completion percentage when in the pocket for 2.5 seconds or less. Dalton has an 80.0-percent completion rate on 40 attempts, thrown two touchdowns with no interceptions, has been sacked only two times, and has a 114.3 passer rating.
However, when Dalton is in the pocket for 2.6 or more seconds, he has a 43.5-percent completion rate on 23 attempts, zero scores and interceptions, has been sacked four times, and has a 67.1 passer rating.
None of this is real surprise to anyone who’s watched Dalton for an extended amount of time. He lives and dies on the quick-passing game with occasional deep shots to A.J. Green. At least Bill Lazor made more of an effort to build a game plan around this compared to Ken Zampese, who seemed more content with Dalton getting killed behind a struggling offensive line.
Speaking of, Cincinnati's offensive has been the fourth worst in the NFL at allowing pressure, as measured by PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency metric (PBE) which measures the pressure allowed on a per-snap basis.
On 106 passing plays, the Bengals’ offensive line has allowed four sacks (tied for 14th most*), one QB hit (tied for second least), and 34 QB hurries (fourth most). That accounts for 39 pressures allowed, the sixth most in the NFL.
Clint Boling earned the best grade for a Bengals offensive lineman this season with an 83.3 overall grade. While Boling performed well, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher's struggles continued, earning 36.7 and 65.6 overall grades respectively. That led the Bengals to rotate backup Andre Smith in for 26 snaps, which he performed above average with a 76.8 overall grade.
Wide receiver A.J. Green was his elite self, earning a 91.3 overall grade and the highest graded receiver through Sunday night and the third-highest grade for a player at any position.
Joe Mixon paced the Bengals’ running backs this week with 34 snaps. After catching all eight of his targets this season and in Week 3, Mixon has the third-best yards per route run with 4.62 yards per route behind only fellow rookie Dalvin Cook and Washington's Chris Thompson.
The Bengals defense had five players earn an above average (80-89.9) grade in Week 3, including cornerback Darqueze Dennard (84.9), defensive tackle Geno Atkins (84.3), cornerback William Jackson (83.4), linebacker Vincent Rey (83.2), and edge rusher Carl Lawson (82.8). Five defensive players above a 79.9 overall grade were the fourth-most in the NFL this week behind only Jacksonville (7 players above 79.9), Philadelphia (6), and Miami (6).
Atkins has been elite in PRP (pass rushing productivity) this season, ranking first with 15.7-percent pressure rate (among defensive tackles with more than 50 passing snaps), meaning that on 78 passing snaps, Atkins has 15 total pressures (3 sacks, 3 QB hits, and 9 QB hurries), making him the NFL's most efficient pass-rushing defensive tackle so far this season.
Lawson was a stud in his own right in Week 3. He was on the field for 54 of 70 snaps, and his overall grade of 82.8 was eight in the NFL, and his pass-rushing grade was 2nd best this week. Lawson had three sacks (most in Week 3), and seven QB hurries (2nd most in week 3) totaling in 10 QB pressures (2nd most behind Brian Orakpo).
Dre Kirkpatrick allowed a near-perfect passer rating against him (152.1, fifth worst this week) allowing six of eight targets to be caught for 92 yards and two scores. Kirkpatrick allowed two yards per snap he was in coverage. His overall grade of 35.3 was 87th out of 93 graded CBs.
Kirkpatrick may have struggled mightily in this game, but Adam Jones has been a liability in each of his first two games this season. In Week 2 versus the Houston Texans, Jones finished with an overall PFF grade of 63.8, including a 59.3 coverage grade.
It got even worse in Week 3, where Jones finished with an overall grade of 41.1. That’s really bad, and it shows why some of the younger cornerbacks need to be playing more at the expense of Jones, like Jackson and Dennard.
The secondary really struggled as a whole in Week 3. The Bengals’ highest-graded safety this week only played seven snaps, Clayton Fejedelem earned a 59.8 overall grade, while starters George Iloka and Shawn Williams earned their lowest grades of the season with a 42.4 and 41.4 respectively. They were the 55th and 58th best grades safety's this week out of 70 total graded safeties.
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*Note: PFF has several of Dalton’s sacks attributed to him holding the ball too long. He’s obviously been sacked more than four times.