The Top 5 Cincinnati Bengals of September
Top 5 Cincinnati Bengals of September
September is in the books, Who Dey Nation, and – outside of starting the season with a painful 27-point loss to the divisional foe, Baltimore Ravens – it has been relatively painless. The Cincinnati Bengals exit the inaugural month of the regular season 3-1 with a high-powered offense averaging 28 points per game and an emerging defensive line that has cashed in 12 sacks over the last 2 weeks. A team is never one man, but Cincinnati has 5 in particular that consistently brought their A-game on both sides of the ball this month.
5. DE Michael Johnson: 11 Tackles, 4.0 Sacks
How about that? Two defensive linemen are some of the Bengals best players in September despite Cincinnati’s defense giving up at least 120 rushing yards in their first 3 games. Well, that was before. Now that the Bengals have DE Carlos Dunlap back, Johnson has been leading the charge against opposing offensive linemen with improving results. Michael Johnson recorded 4 sacks this month, but it was when he did it that is so vital. His 3 sacks in Week 3 against the Washington Redskins gave the defensive front seven a morale boost and, since then, the Bengals have taken the quarterback down 12 times in the last 2 games.
4. WR Andrew Hawkins: 15 REC, 247 YDS, 2 TD (16.5 yards per catch)
The Bengals entered the season with a young, unproven receiving group headlined by a young, invaluable talent in A.J. Green, so the question became who would compliment Green and take advantage when defenses double-team No. 18. Andrews Hawkins didn’t completely become that solid No. 2 option, but he certainly made the best case for it. Hawkins is a Y.A.C. machine, specializing in picking up extra real estate after the catch. Case in point: Hawkins has had at least 1 catch of 20 or more yards in each of the first 4 games and has caught 2 touchdowns in September. The Bengals offense is one that depends on explosive plays and Hawkins has made it clear how crucial he is to helping Cincinnati move the chains.
3. QB Andy Dalton: 67.5 Comp %, 1,111 yards, 8 TD, 4 INT
The sophomore slump is absolutely dreaded by young quarterbacks and their offensive coaches, but Andy Dalton’s performance this year makes you question the slump’s very existence. Of course, Dalton has yet to take the next major step and lead the Bengals deep in the postseason, but he has all the tools to do so. This September, Dalton boasted a 105.0 quarterback rating and has thrown for 6 touchdowns in the last 3 games. He also threw at least 1 interception in each game this month, but those miscues allowed him to show where he has really matured: his poise. Dalton is slowly developing a reputation for being cool and collected, which will help him during those patented, grind-it-out AFC North battles.
2. DT Geno Atkins: 11 Tackles, 5.0 Sacks
The third-year run stuffer out of Georgia impressed last year with 7.5 sacks, and this year, he seemed determined to make sure the league knows he’s no fluke. Geno Atkins recorded 2 sacks Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, boosting his season total to 5. It’s more than reasonable for Atkins to shoot for between 15 and 20 sacks this year and throw his hat in the Defensive Player of Year ring.
1. WR A.J. Green: 27 REC, 428 YDS, 3 TD (Longest Catch: 73)
Picking a wide receiver in the Top 10 – even in the NFL rookie salary cap era – is still a risky proposition since the Calvin Johnsons and the Julio Joneses of the world are few and far between. Luckily, the Cincinnati Bengals didn’t pay attention to convention and now have a Hall of Famer-in-the-making in WR A.J. Green. Right now, Green is on-pace to record 1,244 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, dwarfing his stellar rookie campaign. During September’s 3-game win streak, Green has ignited Cincinnati’s high-octane offense, specifically with big plays of 73 and 42 yards over the last 2 weeks.