Bengals by the Numbers: 2013 Stats Cincinnati Must Improve in 2014
The Cincinnati Bengals do not have much to complain about coming off three straight playoff appearances with the same roster almost fully intact and what is sure to be another talented rookie class inbound.
Of course, the Bengals could always improve and finally take that proverbial next step. This may prove more difficult than simply getting another year of experience under the team's belt, especially with some of the ever-important continuity disrupted with both coordinators from a season ago now gone.
Still, the areas the Bengals must improve are quite obvious. Getting back to running the ball, stopping silly penalties and other such fine details winning franchises perfect are on the agenda this offseason.
Let's get nitpicky in the following slides by taking a look at some of the team's more negative basic and complex stats and figure out a way for them to improve upon the areas next year.
Note: All stats courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.
109.7 Rushing Yards Per Game
With Jay Gruden now in Washington, Hue Jackson has taken things over as offensive coordinator and surely wants to get back to the basics on offense—namely by running the football in a division that favors ball control and gritty defensive performances.
Last year, the Bengals managed a meager 109.7 rushing yards per game on the ground, which ranked them No. 18 in the NFL.
While not a horrible total, it in part speaks to the lack of diversity of the offense as a whole. Conversely, the passing game came in at No. 8 overall in the NFL last year with an average of 258.7 yards per game.
Gruden favored the short pass via quarterback Andy Dalton, who executed a simplistic offense that got the ball to receivers, who in turn generated enough yards after the catch to give the Bengals a potent attack.
It was undoubtedly an effective approach, but one that seemingly put the offense in too much jeopardy when it had two more than capable running backs who could find room on the ground and turn the ball over less.
3.6 Yards Per Carry Total
Those running backs were BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie Giovani Bernard.
Green-Ellis can be forgiven for his 3.4 yard-per-carry average last season, as he specializes in short-yardage situations and was once again one of the NFL's best in that regard. But it was a bit perplexing to watch the staff give him exactly 50 more carries than Bernard considering Green-Ellis is arguably better suited for a limited role in a rotation.
Bernard figures to be the feature back next season, which should do much to improve on the team's total 3.6 yard-per-carry mark from 2013. As a rookie, he averaged 4.1 yards on the ground.
New coordinator Hue Jackson figures to shift things in the running game's favor next season, but expects the switch to make the team more efficient in the passing game as well, via Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer:
If you can’t run you can’t win a lot of games. I don’t think you can win tough games. I’ve always had the mindset you have to be physical. But we’ll throw it as well as anyone in the league. We did it last year and I suspect we won’t do anything that’s different than that as far as throwing it with that kind of efficiency. To me, we’ll just throw it better.
Expect this stat to take a solid leap through a simple change in approach next season.
Minus-7.6 Run-Blocking Grade at Pro Football Focus
In order for the Cincinnati Bengals to be more effective on the ground next season, the line play in the trenches must improve.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Bengals scored a minus-7.6 grade for the 2013 season in the run-blocking category.
Considering only nine teams managed to get above a negative score, Cincinnati's mark is not all too shabby.
But it still highlights a potential weakness for the team going into next season. The line was in a state of flux last year thanks to injuries, and it is hard to tell how another year of wear and tear will impact Andrew Whitworth.
Health is one thing, but the Bengals should look to upgrade at left guard if they are intent on keeping Whitworth on the outside. The last thing the Bengals can afford is to regress in this area with the plan moving forward being to run the ball more than ever.
Minus-15.2 Pass-Rush Grade at Pro Football Focus
While a startling number at first glance, remember that Geno Atkins missed seven games last year.
For this number, via Pro Football Focus, to actually improve, a few things have to occur. One, second-year end Margus Hunt has to truly come into his own as the one who receives the majority of Johnson's snaps—that, or the Bengals take a promising rookie in the early rounds of the draft.
Two, coordinator Paul Guenther has to get creative with his blitzes. Whether it is more snaps for backup linebacker Vincent Rey (if he hangs around as a restricted free agent) or more innovation from the secondary, the line may not be able to hold its own without Johnson in the fold on every down.
1,000 Penalty Yards
The excuse that the Cincinnati Bengals are a younger team is getting quite old.
For the past few years, Marvin Lewis' teams have struggled with simple things such as discipline in not committing personal fouls. Perhaps the biggest culprit last year was tight end Jermaine Gresham, who racked up a ridiculous 11 penalties, according to Pro Football Focus.
Even Vontaze Burfict is starting to get a reputation with officials, and he grabbed 14 flags on his own last year.
Simply put, the Bengals have to clean up their act. There is no excuse for a team so talented to not progress in this area. It's a smaller detail not many focus on, but it can make all the difference in close games, which in turn has a staggering effect on the team's final record.