All four weeks of the NFL’s preseason have been completed, the roster cut-downs are finished, and we’re a week away from the start of the regular season. It’s time for me to look at each positional group and see where we are at going into the games that count, and it might not be the same as it was a month ago due to injury or lack of production at certain positions. Here are my grades, for the position as a whole, not individual players, with explanation.
Andy Dalton, due to a terrific rookie season, has expectations of being better this year. After being in the race for Rookie of the Year, and leading the Bengals to the playoffs, fans are envisioning him reaching even greater heights in 2012. He wasn’t spectacular this preseason, but he didn’t have to be, only needing to shake off the rust and get time with teammates. Questions about arm strength will persist, and are valid concerns, but his accuracy and intelligence make up for that. He’s a good QB, primed for another solid season. Behind Dalton, it’s questionable. Bruce Gradkowski is the backup, and can play OK in spots, and has a history of gutsy performances, but I’d be worried if has to start for any kind of extended time. Zac Robinson is on the practice squad, but hasn’t shown much. Bengals fans love Dalton, but also need to be realistic about his growth. Final grade: B
Cedric Benson wore out his welcome in Cincinnati, and was replace this offseason by BenJarvus Green-Ellis. “The Law Firm” isn’t going to break many 50 yard runs, but he is a strong runner who pushes the pile, and who can catch the ball out of the backfield, despite not being used in that capacity much in New England. Green-Ellis is also as sure-handed as a RB can be, having never fumbled in his NFL career. Bernard Scott remains the 2nd back for now, having shown flashes, but never being able to get over the hump. Brian Leonard will get time as well, especially on 3rd down. He’s a solid receiver and seems to always make good plays. The RB position should be better than 2011, but it falls on BJGE to shine. I’m not sold on the group as a whole, and would like to see another solid addition. Final grade: C