While it is not the literal halfway point, the bye week does separate the first half from the second half, and therefore is a good time to hand out mid-way report cards.
Quarter Back: C
At times, Dalton has been an A+. At other times, Dalton has been an F. Unfortunately, for the most part, he has been one or the other and has not been able to spend much time anywhere in between. 7-4 is good, but could (probably should) be better. After 11 games, he is on pace for 4,297 yards, 31 TDs, 61.5% comp., 7.21 avg. and a 85.2 rating – all of which would be career highs and all of which are very good (in a vacuum).
He is also on pace for 22 INTs and 6 fumbles – both very bad and both career highs. Though not all his fault, Dalton has to find some level of consistency. No recipe for long term success includes 28 turnovers by the QB. If less throwing means less yards and TDs, I am fine with that as long as it means significantly less turnovers. In the last 5 games, the Bengals need to find some consistency and success in the run game and run the ball more to help Dalton.
Andy Dalton should never be in the top 5 in attempts (4th) – at least not at this point in his career.
Running Backs: C
Any time you are in the bottom half of the league in anything, that is not good. The Bengals find their run game ranked 19th, averaging just 107.9 ypg. Surprisingly, the Bengals are 4th in the NFL in rushing attempts (319) but rank just 26th with 3.7 ypc. The struggles in the run game are a culmination of poor run blocking, poor play calling, poor scheming and also poor running back play (at least by the “starter”). Most disappointing has been the play of BJGE.
While BJGE leads the team with 522 yards, he is averaging a paltry 3.3 ypc. That ranks him below 40 other players, including backups like Bilal Powell, Danny Woodhead, Daniel Thomas, Jacquizz Rodgers, Mike Tolbert, etc. Meanwhile, his “backup” (Bernard) is averaging 4.4 ypc and offers a lot in the passing game as well. If not for the rookie Bernard, the running backs grade would be a “D” at best. With 42 receptions, 809 all-purpose yards, and 7 TDs, it is time for Bernard to be the starter and BJGE to be the situational player.
With Dalton’s recent struggles, establishing an actual running attack in down the stretch will be very important to the Bengals ability to advance in the playoffs.