Whether it was entrenched starters, young guys seeing an increase of snaps and/or guys stepping up in the wake of injury, some Cincinnati Bengals players showed solid signs of improvement from that in 2017. As we start our annual team awards, cast your vote and sound off on your winner for the Bengals’ 2018 Most Improved Player!
Joe Mixon: After the team parted ways with Jeremy Hill this offseason, Mixon was became the team’s bell cow back. To say he ran with the opportunity would be an understatement.
With 1,158 rushing yards, Mixon led the AFC in the category, while also notching 296 receiving yards. He had 532 more rushing yards, five more touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving) and netted 1.4 more yards per carry than he did as a rookie in 2017. This is especially impressive, given the amount of injuries around him on offense.
Tyler Boyd: The third-year receiver had made so much progress this offseason it made Brandon LaFell expendable. Though most of his production came when working out of the slot this year, Boyd was an invaluable asset on offense.
Like Mixon, Boyd notched his first 1,000-yard season and did so on 76 catches. Aside from logging over 800 more yards and five more touchdowns than he did in 2017, his production stands out because of his stepping up in A.J. Green’s absence and working with a backup quarterback.
Andrew Billings: The Bengals’ rushing defense wasn’t anything to write home about this year, but the big defensive tackle greatly increased his statistical production. Billings had 2.5 more sacks, 18 more total tackles and six more for loss than he did in 2017. The 2019 season will be a big one for Billings, as he missed his rookie campaign and is entering a contract year.
Clayton Fejedelem: Whether it was on special teams or on defense, Fejedelem stepped his game up in 2018. On special teams, Fejedelem had a blocked punt, and a run on a fake that netted a first down, giving him Pro Bowl alternate honors as a special teamer.
On defense, “Fej” had one of the biggest plays of the year in the forced fumble and recovery for a touchdown in the season opener against the Colts. He had 34 tackles while backup up Shawn Williams and Jessie Bates.
C.J. Uzomah: Cincinnati’s tight end group was decimated with injury this year, as Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, Cethan Carter (H-Back) and Mason Schreck all landed on Injured Reserve. As the injuries piled up, Uzomah stepped up as the team’s primary option at the position.
Uzomah set career-highs in receptions (43), touchdowns (3), receiving yards (439) and yards per reception (10.2). He doesn’t necessarily provide the type of threat that Eifert does, but he’s a solid No. 2 option on a team and Cincinnati should look to re-sign him in free agency this year.
Jeff Driskel: This one is about semantics. There were some pretty bland performances with Driskel under center, but he did improve as a backup quarterback. Driskel threw for 1,003 yards, six touchdowns against just two interceptions in five starts this year. He was only victorious in one contest this year against the lowly Raiders, but did compile an 82.2 rating without Green, Eifert, Kroft and Boyd (at times) out of the lineup.
Jordan Evans: Again, the Bengals’ defense was porous this year and Evans did have some struggles, but improved from last season. He had one more interception, 1.5 more sacks and 28 more tackles than he did as a rookie.
Who gets your vote for the Bengals’ Most Improved Player of 2018?
This poll is closed