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An Early Guess At Who the Bengals 2018 MVP Will Be

The Bengals have a season starting in less than 100 days, and with a long training camp and season upcoming, there’s plenty of chatter as to what player might shines better than the rest as the teams Most Valuable Player.

An article out on NFL.com talks about just what player they think will be the MVP for not only the Bengals, but for each team around the National Football League for 2018.

The Bengals MVP – author Dan Hanzus is going with wide out AJ Green, a very good player that he sees having a big year in Cincy this upcoming season.

Here’s what Hanzus has to say about Green this season:

Green is an excellent bounce-back candidate coming off a disappointing-by-his-standards 75/1,078/8 line in 2017. The Bengals could have done more to add another weapon or two around their All-Pro wideout (the decision to let both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu depart after 2015 remains puzzling, in retrospect), but the upside is, Green will continue to be Andy Dalton’s best friend. Two outside factors that could help Green get back to All-Pro status: 1) Tight end Tyler Eifert returns after another season lost to injury. Then there’s wide receiver John Ross, last year’s first-round pick, who will try to wipe away all traces of a nightmarish rookie season. No matter what happens, Green will continue to be the centerpiece.

What do you think of this pick? Do you agree? Leave a comment if you disagree with what player you think will be the Bengals 2018 MVP.

Bengals Veteran TE Tyler Eifert Limited at OTA’s with Ongoing Back Issues

Veteran Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert was “limited” at OTAs last week according to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Eifert was reportedly moving at “half speed” and didn’t participate in 11-on-11 drills. Back surgery limited Eifert to just two games last year, though the tight end plans to be a full go for training camp. “I’m on schedule,” he said. “I don’t want to go out there and have any setbacks or anything, so just methodically moving forward.”

Originally the No.21-overall pick in the 2013 draft out of Notre Dame, Eifert has always been a major redzone target for Bengals QB Andy Dalton but he just cannot stay healthy. Now 27, Eifert has never played a full 16-game schedule in his five-year NFL career and his medical history looks like that of a player a decade older.

Despite his problems getting an staying on the field, the Bengals signed Eifert to a one-year deal for up to $8 million in March in hopes that he can return to form that had him leading all tight ends with 13 touchdowns in 15 games in 2015. If 2018 proves to be another lost season for the talented tight end, he may have to hang up his cleats for good.

Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap a No-Show as OTA’s Start for Cincinnati

The Bengals started OTA’s without one of their stars, as defensive end Carlos Dunlap was a no-show.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis called it “not a big deal,” Dunlap will miss out on a $300K workout bonus. Dunlap, a two-time Pro-Bowler, is entering the final year of his contract and is apparently angling for an extension.

Lewis said he has talked to Dunlap, and when asked what the reasons were for his absence, Lewis laughed. “He’s busy. Working out.”

Dunlap joins a list of high profile players who are missing the start of Organized Team Activities, which includes New England quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones, Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell and Jacksonville cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye.

Dunlap, 29, is in a contract year after he signed a six-year, $40.6 million extension in 2013. He is due to make $7 million this season. The average annual value of his extension over the last five years was about $7.9 million, which would put him 18th in annual value this season the NFL for defensive ends, per the salary tracking website www.spotrac.com.

Bengals Earn an ‘B’ for Their Draft According to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

The draft grades from ‘Draft Guru’ Mel Kiper Jr. are out, and one team that got a very good grade is that of the Bengals, who according to Kiper got an ‘B’ for their collection of players over the two days.

Here’s what he had to say:

I could argue that I ranked another center higher than Billy Price where the Bengals took him at No. 21, but what I can’t argue is that they had to get a starting center in this draft. And my evaluations of Price and Iowa’s James Daniels were close, so this isn’t a reach. Cincinnati had one of the league’s worst offensive lines in 2017. It has already addressed left tackle with the addition of Cordy Glenn, and I thought the Bengals might try to add some more tackle competition for the right side. But Price is a good player who I thought would drop to Round 2 because of a torn pectoral muscle at the combine. Clearly Marvin Lewis & Co. think he can be a plug-and-play center, and they need it after Russell Bodine left this offseason.

After the first round, the Bengals did a good job not reaching and taking the best players available. Jessie Bates III (pick 54) is a good player with upside. I have compared Sam Hubbard (77) to Rob Ninkovich as a Swiss Army knife-type player with versatility. He wasn’t as productive last season as I thought he might be. Malik Jefferson (78) is a true 4-3 outside linebacker who was inconsistent for the Longhorns. I heard from a few guys in the league before the 2017 season that he was a potential first-round pick, but I didn’t see that on tape. Running back Mark Walton (112) had a disappointing 4.60 40 time, and an ankle injury hurt him last season. I wrote about cornerback Darius Phillips (170) during the season, and thought he was a potential playmaker who could play in the slot. He had three pick-sixes in 2016. I compared quarterback Logan Woodside (249) to Case Keenum, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make this roster.

Overall, this Cincinnati class lacks star power, but it’s solid.

Round/Pick Name Pos College
1/21 Billy Price C OHIO STATE
2/54 Jessie Bates III S WAKE FOREST
3/77 Sam Hubbard DE OHIO STATE
3/78 Malik Jefferson OLB TEXAS
4/112 Mark Walton RB MIAMI
5/151 Davontae Harris CB ILLINOIS STATE
5/158 Andrew Brown DE VIRGINIA
5/170 Darius Phillips CB WESTERN MICHIGAN
7/249 Logan Woodside QB TOLEDO
7/252 Rod Taylor G OLE MISS
7/253 Auden Tate WR FLORIDA STATE

Vontaze Burfict’s Four-Game Suspension Official by the NFL

Bengals’ linebacker Vontaze Burfict has officially been suspended four games for violating NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

Burfict had appealed the suspension but it was denied.

Bengals to Visit with Free Agent Safety Eric Reid

Free agent safety Eric Reid, one several quality starters available at the position, is slated to visit the Bengals, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. This is believed to be the first free agent visit for the former 49ers first-round pick.

Bengals WR A.J. Green On the Giants Chatter of Trading Odell Beckham Jr. – “That’s Stupid”

A.J. Green saw all the chatter from the Giants’ brass on Odell Beckham at last week’s Annual League Meeting and then heard New York was actually considering shopping the embattled wide receiver and didn’t mince words on what he thought about it, Edward Lewis of NFL.com reports.

“That’s stupid. That’s stupid, man,” Green told NFL Network at rapper Quavo’s celebrity flag football game in Lilburn, Georgia, on Sunday. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime, or once-in-a-generation talent, man, and you’ve got to be ready. I think he’ll get paid. They not that crazy.”

Per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, New York would seek a first-round pick and then some if they were looking to deal their star player. Given that hefty price tag, and the massive contract extension a team would then have to dole out to Beckham, a trade seems unlikely.

Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant said Sunday he believes all the trade buzz surrounding Beckham will die down soon and the wideout will get the huge deal he wants eventually.

“He’s a great player,” Bryant said. “He just wants his money. He wants his money and what he’s worth. I hope he gets it. I know he’s going to get it. It just takes time.”

Bengals Gab 2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: USC QB Sam Darnold

The hype for USC quarterback Sam Darnold has b3en growing by leaps and bounds the last few weeks, to the point where many feel he’s going to be the first overall pick in the NFL Draft in April.

At 6-4, 220 pounds, he’s got the look of a player who with some time learning could be a very good to excellent quarterback in the NFL, but time will tell when he might get that chance.

In his final season at USC, Darnold threw for 4143 yards, with 26 touchdowns to go along with 13 picks. This after throwing 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions the season before.

Here’s a look at Darnold and what various places are saying about him in our latest scouting report.

Walter Football

Strengths:
Naturally accurate passer
Fits passes into tight windows
Excellnt ball placement
Throws a catchable ball
Pocket presence
Has poise
Advanced anticipation; instinctive thrower
Throws with good timing
Can accelerate his throwing motion
Quality arm strength
Pushed team to wins
Good internal clock
Mobility
Throws very well on the run
Throws accurately off platform
Displays some feel in the pocket
Not easy to sack
Can hurt defenses on the ground
Can make all the throws required
Can pick up yards on the ground
Threads passes into tight windows

Weaknesses:
Ball security
Too many interceptions
Too many fumbles
Had some confidence issues in 2017
Doesn’t secure the ball well when getting sacked
Good enough not doesn’t have elite arm strength
Throwing mechanics are a bit unorthodox
Needs to start games faster

Summary: Darnold took college football by storm during the 2016 season, and even though he wasn’t eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft, the redshirt freshman had scouts buzzing about his pro potential. After a 1-2 start to the 2016 season for USC, Darnold was made the starting quarterback. For his debut season, he was an extremely efficient passer who led the Trojans to a 10-3 record. Darnold lost his first-ever start against a good Utah team, but after that he led his team to ripping off a nine-game win streak to close out the year, including impressive wins over Colorado, Washington, and a comeback Rose Bowl win over Penn State. Darnold completed 67 percent of his passes in 2016 for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

The 2017 season was more of a mixed bag for Darnold. The redshirt sophomore completed 63 percent of his passes for 4,143 yards with 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He had an up-and-down season with too many turnovers – fumbles were a particular issue beyond the interceptions. Darnold also made some beautiful anticipatory throws with excellent accuracy in just about every game.

There is a lot to like about Darnold as a future starter in the NFL. First and foremost, he is an accurate pocket passer who throws with good ball placement and is very precise in the short to intermediate part of the field. Darnold has excellent anticipation to know when and where receivers are going open. With his feel and timing, Darnold hits receivers on the run, leading them to picking up yards after the catch. He also regularly will throw receivers open and help them to find space to beat tight coverage. Darnold is a natural rhythm thrower who would fit best in a West Coast system to maximize his ability to throw accurately in the short to intermediate part of the field. He is a smooth precision passer who can be deadly when he gets into a good groove.

Darnold is comfortable in the pocket, but also has the ability to move around to buy time. While he is not a running quarterback, he is functional to avoid sacks and will move around to help his offensive line and receivers. Darnold made a number of really nice plays during the past two years when things went off script as he got creative to move the ball for his offense. Routinely, Darnold would buy time with his feet and then make an accurate throw downfield with the rush closing in on him.

The Drafster

In my eyes, Sam Darnold is a very odd prospect. Talked about as a number 1 overall draft pick. Talked about as the best Quarterback coming out of college this year. However, I am not seeing any of this. When I watch Darnold, I see one of the most streaky Quarterback play I think I have seen in awhile. At time looks very hesitant to throw, missing an opportunity. Other times he looks too eager and makes a bad decision. He has his good moments, but then a play later he will have a combination of bad plays. Moving in the pocket too early and too often, inconsistent accuracy, and staring down a play for too long are major turn offs to me.

The first thing I notice about Darnold when watching him is that he seems to ignore his dump off routes. He seems so locked in on making a big play, he forgets about the guys that are 5 yards away from him. I can respect wanting to make a big play for the team, but after staring downfield for eternity it’s time to hit your shallow routes. At least LOOK at them to see if they are open. There is no shame in taking an easy three to five yards. Not every throw has to get the crowd on their feet.

The second thing I notice is how much he likes to move around in the pocket. And that is just not his style. I get running to avoid a sack, but too many times I saw him run with a clean pocket. Multiple times he would take off to the outskirts of the pocket, making it easier for defenders to get off their block. He seems to just panic unless he has the cleanest pocket one could possibly have. If he would stand tall in the pocket and deliver, his accuracy issues would go down as well. His deep balls are inconsistent, and the times he does go to dump it off, those are not always pretty either. His best throws come from his 10-15 yarders. Which always happen to be when he stands his ground.

I will say though, 4th quarter Sam Darnold seems to be a better player than in other quarters. He reads the field better, has better ball placement, and doesn’t try to run around as much. It just seems something clicks a bit better for him during the 4th. Like he has calmed down. He just needs to be able to play similar to that all game if he is gonna be the number 1 overall pick this upcoming draft.

I think Darnold has a lot to work on. Personally there are 4 other Quarterbacks I would take before drafting him. He does good things, unfortunately, his good things just are not consistent enough and are overshadowed by his flaws. I believe if he can work on sitting in the pocket longer instead of trying to escape right away (while not holding the ball for too long), a lot of his issues will start fading. I think Darnold will have a real rough start to his career, but if keeps his confidence and keeps fixing his game, it will work out for him in the long run.

Cover 1 Scouting Report

Strengths:

Darnold’s entire game is predicated upon his ability to create. Darnold is an athletic player; he is able to pull the ball down and gain chunks of yardage with his legs. His agility and change of direction catch many defenders off guard.

That is why offensive coordinator Tee Martin built an offense that maximized his legs. USC ran a heavy dose of run pass options (RPOs), a concept that gave Darnold many options pre- and post-snap, and he absolutely flourished. On a majority of their plays, Darnold had the ability to give the ball to star running back Ronald Jones, keep it as a runner, or throw it to one of his many weapons outside. This multi-dimensional structure of a play was obviously super productive. His decision making was very good all season, especially on these RPOs. He can process the coverage, find the conflict defender, and distribute the ball quickly.

But what is often overlooked is the accuracy and velocity needed on these kinds of concepts. At times, after the mesh with the running back or play fake, the passing lane is cluttered with defenders coming downhill to defend what they perceive to be a run. Once they realize that it is a pass, they immediately try to get their hands up in the passing lanes. Darnold makes these throws look easy. Standing at 6’4? and 220 pounds, he is able to place the ball in optimal locations, allowing his weapons to make plays.

At the next level, Darnold is going to make his money in the short area. While his elongated release and sloppy footwork will cause issues at times, something I will cover later, it isn’t an issue from 0-9 yards. That bodes well for Sam, because that is where football is won and lost on Sundays. His mechanics aren’t an issue because he is throwing in rhythm and not having to worry about mechanics.

According to SportsInfo Solutions (SIS), Darnold’s short game is phenomenal. From 0-9 yards, he had the highest completion percentage (75.4%), the 4th-most passing yards (1,534), 12th-most touchdowns (10), the 3rd-highest yards per attempt (7.6), and the 5th-highest rating (107.2).

Weaknesses:

As productive as Darnold was over his 27 games at USC, he has some serious flaws that need to be addressed, the first of which is turnovers. Darnold threw 22 interceptions over two years and added another 20 fumbles. This lack of ball security will get you benched quickly.

While the offense surrendered an average of 2.14 sacks a game and a grand total of 30 sacks in 2017, he admitted that he was pushing it too much.

Many of his turnovers are linked to his mechanics. Darnold has some of the worst mechanics I have ever seen from a quarterback. Let’s start with his delivery. Typically, a quarterback with an elongated delivery like Darnold’s will struggle at the next level. From the time he begins his delivery to the time of release is often the difference between a tight window completion and an interception. Defensive backs are just too good on Sundays. If he is slightly late anticipating a throw and needs to drive a pass, the split second longer that it takes to release the ball due to his delivery could lead to an interception, much like it did versus Washington State. The safety bails post-snap, baiting Darnold to throw the speed out as he gets the 1-on-1 coverage. The defensive back reads the route, breaks, and picks him off.

What Matt Miller says about Darnold – Ranking him as the #1 QB on the board

1. Sam Darnold, USC

A two-year starter at USC, Sam Darnold is widely praised for his toughness, football IQ and leadership. A coach with the Trojans told me Darnold only cares about football and not the benefits of being a star quarterback. He did turn the ball over 22 times in 2017, which should at a minimum send scouts back to the tape to find the context of each turnover. But Darnold’s tangible and intangible traits are tops in the class.

Scout’s Quote: “Crystal clean off the field. Smart, poised, tough, accurate. He might be the only one that could work in Cleveland because he won’t let the pressure go to his head.”

Coach’s Quote: “The release and turnovers bother me, but he has the makeup to be good. He’s better than [Mitch] Trubisky was last year but he’s not on the level of [Carson] Wentz or Jared [Goff].”

Scout’s Comparison: Tony Romo, retired

Darnold impressed at his Pro Day, throwing in the rain back on March 21st