Despite the recent news surrounding injuries to important players on the Cincinnati Bengals, the team is enjoying a great 2015 season. While it's a team sport and all three phases have done well en route to a current 10-3 record, there are some individual performances by Bengals players that have been truly dominant and helped pave way to another forthcoming playoff appearance.
Recently, the data-gatherers at Pro Football Focus released their 2015 Pro Bowl roster. While many of the names are likely to headline the league's official All-Star game next month, others might not due to the popularity factor that plays a big part in Pro Bowl voting. One thing PFF doesn't take into account is popularity. On PFF's roster, there are six Bengals, four on offense and two on defense.
Offensive Selections: TE Tyler Eifert, WR A.J. Green, OT Andrew Whitworth, OG Kevin Zeitler:
Some wondered if Eifert would be docked by PFF's metrics because of his lack of blocking prowess, but his 12 touchdown receptions can't be denied. Even though he has been looked at as the No. 2 tight end in the NFL this year behind Rob Gronkowski, PFF notes the higher value of Delanie Walker of the Tennessee Titans, due to his blocking. Even so, it's refreshing to see a Bengals tight end mentioned in the league's elite at the position.
The offensive line has had some ups and downs this year, with most games proving dominance. Whitworth has long been a PFF favorite, scoring well over the years, while other high picks at his position get more fanfare. Zeitler has usually graded pretty well with PFF since he entered the league in 2012, but never has never made the league's Pro Bowl. The Bengals are No. 6 in total offense, including a No. 9 passing offensive ranking and No. 14 in the run game. Cincinnati's offensive line also ranks eighth in the league in sacks allowed with 23.
Green hasn't been a favorite of PFF in recent years, ranking him low in their top-100 players and even labeling him as overrated at one point. However, Green looks to be on his way to coming close to or surpassing career-highs in all major statistical categories in 2015. While he had a 66-yard touchdown reception and two other long gains with AJ McCarron at the helm against Pittsburgh, it will be interesting to see how he fares the rest of the season with a change at quarterback.
Defensive Selections: DT Geno Atkins, CB Adam Jones:
Atkins is definitely back from a pedestrian 2014 campaign where he was still recovering from a knee injury he suffered on Halloween night in 2013. In the 2015 renaissance, Atkins has his second-highest sack total in his career with eight, while continuously harassing quarterbacks and blowing up plays in the backfield. While adding Michael Johnson and Pat Sims back into the defensive line rotation has helped everyone's production, No. 97 is the guy who makes it all work.
What a career turnaround Jones has experienced since coming to the Bengals in 2010. Once thought of as a decent nickel corner and spot returner in his first couple of seasons in Cincinnati, Jones has become the team's best corner and one of its vocal leaders. He has two interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble, despite missing two games with a foot injury.
Snubs: QB Andy Dalton, DE Carlos Dunlap, S Reggie Nelson:
Even with his best season as a pro and one of the tops in the league, Dalton didn't make PFF's squad. Predictably, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers made it, while somewhat-surprisingly, Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson edged out Dalton. No. 14's predecessor, Carson Palmer, also made it over him continuing his standing as the NFL's version of Rodney Dangerfield.
Dunlap might be the most surprising omission, given his penchant for making plays against the pass and run, as well as his career-best 10.5 sacks in 2015--good for sixth in the league. Of course, NFL darling J.J. Watt made it over Dunlap, as did young star Khalil Mack after a five-sack performance against the Broncos last week.
Nelson leads the league in interceptions for both safeties and corners. He's played a tremendous version of center field, picking off Roethlisberger, a PFF Pro Bowl quarterback, three times this year and grabbed another off of Palmer, another PFF selection for their Pro Bowl team. Nelson also has 10 passes defensed and a fumble recovery this year.