Bengals Week 13 Position Grades

Bengals week 13 position grades
Sam Greene – The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Cincinnati Bengals’ Week 13 position grades might surprise you a bit. Despite the Bengals really bad looking 41-22 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, I don’t think they performed all that badly. Sure, there were some really bad aspects and those issues will be reflected in the grades. But, overall, the final score looked worse than the game really was. There are no moral victories in the NFL, but position grades aren’t black and white. So, I think we need a bit more nuance to properly talk about what happened.

Cincinnati Bengals Week 13 Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback Grade: B-

Joe Burrow has been really confusing to get a read on in 2021. He’s been mostly great at driving this offense and helping them put points on the board. In fact, he did that this week with 300 passing yards and two all-purpose touchdowns. He put them in position to score a few more times than that and, unfortunately, was unable to get it accomplished. Had it not been for the killer mistakes, he probably would have deserved a grade in the “A” range this week.

But man those mistakes really sucked. You could make the argument that his first interception intended for Ja’Marr Chase was more on Chase than Burrow. Burrow hit Chase in stride and should have gotten a touchdown instead of a pick. But, that second pick was unacceptable. He must have just not seen Chris Harris right infront of CJ Uzomah.

When he tried to find his reliable tight end in the back of the endzone, it ended up in the defense’s hands and all hopes of making up the 16-point deficit with 8:07 left in the game were basically dead. 

I’m not sure why Burrow seems to have a few plays like this every game that potentially doom the Bengals’ hopes. But, it’s starting to become a pattern and that’s a bit worrisome.

Running Back Grade: D+

One unit that really doesn’t deserve much more nuance than they’re already getting is the running backs. I feel I’m giving them a very fair harsh grade in the Week 13 Position Grades because 2.8 yards per carry and a game-ruining fumble from Joe Mixon are absolutely unacceptable.

The one redeeming factor was Mixon and Samaje Perine’s combined 4.7 yards per carry and a touchdown during the team’s mid-game comeback attempt. The problem is those 80 yards and a touchdown accounted for almost all of the unit’s production on the day during a 21.5 minute stretch in the middle of a 60-minute game.

Wide Receiver Grade: C-

Emotionally, I want to give this unit an ‘F’ for Ja’Marr Chase’s absolutely disgusting bobbled deep pass that turned a game-breaking touchdown play into a game-breaking interception. Luckily for them, that’s not how I operate in the Week 13 Position Grades. Tee Higgins’ performance alone deserves commendation. 138 yards and a touchdown on nine catches is pretty impressive, especially considering he’s been struggling to break out this year.

With Tyler Boyd coming close to the 100-yard mark this week as well, it seems like the thought process of “you can’t stop all of us” is starting to come to fruition. Teams are respecting Ja’Marr Chase’s ability to break a game open, so Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are getting favorable matchups more often. They’re starting to take advantage of some key situations.

But, my god, Ja’Marr. You can’t do this.

Tight End Grade: C-

CJ Uzomah showed up a few times this week to make plays, which is why this unit’s Week 13 Position Grades aren’t too harsh. Drew Sample didn’t get a lot of playing time this week. But, when he did, he performed well as a pass blocker (74.6 per PFF) and ok as a run blocker (59.6). The interception Joe Burrow threw toward Uzomah was 100 percent not Uzomah’s fault. So, I think this unit deserves a coasting grade. They didn’t do much, but they also didn’t screw too much up.

Offensive Line Grade: C-

I really don’t understand, at all, why Jackson Carman is on the bench. Hakeem Adeniji looked like an absolute liability on the field this week. He graded below average in both pass blocking (51.1) and run blocking (48.0). He also was charged with two penalties on the day, one of which was a hold that killed every bit of momentum the Bengals had on a fourth quarter drive.

Joe Burrow ended up making lemonade out of lemons with a 12-yard pass to Tee Higgins that set them up in field goal range. But, I feel like they would have probably gotten a touchdown on that drive and brought the score to 24-20 and taken the lead on the following drive were it not for that hold.

Also, Carman did come in for 11 run blocking snaps this week and graded as the best offensive lineman on the team in those 11 snaps (77.9). Does the coaching staff just not like his attitude? Is he in Zac’s dog house the way John Ross ended up in Marvin’s? The difference is Carman tends to perform well on the field, unlike Ross. So, I don’t understand what’s going on here. 

But, I thought the overall unit deserved a bit of a shoutout in the Week 13 Position Grades, at least compared to the talk surrounding them. Adeniji was the only one who graded below average on the day. I’m sure it doesn’t help that Burrow was sacked six times and that’s always going to look like a complete reflection on the offensive line.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive Line Grade: B-

For the most part, the defensive line had a good day against the Chargers. Trey Hendrickson, in particular, was constantly in the backfield making trouble for Justin Herbert. He hit the young quarterback twice and brought him down once, in addition to recording three other tackles on the day.

BJ Hill and DJ Reader combined for stifling interior trench play and Josh Tupou even showed up for a nice run stop in the second quarter. Larry Ogunjobi was a bit of a liability though. He did get to the quarterback a couple of times, but he also had an awful miss on one of his two tackling attempts.

Linebacker Grade: A

Overall, a really solid performance from the linebacker corps deserves some love in the Week 13 Position Grades. Without a doubt, this was the best performing unit on the team this week. Germaine Pratt, in particular, might have had one of the best games of his entire career. He received an elite grade from PFF for his performance (90.6) for basically letting nothing happen at the point of attack. Well, other than that one tackle he missed. But, that just goes to show how well he played on his other 61 snaps.

The liability this week was Logan Wilson. He did well wrapping up when he got to the ball carrier. But, too often he looked lost during the day. We’re still waiting for confirmation on how severe the injury that caused him to be carted off the field was. You never want to see that happen, especially for a player who has mostly been really solid all season. But, for the sake of the Week 13 Position grades, it should also be noted that Joe Bachie performed extremely well in Wilson’s absence.

Cornerback Grade: C

Any individual cornerback on the team did not deserve a ‘C’ in the Week 13 Position Grades. The issue is there was a WIDE disparity between the high performers and low performers. Chidobe Awuzie left the game with an injury, although it sounds like he’s going to be fine.

However, when he was on the field, dude was electric. That interception on Justin Herbert at the end of the first half didn’t end up yielding any points. But, it did take a potential score off the board for the Chargers. That ended up being huge for the Bengals comeback that almost was. Aside from that, he only allowed a 58.3 passer rating on the day. Eli Apple also played great. Strangely enough, he is starting to become a reliable No. 2 cornerback for the team. 

Safety Grade: D

Overall, Von Bell actually played pretty well this week in every area other than coverage. He was pretty bad in coverage though, allowing a 108.3 quarterback rating. Unfortunately, that’s going to be the biggest judgement on a safety’s performance. Jessie Bates… woof.

He allowed a 158.3 passer rating in coverage this week. I’m starting to get worried about him because 2021 was supposed to be a prove-it year. He hasn’t seemed like he’s proven much other than the Bengals may have been right to withhold a major extension. Perhaps he’s playing distracted because of the contract? I don’t think that’s an excuse though.

Special Teams Grades: F

Perhaps the most Chargers way to lose a game of all time is to do so because the special teams unit was SO BAD. Funnily enough, it was the Bengals who fit that bill this week. Evan McPherson did hit a 48-yard field goal, which was nice. But, he also missed an extra point. Kevin Huber was mostly a liability as a punter all day, only downing one inside the 20. And then, the special teams coverage. Yikes. What are we even doing at this point, guys?

Coaching grade: D-

I felt the Bengals went into this week with a pretty solid gameplan. That’s pretty much where my praise for the coaching staff in the Week 13 Position Grades ends. Some of the way that players were placed on the field made no sense to me through much of the game. The decision to play Logan Wilson on special teams looked really stupid BEFORE the injury.

You have to wonder what Darrin Simmons was thinking on that one. I think Lou Anarumo went into this game with a pretty solid idea of how to handle the Chargers. But, Simmons, Zac Taylor, and Brian Callahan absolutely dropped the ball this week. The offense looked sloppy, unprepared, and regularly in unfavorable positions. That’s definitely not Coach of the Year material.

Week 11 Bengals Position Grades

Week 11 Bengals Position Grades
Chris Unger – Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals got back on track after their bye this week with a 32-13 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. The Week 11 Bengals position grades were a bit tough to formulate because it wasn’t a perfect performance by any means. But, all around, it was good enough to get the job done. It’s really hard to knock a team, or a unit, when they achieve that goal.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback grade: B+

It wasn’t the most spectacular game in the world for Joe Burrow. But, at the end of the day, he played well enough to lead the offense to 30+ points. He did a pretty good job recognizing when he needed to run the ball and finding the lanes to do so effectively.

He only managed to throw for 148 yards. But, he completed 20 of his 29 passes and found Ja’Marr Chase for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. From that point on, the Bengals looked fully in control of the game and the result wasn’t in doubt.

So, you could describe Burrow’s performance this week as… unspectacular, but clutch. He also avoided throwing any interceptions for the first time since week 4, and only the third time all season. When Joe Burrow plays concise, efficient football… the Bengals tend to win. But, I can’t give him an ‘A’ in the Week 11 Bengals position grades with the limited production he had.

Running Back grade: B+

By the end of the day, Joe Mixon looked like a huge reason why the Bengals won this game. It’s not necessarily false, but it took him a while to get to that point. In the first half, he was only averaging 2.5 yards per carry. Not nearly good enough for the Bengals to win. But, he really got it going in the second half, finishing with 123 yards on the ground and 4.1 yards per carry. Furthermore, his two touchdowns came at critical turning points in the game.

Samaje Perine wasn’t nearly as effective, however. He totaled 1.5 yards per run on the day. He wasn’t really needed because Joe Mixon managed to get things going in the second half. But, Perine had a mostly quiet day. Ultimately, he made more special teams tackles on the day than first down plays.

It was nice to see Chris Evans back in the lineup, though. He only caught one pass for seven yards on a drive that ended in a punt. But, he was occasionally brought in on certain packages that gave the Bengals a much more dynamic look on offense than they had without him.

Wide Receiver grade: C+

It seems like every receiver on the roster crawled out of the woodwork to get involved in the passing game this week. It was particularly encouraging to see Tyler Boyd get featured so much after struggling to make an impact against the Browns. Tee Higgins made some plays too, so it felt like the Bengals didn’t need an all-time performance from Ja’Marr Chase to develop a solid passing attack.

That said, the passing attack still never really developed. Receivers struggled in contested catch situations all night. Yeah, you could make the argument that a lot of the targets were broken up by good defensive play or were difficult to catch. But, there were way too many missed opportunities from this unit.

It’s really a testament to the Bengals’ offensive potential that they managed to put up 30+ points despite their highly touted receiving corps receiving such an average grade in the Week 11 Bengals position grades.

Tight End grade: C-

Drew Sample and CJ Uzomah were largely absent in the passing game this week. Although, Uzomah did convert a key third down late in the third quarter. The ensuing drive eventually led to the Bengals taking their first double-digit lead of the game.

However, the real impact in this game from the tight ends was the blocking. Drew Sample was excellent as a lead blocker. He did well in both the H-back role and simply blocking from the tight end spot. You could make the argument that Joe Mixon probably wouldn’t have gotten going in the second half if Sample didn’t lay down some really strategically advantageous blocks.

Offensive line grade: C+

Don’t look now, but the Bengals’ offensive line has been doing a really great job lately of not committing penalties. Quite often, offensive line penalties can be some of the biggest momentum sucks over the course of a game. So, as much as you can point out certain flaws in their game, you have to respect their discipline.

That said, Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff got worked all day. Joe Burrow was constantly dealing with pressure in his face and it was largely due to problems coming from the tackles. That’s particularly problematic because the tackles are supposed to be the ones we can rely on this year.

Joe Burrow’s fumble on the first drive happened almost entirely because Riley Reiff couldn’t handle Yannick Ngokoue. The offensive line’s Week 11 Bengals position grades are largely representative of those issues.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive line grade: B+

The way Sam Hubbard closed out that game on the Raiders’ final meaningful drive was a work of art. To just completely, single handedly turn the Raiders’ chances on their heads and break their hearts with back to back sacks and a fumble recovery. Oh by the way, Trey Hendrickson was the one who forced the fumble. 

The Bengals only came down with two sacks on the day. But, they mostly kept Josh Jacobs and Kenyon Drake in check. There were still a few issues with missed tackles on the day. But, they made the ones they needed to. This unit’s Week 11 Bengals position grades are much improved from last week because they were mostly where they needed to be when they needed to be there. It was a huge step up from the last two games.

Linebacker grade: C

Another unit that, on the whole, you could argue largely did their job when they needed to, was the linebackers. That is, other than in coverage. It was painfully obvious the Bengals were missing Akeem Davis-Gaither, their best linebacker in coverage. Darren Waller finished the day with 116 yards on seven receptions.

In fact, the Raiders needed only three plays to put together their only touchdown drive of the game. How did they do it? Back-to-back 20-yard passes to Darren Waller and another one to Fabian Moreau, who Logan Wilson completely lost in coverage. It was a weakness the Raiders probably should have exploited more. Luckily they didn’t, but it could be an issue the Bengals need to keep an eye on going forward.

Cornerback grade: A

Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple had one of their best games of the season this week. There were a few bad plays sprinkled in here and there during the game. So, it wasn’t perfect. But, Derek Carr only completed five passes for 50 yards to wide receivers this week. One of those was a weird 20 yard pass to Zay Jones on broken coverage. But, everything else went to Hunter Renfrow, who only averaged 7.5 yards per catch.

Then, there was Eli Apple’s beautifully timed interception. It was like a gift from the football gods. I remember it in my head as though I watched it in slow motion. Did Eli Apple really just make one of the most clutch defensive plays I’ve seen from the Bengals all year?

Yes, yes he did. The Bengals capitalized on that interception with a touchdown when the Raiders had brought the game within just a couple of drives earlier. For as much crap as I’ve given him all year, I have to give him a shoutout in the Week 11 Bengals position grades.

Safety grade: B

What the hell is going on with Jessie Bates this year? Is his contract situation so distracting that he can’t play coverage? Part of the reason for Darren Waller’s big day was Jessie Bates’ lack of coverage. Going into this season, everyone in their right mind would have pegged him as the Bengals’ unquestioned superstar on defense. But, he hasn’t lived up to the hype even a little this year.

Vonn Bell was much more effective. He led the team in tackles and did a great job of cleaning up plays over top before they broke for long gains. A big reason why the Bengals only allowed one touchdown this week was because he played his role very well. It’s a big part of why I didn’t grade this unit lower in the Week 11 Bengals position grades.

Special teams grades: A+

Rookie kicker Evan McPherson joined Josh Scobee, Morten Andersen, Neil Rackers, and Sebastian Janikowski as the only kickers in NFL history to convert three 50+ yard kicks in a game. I don’t care if it happened in a closed stadium. That’s still damn impressive and was a huge reason the Bengals won this game. Sure, the Bengals would have still won by 10 points even without those field goals.

But, until the fourth quarter, it was basically the only reason they were winning. What’s even weirder is he capped all that off by missing an extra point late in the fourth quarter. But, he made up for it by converting a 47-yard field goal. I don’t get it, but I’ll take it.

The Bengals’ special teams coverage was absolutely lethal this week. The Raiders regularly started behind the 20-yard line this week. It was partially due to questionable returning decisions, but it was also because the Bengals’ special teams was all over the ball carrier. Darrin Simmons’ unit gave the Bengals a really underrated advantage this week.

Coaching grade: A

This might not be a direct representation of how the coaches performed in the game itself. But, I just have to point out how nice it is to watch a Bengals team look ready and prepared for an opponent after a bye week. Too many times we watched Marvin Lewis coached teams in Cincinnati look like they were hoping for an extra week of vacation after byes.

The Bengals came into this game needing to be ready to go and ready to make an impact. They did just that and took back control of a playoff seed in the process.

You really have to give credit to Zac Taylor’s staff for putting together a really effective game script and executing it as well as they did. Lou Anarumo’s defensive unit, for all its flaws, came out and played a really solid game. Yes, they let Darren Waller shred them. But, they didn’t allow much else. The Raiders were only able to find the endzone once this week, and the offense went over 30. That’s a winning formula if there ever was one.

Midseason Position Grades for Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals midseason position grades
Gregory Shamus – Getty Images

That might have been one of the Cincinnati Bengals’ best bye weeks of all time. Things started to look bleak after losing to the lowly Jets and falling 41-16 at home to the Browns. So, the bye week seemed like it was coming at a good time anyway. It was an opportunity to rest, relax, and reset after this young Bengals team appeared to be letting early success get to their heads.

Then, the Baltimore Ravens fell to the even lowlier Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football. The New England Patriots completely upended the Cleveland Browns 45-7. It looked way worse than what the Browns did to the Bengals the week before. The Pittsburgh Steelers failed to win against the winless Detroit Lions.

Had the Lions converted a missed extra point earlier in that game, the Steelers would have lost and the Bengals would be back in control of a playoff seed. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. But, it was still a monumentally useful bye week for the Cincinnati Bengals, who are still looking fully alive at midseason.

Cincinnati Bengals Midseason Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback grade: A-

Most of Joe Burrow’s 11 interceptions this season have not been his fault. Although, he is tied for third in the NFL with five turnover worthy plays.  But, perhaps it provides some context for the main area he’s been struggling this season.

For what it’s worth, he’s also tied for third in the NFL in Big Time Throws. They’re defined as “a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window” per PFF.

So, yeah, he’s been a bit erratic and inconsistent. But, he makes it work. In the last four games, he’s led the Bengals’ offense to 30+ point outings in all but one game. That one game against the Browns is the one freshest in our memories. But, it shouldn’t hold any more weight than any other game in the midseason position grades.

Running Back grade: B+

Joe Mixon is currently on pace for his best rushing season yet. If he continues his current production, he’d finish with 1,201 yards and 13 touchdowns. Samaje Perine is also on pace for his best season since his relatively solid rookie season in which he started eight games for Washington.

The Bengals are still trying to find ways to incorporate Chris Evans into the game plan. But, he still has 133 all purpose yards and a touchdown. That’s pretty impressive for a third string running back who has only touched the ball 13 times, in five of nine games.

The one area this unit could stand to improve in the midseason position grades is pass blocking. For the most part it’s been ok, but inconsistent. Chris Evans has done a solid job filling in for Giovani Bernard’s vacated pass protecting role when he’s been on the field. Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, on the other hand, have had as many struggles as they’ve had good plays in this department.

Wide Receiver grade: B

At the midway point, Ja’Marr Chase’s overall rookie season has been legendary. Especially, considering the general narrative surrounding his awful preseason. To be fair, he had a rocky last two weeks. The Jets locked him down and he and fell apart against the Browns.

But, even then he’s still on pace to shatter Bill Groman’s rookie receiving yards record of 1,473. Even in a 16 game season he would be on pace to break it with 1,484. But, with the extra game, it would be more of a surprise if he didn’t at this point. Especially considering he’s currently on pace for 1,577.

It hasn’t been as lucrative for Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, whom some were expecting could join Chase as 1,000 yard receivers in 2021. Neither are currently on pace for it, whether due to drops or simply not getting open enough.

With NFL teams starting to pay more attention to Chase, opportunities for Higgins and Boyd could certainly open up soon. But, they’ll need to take advantage of those opportunities to get there.

Tight End grade: B-

CJ Uzomah has been a revelation this year. He’s currently on pace for 591 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s not exactly going to be shattering any records (other than his own) with those numbers, but it’s still impressive for a tight end room many considered to be the worst in the NFL heading into this season. Uzomah’s fantastic season is a big reason why this unit grades so well in the midseason position grades.

Drew Sample, on the other hand, hasn’t been quite as impressive. He’s been below average as both a run and pass blocker. He’s been targeted only eight times as a receiver and, even then, only caught five passes for 45 yards. I think the Bengals were expecting a lot more out of their No. 52 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Offensive line grade: C-

Joe Burrow has been sacked 25 times this year. That’s seventh most among quarterbacks in the NFL, and fifth most for quarterbacks who aren’t known as a habitual scrambler. The Bengals’ offensive line ranks 23rd in the NFL this season in PFF’s pass blocking grade (57.8). That’s largely due to the revolving door at right guard for the second year in a row.

Second round pick Jackson Carman appeared to be doing a decent job of holding the position down, but has seemingly fallen back out of favor among the coaching staff despite earning their stamp of approval earlier in the season.

The run blocking has been better, although still not perfect. In this category, they rank 17th in the NFL (66.0). It’s a testament to how well the running backs have been performing that they’ve been putting up as much production as they have. 

Overall, the offensive line appears to be a step forward from where they were last year. Hence, their slightly below average result in the midseason position grades. It’s not a complete train wreck. But, there are still clear and obvious areas for improvement next year.

Perhaps Jackson Carman isn’t the answer at Right Guard? Maybe Tre Hopkins can be replaced at center? The tackles are doing fine, but the interior still has a lot of issues.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive line grade: B-

Another unit that looks massively improved from last year in the midseason position grades is the defensive line. Last year, they were a major part of an abysmal 17 sack season that ranks among the worst in franchise history. Through nine games, they’ve already passed their mark from last year. They are tied at No. 11 in the NFL for most sacks (23). Granted, it hasn’t really shown up much the past couple of weeks. 

They also rank No. 10 in the NFL per PFF’s run defense grade (61.7). I know it hasn’t looked like it the past few weeks, but this defense is performing like a top 10 unit this year. If they can get themselves back on track after the bye week, there’s no one the Bengals can’t beat in the NFL.

Linebacker grade: C+

Logan Wilson’s hot start this season, with the turnovers and the sacks, has been mostly reversed after he’s struggled to make a major impact in recent weeks. Granted, he’s still the team’s leading tackler virtually every week. But, there is an argument out there that the Bengals’ best overall linebacker in 2021 through nine games has been Akeem Davis-Gaither.

Unfortunately, he’s going to miss a good chunk of the rest of the season with a serious foot injury that sent him straight to Injured Reserve.

Cornerback grade: C+

For the most part, Chidobe Awuzie has been a godsend to a Bengals’ cornerback room that was bereft of talent in 2020. He has missed an uncomfortable number of tackles (seven, 11th among cornerbacks). But, he’s been lethal in coverage. He is only allowing 54.2 percent of the passes thrown his way to be competed. And, has the 13th most stops in the NFL (13).

You’d like to see him come down with more interceptions. But, overall the Bengals love what the results of their most recent free agent acquisition at cornerback.

What holds this unit back is the No. 2 cornerback spot. Last year’s big money free agent signing at the position, Trae Waynes, has only gotten on the field twice this year. When he was on the field, he didn’t look particularly good.

In fact, the much maligned Eli Apple has had more good games this year (3) than Waynes has played in his entire Cincinnati Bengals career. This unit really needs someone to step up at CB2, which is why I can’t grade this unit higher in the midseason position grades.

Safety grade: C+

We were all hoping Jessie Bates would step up and make a huge impact in his contract year. His All-Pro performance in 2020 led to a lot of people hoping he could be a major player on defense in 2021. But, he’s looked pretty average, in general.

Vonn Bell has been a major player this year, lining up all over the defensive backfield and making big plays that really helped this defense get off to a fast start. Even Ricardo Allen got in on the action before going down with an injury he just recently got back from.

Overall, however, this unit needs Jessie Bates to go back to playing at an All Pro level. Their midseason position grades are suffering as a result.

Special teams grades: A

Despite some of the week-to-week mishaps than happen for any NFL team, Darrin Simmons has coached up on of the best special teams units in the NFL this year. Their 91.4 overall grade per PFF ranks second in the NFL, behind only the also 5-4 New Orleans Saints.

Players like Joe Bachie, Wyatt Ray, Chris Evans, and Mitchell Wilcox, who generally struggle to make much of an impact in their primary roles, have really stepped up this year. Stanley Morgan, of all people, leads the unit with four tackles.

Rookie kicker Evan McPherson has had a few struggles, missing three of his 14 field goal attempts. Two of those misses happened in the same game. But, he hasn’t let it rattle him and has converted the winning field goal twice already this season, despite never having the opportunity in college.

Coaching grade: B

In general, I think Zac Taylor has done a solid job in 2021. The Cincinnati Bengals are 5-4 through nine games, despite analysts across the country squawking about how they wouldn’t win more than 6 games in 17 attempts. It seems more likely than not they’ll wind up in the playoffs, after going just 6-25-1 through his first two seasons.

Lou Anarumo has looked much improved as well. Granted, the recent two week skid makes you worry his unit overperformed through the first seven weeks. The last two have looked a lot more like what they’ve looked like the last three years. So, for the coaches to get up to an ‘A’ after the midseason position grades, Anarumo will need to get his unit back on track to playing at a high level.

Bengals Position Grades Week 9: 41-16 loss to Cleveland Browns

Bengals position grades
Kirk Irwin – Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals received an absolute beatdown when they hosted the 96th Battle of Ohio, and the Bengals position grades for week 9 reflect it. There was all this talk about how much better this team looks and how they look ready to contend a year earlier than many expected. Then, they get trapped by the New York Jets immediately after crushing the Baltimore Ravens.

They followed that up with a terrible 41-16 beatdown at home to the division rival Cleveland Browns. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Ravens found a way to win their game. Suddenly, the Bengals are two games behind the Ravens in the race for the AFC North crown after being hyped up as the AFC’s No. 1 seed two weeks ago. Rest assured, the Bengals position grades will reflect just how infuriating that game was.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback grade: D+

Those two interceptions were brutal. The first one was a 14-point swing as the Bengals were on the Browns’ 3-yard line. The second one stung because it confirmed the Bengals weren’t going to have what it took to pull off the miracle comeback. But, with the game already at a 31-10 beatdown, it didn’t really affect the final outcome.

Other than that, Burrow played a pretty good game. He was able to help drive the Bengals down the field fairly often and would have easily gone over 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns if his receivers didn’t drop the ball. But, I don’t think I can emphasize enough how much those two interceptions killed any hope the Bengals had this week.

Running Back grade: B

Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine both averaged at least four yards per carry this week. In theory, you could make the argument they should have run the ball more because that was mostly working. Mixon, in particular, also put both of the Bengals’ touchdowns on the board.

Joe Mixon went over 100 all-purpose yards today. Samaje Perine did pretty good in the passing game as well. But, I just can’t get that stone cold drop on third down out of my mind. The Bengals were driving in a first half that, at the time, looked like it was turning into a shootout, rather than the beatdown it turned into.

But, Perine’s drop led to a fourth down attempt that fell short. On the very next play, Baker Mayfield connected with Donovan Peoples-Jones for a 60-yard touchdown and the game was never in doubt after that point.

Wide Receiver grade: F

Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins both had some brutal drops this week. In one case, Ja’Marr Chase dropped a ball that he already caught. That’s called a fumble, and it capped off a disastrous first 23 minutes of the game for the Cincinnati Bengals. This was also the second week in a row Chase dropped a ball IN THE ENDZONE. 

He also dropped what would have been another 80-yard touchdown pass. In his defense, that one was a bit overthrown. But, he got his hands on it with no one around him. He should have come down with it. Bengals receivers combined for 154 yards today. I don’t care. They never came through when it mattered.

They made the game look like more of a beatdown than it should have been, and that’s why they get an ‘F’.

Tight End grade: B+

Finally, Drew Sample made an impact! Joe Burrow found both Sample and CJ Uzomah for some key plays this week. Considering how little the Bengals’ offense seems to emphasize tight ends, it’s pretty impressive they combined for seven catches and 60 yards. But, without either player finding the endzone, I can’t quite put them in the ‘A’ range.

Offensive line grade: D+

I will give the Bengals’ offensive line this – there were almost no killer penalties this week. Almost. Quinton Spain did ruin the one breakout play Ja’Marr Chase managed to pull down with a holding call. But, that was midway through the fourth quarter when the game was basically over anyway.

But, Joe Burrow was under pressure all game. You could possibly chalk up quite a few of his bad decisions to all the pressure that was constantly in his face. Myles Garrett and co. put an absolute beatdown on the Bengals’ offensive line. He was only sacked twice, but that was largely due to his recent propensity to scramble around in the pocket and create space.

It’s nice to see Burrow doing that again, but you’d hope it didn’t come under such dire circumstances.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive line grade: C-

Missed tackles. They’re becoming a pattern. The common theme in all of the Bengals’ losses this year have been a mind-numbing number of missed tackles by the defense. As inconsistent as the offense has been, it’s been a defensive issue that seems to herald. This week, so many of those missed tackles came from the defensive line.

To their credit, Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson generated some pressure and each recorded a sack. In fact, they were all over the place. But, they were the only ones. The interior defensive line was virtually non-existent throughout the game. Larry Ogunjobi alone, who we all were hoping would have a revenge game, led the team with three missed tackles.

Linebacker grade: D+

Despite recording one of the many infuriating missed tackles on the day, Germaine Pratt did pretty well this week. In general, he didn’t let much happen in coverage. Despite the one missed tackle, he still led the team in tackles. He only allowed a 79.2 passer rating when targeted and recorded three stops against the Browns’ rushing attack. That’s second only to BJ Hill, who had four.

Logan Wilson, on the other hand, looked awful. Part of the reason the Bengals’ defense appears to have taken such a step back is because he has looked really bad the last two weeks. His 29.4 overall PFF grade was the worst among all Bengals players who took at least five snaps.

He was a liability in coverage and constantly looked out of place when trying to defend the run. It was a huge factor in the Browns dropping 41 in a beatdown of the Bengals’ defense.

Cornerback grade: C-

Although it wasn’t a perfect day for him, Chidobe Awuzie generally kept the Browns’ passing game in check in his area of the field. He did allow one 26-yard pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones that annihilated what was shaping up to be a pretty good defensive drive for the Bengals. But, that play also happened late in the fourth quarter when all hope was virtually extinguished.

Mike Hilton played ok. It wasn’t great, and he did miss a tackle. But otherwise, he had a serviceable game. This unit probably would have graded in the ‘B’ range had it not been for Eli Apple, who got absolutely worked all afternoon. In fact, Baker Mayfield recorded a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating when targeting him.

He allowed 101 yards on four catches. He was responsible for covering Donovan Peoples-Jones on that 60-yard touchdown pass that broke the game open early in the second quarter. The Bengals never recovered from that play. Eli Apple is back to being a liability.

Safety grade: D-

For all of the hype surrounding Jessie Bates, he hasn’t exactly performed at a high level in 2021. This week, he did hold Baker Mayfield to an impressive 39.6 passer rating when he was targeted. But, he looked regularly out of place against the Browns’ rushing attack.

He had one missed tackle on the day, and it was an absolute doozy. He had Nick Chubb dead to rights on what should have been maybe a one or two yard pickup on the Browns’ first offensive possession. In a split second, the Bengals went from likely holding the Browns to a field goal and flexing a bit of defensive muscle, to trying desperately to keep them out of the endzone and sparking a beatdown.

That, of course, didn’t end up happening. The Bengals’ defense did hold the Browns out of the endzone to fourth down. But, safety Ricardo Allen was called for a completely unnecessary pass interference on the third down play, which gave the Browns the ball at the 1-yard line.

The infuriating thing was he didn’t need to, because Baker Mayfield overthrew Austin Hooper on the play. Two plays later, Nick Chubb took the Browns up 14-7.

Special teams grades: B

Evan McPherson converted his lone field goal attempt and the one extra point. He actually came out of it looking like the better kicker. Browns kicker Chase McLaughlin shanked a 45-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter. But, it wasn’t the best day for Kevin Huber, who averaged 40.7 yards per punt and only put the Browns inside the 20-yard line once. 

His first punt was a weird, wobbly one that set the Browns up at their own 30. You could argue the short field position really didn’t matter as Nick Chubb’s ensuing 70-yard touchdown run would have gone to the house from anywhere on the field. But, maybe the Browns approach that drive with a different scheme from the 20 instead of the 30.

Punt and kick coverage was pretty solid though, only once allowing a return of more than 5 yards. That was an 11-yard return on a short kickoff intended to run out the remaining two seconds on the clock after the Bengals scored a field goal going into the half.

Coaching grade: D+

For the most part, I don’t really have a lot of negative things to say about Zac Taylor this week. I thought his offensive playcalling was solid. The biggest letdown on offense was the lack of execution from guys like Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. But, he seemed to regularly have them in position to make big plays and do what they needed to do to stay competitive in this game.

However, Lou Anarumo’s defensive gameplan might have been one of the worst I’ve ever seen him put together. That’s two weeks in a row now his defense has received a beatdown, looking completely lost and out of place all game.

You can’t discount the progress they’ve made through the first seven games. But, they need to get things turned back around soon or you have to start wondering if they’ve regressed back to the point they were at last year, when everyone was calling for him to be fired.

Bengals Position Grades after 25-22 loss to Packers

Bengals position grades
Katie Stratman – USA Today Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals showed they are worth taking seriously this week against a Super Bowl caliber team in the Green Bay Packers. NFL teams do not celebrate moral victories, and I’m not suggesting Bengals fans do either. But, these position grades will reflect the fact that the Bengals played mostly well in their 25-22 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Like it or not, the Cincinnati Bengals are on the radar now across the league. If just a few plays go differently, this is a 5-0 team right now. I said in our preview article for this game, the Bengals didn’t have much to lose in this game as long as they kept it close. The element of surprise is now gone. NFL teams will pay closer attention now when preparing to face this team. It wasn’t a perfect game by any means, particularly for certain position groups. But, the most frustrating part is it should have been enough to come away with a win.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback grade: C-

You can never truly count Joe Burrow out, as evidenced by his gutsy drives down the field late in the second half. Were it not for a holding penalty on Quinton Spain and a missed field goal by Evan McPherson, he might have done enough to come away with a huge statement win.

Unfortunately, the way he played in the final 20 minutes of regulation doesn’t tell the whole story. He threw a bunch of passes pretty far off target, looked like he was having trouble getting the ball where it needed to go, and threw two costly interceptions in the third quarter and in overtime. 

The first interception was severely underthrown and killed all of the momentum they had built by scoring just before halftime. The second interception looked like he didn’t even see De’Vondre Campbell right in front of him. It should have directly led to the game-winning field goal kick. Luckily, Mason Crosby missed on his third straight attempt and the Bengals got the ball back.

Running Back grade: B+

Samaje Perine was an absolute machine this week. The man refused to go down no matter how many Packers were on top of him. He turned in an impressive 5.4 yards per carry on the day, which you always love to see. He also caught the Bengals’ first touchdown of the day that gave them an early 7-0 lead at the end of a rough first quarter for both offenses.

Joe Mixon played through an ankle injury many thought could keep him out this week. Although, he certainly looked limited, only turning in 3.3 yards per carry. However, he did score the Bengals’ game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The 8-yard conclusion to an eight-minute drive breathed new life into a Bengals team that almost came back and won it near the end of regulation.

Wide Receiver grade: B-

It’s really hard to be overly critical of this unit’s performance when Ja’Marr Chase turns in six receptions for 159 yards and a touchdown. At the end of the day, Chase was one of the biggest reasons why the Bengals were in this game with a chance to win at the end.

The problem is the drops. Chase had a big one that would have gone for a first down and added to his already impressive totals. Tee Higgins… man. He had two absolutely brutal drops that would have extended drives and likely led to the Bengals putting more points on the board. In close games like this one, those huge missed opportunities matter. Boy, did they matter this week.

Tight End grade: C

We didn’t see much from the tight ends this week. CJ Uzomah was targeted twice and caught both passes for 16 total yards. Unfortunately, the first catch is largely forgotten about because it didn’t result in a first down. However, it did put the Bengals within long field goal range for Evan McPherson. Why Zac Taylor opted to punt the ball on the Green Bay 41 yard line is baffling. But, we’ll talk about that in later in the article.

Offensive line grade: C-

On the whole, the Bengals’ offensive line didn’t really have the best night. Joe Burrow was regularly under pressure, and quite a few of the rushing yards were only attained by plowing through a sea of defenders. That said, it wasn’t an all-out terrible night for a unit that did help put over 100 rushing yards on the day and only allowed Burrow to be sacked two times. 

He was sacked three times total. But, one of those was on a failed blitz pickup by Samaje Perine. Then again, maybe being happy he was “only” sacked three total times is an indication of how bad this unit has been in the past.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive line grade: C

Going into this game, Bengals fans were hoping to see a much more disruptive performance by the defensive line. Not only has this unit been playing really well this year, but the Packers were missing three starting offensive linemen. Trey Hendrickson had a pretty good game. He constantly got in the backfield, took down Aaron Rodgers twice, and hit him a third time.

Unfortunately, Hendrickson was the only member of the defensive line to have a particularly good day. Cameron Sample and DJ Reader were able to get a bit of pressure, but for the most part the unit got shredded by Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Not to mention, DJ Reader’s killer tripping penalty that extended a Packers drive in the fourth quarter. The drive eventually resulted in a field goal. Without that penalty, the Bengals would have held the Packers to a 3 & Out immediately before the late eight-minute touchdown drive. There would have been no overtime, only victory.

Linebacker grade: B

It was a relatively quiet game for Logan Wilson, although he still had the third most tackles on the team this week. He was largely responsible for most of the Packers runs that were stopped for a short gain. Akeem Davis-Gaither was largely quiet too, primarily showing up as cleanup duty on broken plays.

Germaine Pratt, on the other hand, was a huge part of the defense’s ability to keep the Packers’ offense largely in check. Twice he stopped Packers running backs for a short gain, once for no gain, and once for negative yards. He did have to play cleanup duty on a couple big catches by AJ Dillon in the backfield, but in general he brought this unit’s grade up.

Cornerback grade: C+

Guarding Davante Adams is a nearly impossible task. He’s a top-two receiver in the NFL, and he’s clearly not number two. So, as ugly as it looked, I’m not going to destroy the Bengals’ corners for getting worked by him all game. Honestly, the fact that they only allowed Adams to get in the endzone once was remarkable. Other than Adams, there were a couple of big plays by Randall Cobb. But, that was about it.

Chidobe Awuzie once again showed why the Bengals believed in him this offseason  with two pass deflections, a tackle for a loss, and a huge interception on Aaron Rodgers early in the game. Mike Hilton got worked by Randall Cobb early in the game, but he cleaned things up as the game went on. He had a tackle for loss in the second quarter. After that, he only allowed one more intermediate play the rest of the game, an eight-yard pass to Davante Adams. 

Trae Waynes generally played well against his man. Eli Apple got burned by Davante Adams for a 22-yard catch that eventually led to a touchdown. But, you didn’t hear much else from him during the short period while he was filling in for an injured Awuzie.

Safety grade: C-

Jessie Bates was back this week and went right back to being the Bengals’ leading tackler like it was his birthright. It wasn’t exactly the most exciting night from him though, as he was regularly the one having to clean up big plays by Davante Adams. Adams burned Bates on that explosive 59-yard catch that ended up being his longest of the night.

While Bates was cleaning up big plays by Adams, Vonn Bell spent most of the night cleaning up big plays by Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Except for the one play where he didn’t, absolutely whiffing on Aaron Jones in the backfield. He had him absolutely dead-to-rights on what would have been a big loss. But, Jones stepped to the side and ended up with a 57-yard run that eventually set up a chip shot 36-yard field goal by Mason Crosby late in the fourth quarter. Luckily, Crosby shanked it wide left. But, that could have been the back-breaking play that could have killed the Bengals’ comeback hopes.

Special teams grades: F

From what I understand, there was a wind current running through Paul Brown Stadium near the end of the game. That partially accounts for why Mason Crosby and Evan McPherson combined for five missed field goals at the end of regulation and in overtime.

That said, it’s no excuse for McPherson missing two opportunities to win the game. Granted, one was a 57-yard field goal that would have tied the all-time Bengals record for longest kick. But, the other was from a much more manageable 49 yards. He’s a rookie and I’m sure he’ll learn from this and be better in the future, but it’s something he and Darrin Simmons need to work on.

Kevin Huber had an ‘OK’ day punting the ball. But, poor special teams coverage ruined the punts he did hit well. Then again, there was the one time Zac Taylor decided to punt from the Packers’ 41-yard line. Huber couldn’t pin the Packers deep in their own territory despite the short field.

I’m not entirely sure what Darius Phillips was thinking trying to return a punt at the six-yard line. It likely would have resulted in a touchback. Instead, the Bengals’ offense ends up with the ball at the eight. After they went three-and-out on the ensuing drive, Huber was only able to get the ball to the 38-yard line. Luckily, Rodgers threw an interception on the ensuing drive. But, you still never want to set an explosive team like the Packers up in good field position.

Coaching grade: D-

Oof. I will give Zac Taylor credit for the Bengals never giving up every week. If two or three plays goes differently on the season, this Bengals team could be 5-0 right now. The way they played this week, it makes you think they are right on the cusp of winning games like this. If they manage to sneak into the playoffs, you have to believe they might be able to make some noise.

That said, I really don’t understand Taylor’s decision making this week. Why the hell did we punt the ball from Green Bay’s 41-yard line? Or later in the third quarter from their 40? The defense was playing well and Evan McPherson hit a 60-yard field goal in warm ups. It sounds weird to say after all those misses at the end of the game. But, those misses hadn’t happened yet in the first and third quarters. 

What happened to that aggressive mentality he assured us they would have all season after that weird 4th down call he made against Minnesota? Why all the conservative playcalling? Why did they not utilize their running game more considering how effective it was when they actually did run the ball?

It’s Taylor’s third season as a coach and mistakes like this really shouldn’t be happening at this frequency. On the whole, they’re having a decent season. He’s going to look pretty good at the end of the season, if they win more games than they lose.

But, when they lose games like this, you can’t help but question what the hell he was thinking.