“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle.
And their efforts have continued to bear fruit. The latest example of that came recently when four Bengals were named among the top 60 players in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.
And, of course, no one better defines excellence in a Bengals’ uniform than Pro Bowl quarterback Joe Burrow. During the regular season, Burrow completed 414 of 606 passes for 4,475 yards, 35 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
In the postseason, Burrow went 72 of 109 for 721 yards, four scores and a pair of interceptions in nearly leading Cincinnati to its second straight Super Bowl appearance.
PFF recognized Burrow as the third-best player in the league last year, behind NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year Patrick Mahomes and Defensive Player of the Year Chris Jones.
The good news for the Cincinnati Bengals is that wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase has also proven himself to be one of the top players in the NFL. The bad news for the rest of the league is that PFF tabbed him as only the seventh-best receiver and at No. 39 overall, down from No. 26 a year ago. Meanwhile, Chase’s running mate at LSU, Justin Jefferson, came in at No. 8. Let the fireworks begin!
Chase had more receptions (87) than a year ago (81), despite playing in five fewer games. Nine of those receptions went for touchdowns. His 1,046 yards computes out to 1,482 yards over a full season.
Asked who the best defensive tackle in the NFL is, most people would have said Aaron Donald. But the times, they are a changin’.
D. J. Reader became the third Bengal to make the list when he came in at No. 41, seven slots ahead of Donald. The 6-3, 347-pound Reader produced 32 pressures on 310 pass-rushing attempts, good for a PFF score of 87.3, and continued to be a stalwart against the run.
Finally, Cincinnati defensive end Trey Hendrickson proved that success in the NFL is not always about the stats. Despite producing fewer sacks than a year ago, Hendrickson turned in his highest pass-rushing grade yet at 90.0, and was rewarded with the No. 56 selection.
In addition to his nine sacks, Hendrickson forced three fumbles and turned in 35 hurries, 18 quarterback hits, 74 pressures and 24 defensive stops.
Conspicuous by his absence from that list was Bengals’ wide receiver Tee Higgins. Higgins already had a chip on his shoulder after falling out of the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Add to that this latest omission and that chip will only get bigger.
The numbers would certainly support the contention that Higgins is better than the league’s 12th-best receiver (11 other receivers made the PFF list). Higgins turned in his second-straight 1,000-yard plus season with 74 receptions for 1,029 yards and his seven touchdowns were a career-best. He also had no fumbles and only four drops on the whole season. His passer rating when targeted was 121.
Who else should have made the list?
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