The Cincinnati Bengals have jumped to another quick start to begin the 2012 NFL first quarter of the season, leading the AFC North with a 3-1 record along with the Baltimore Ravens, who is the only team to hand Cincinnati a loss on this young season. Having now won three straight games, the Bengals appear well on their way to making another playoff run in 2012.
The Bengals shocked many people by winning the AFC wild card last season. They had a rookie quarterback and wide receiver in Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, and it was because of their strong play that Cincinnati reached the postseason. After another blazing start by both Dalton and Green, this team looks as if they will make some noise once again this season.
Cincinnati has defeated three straight teams who, much like themselves, are very young on offense. The Bengals have knocked off the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins and Jacksonville Jaguars over the past three weeks and face another team in the Miami Dolphins with a young quarterback this week. In fact, they will finish up a five game stretch the following week against the Browns again which saw them play against a starting quarterback who is either in his rookie campaign or second NFL season, just like Dalton.
Perhaps that has helped Cincinnati plan, and perhaps it has not. Either way, the Bengals are getting it done on offense. They rank eighth in passing yards per game and 13 in rushing yards per game. Dalton to Green has been a great combination, and Benjarvus Green-Ellis has done his best to move the chains on the ground. Uncharacteristically for Green-Ellis, however, is that he fumbled for the first time in his NFL career two weeks ago, and lost his second fumble this past Sunday. He will have to show better ball security going forward. here is a look at the numbers on offense for the Bengals through the first four games of the 2012 season.
Andy Dalton: 85 completions of 126 attempts for 1,111 yards // 8 TD and 4 INT
Benjarvus Green-Ellis: 82 carries for 286 yards // 2 TD
A.J. Green: 27 catches for 428 yards // 3 TD
Andrew Hawkins: 15 catches for 247 yards // 2 TD
Jermaine Gresham: 17 catches for 178 yards // 1 TD
Armon Binns: 12 catches for 157 yards // 1 TD
The Bengals need better production on the ground, but they will not abandon the run just to air it out more and put too much pressure on Dalton. Green-Ellis will need to improve upon his 3.5 yards per carry and sudden fumbling issues, but he should remain a big part of this offense. With Hawkins and Binns steeping it up in the passing game, the Bengals should continue to put points on the board.
On defense, it has been a bit of a struggle to find consistency and stop the opposition. Cincinnati ranks 16th in the league against the run, but just 24th against the pass. They have faced four solid running backs who have all gotten off to good starts in Ray Rice, Trent Richardson, Alfred Morris and Maurice Jones-Drew, so that could account for part of their struggles. Still, while the team has received some big plays from Ray Maualuga, Michael Johnson and Geno Atkins, they will need better play from many others. The secondary has just one interception to begin the season.
In the kicking game, Mike Nugent is a perfect 7-for-7, so he has helped out once again. With Dalton and Green, the Bengals are going to be in every contest. With an improved defense, the Bengals should be able to contend for a postseason berth once again. Through the 2012 NFL first quarter, the Bengals have earned a solid B on their report card.