If you've been around these parts for the past few years, you are probably familiar with our end-of-the-year award series. Taking the idea a bit from the popular sitcom, "The Office", we have "The CJ's" where Cincy Jungle contributors make their nominations for a particular award and then we ask you, the readers, for your votes and comments.
For the first CJ award for the 2015 Bengals season, we're looking at the Comeback Player of the Year. Take a look at our nominations and then cast your vote below! We'll reveal all of our winners once the awards series is complete in February!
Alberto Luque (AKA muertasdetenas): I'd say Tyler Eifert just because he was so good this year. Marvin Jones would get my vote any other year.
Alex Healey: Geno Atkins. An improvement of eight sacks and nine tackles over last year means the Bengals now have at the very worst, one of the best three defensive tackles in the NFL once again.
Dadio McDuck: Wide receiver Marvin Jones for me.
Kyle Phelps: This one is sure to cause some heavy debate. Fight me on this if you want, but I think that Vontaze Burfict deserves this award. Yes, he really screwed up at the end of the Steelers game by committing a critical personal foul, but don't let that overshadow just how good of a season he had after coming back from a 2014 injury in Week 8. He recorded 62 tackles, 18 assisted tackles, and two sacks in his return. He also played some impressive coverage with five deflected passes (his second highest amount to date -- he had eight in 16 games of 2013). He only got through five games in 2014 before going down with a season ending injury, but the way he fought to come back and play so well for the final eight games of 2015 and the first 58 minutes in the playoffs against the Steelers shows just how valuable of an asset he is for the Bengals. Personally, I think that if he continues to play like this going forward, I can forgive him for royally screwing up at the end of the playoff game.
Scott Schulze: Tyler Eifert went from an underutilized tight end in 2014, to an injured tight end who only saw the field for a few plays in 2015. After a pair of years failing to make much of an impact on the team, Eifert went on to rank second among the entire NFL with 13 touchdown receptions and had the most touchdowns by a tight end (while only playing in 13 games).
Rebecca Toback: The Bengals didn't realize how much they missed Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones when they were out with injuries in 2014. Both returned in 2015 and Eifert was a hero and huge part of the Bengals' success this year. Without question, he's in my mind, the Bengals Comeback Player of the Year. Eifert had more touchdowns than any other Bengals player and was clutch in the redzone with nearly all of his touchdowns (and targets) coming within the 20-yard line. Eifert had 52 receptions (38 of which went for first downs), 615 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Scott Bantel: For a team decimated by injuries in 2014, there was no shortage of worthy candidates (Marvin Jones, Tyler Eifert, Vontaze Burfict, etc.), however, Geno Atkins' returned to "Atkins form" in 2015 was most impressive to me. In 2014, less than a year removed from tearing his ACL, Atkins was truly an average defensive tackle and as a result, the Bengals entire line struggled – to the tune of a league low 20 sacks. In 2015, Atkins regained his place as the most disruptive defensive tackle in the league, and as a result, the production of the entire line jumped, most notably Carlos Dunlap and his 13.5 sacks benefited heavily.
Jason Marcum: Tyler Eifert. We weren't sure he could be the No. 1 tight end in an offense and stay healthy for even double-digit games. Though he missed a few, Eifert still became one of the league's best tight ends and someone the Bengals can feature in their offense.
Anthony Cosenza: I'm going to be a little different than the rest, but even so, I'm a little surprised he hasn't been mentioned here. Maybe it's because Andy Dalton is one of the obvious choices for our forthcoming MVP award, but you have to look at his improvement as a big reason the team won a franchise-tying high of 12 games. Though he essentially played four less games in 2015 than 2014, he had six more touchdown passes, 10 less turnovers and a 22.8-point raise in his quarterback rating for the season. Sure, the returns of Eifert and Jones helped create those spikes, but he was clearly a better player this year and as the quarterback goes, so does the team.