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Most Important Guys You’ve Never Heard Of: Bengals Edition

After getting booted out of the playoffs by the Texans for the last two seasons, the Bengals won’t have that to worry about THIS year. They do still need to be concerned about getting into post-season though, and whether they make it again will largely be based on the work of guys like this, in addition to players like A.J. Green and Rey Maualaga.

Andy Lyons

On the Offense

The Bengals have been trying to find an adequate complement to A.J. Green for the past 3 seasons. While they may not have found a consistent answer to that need, they have found a dangerous threat for a WR2 in Marvin Jones (#82), a former teammate of Chargers WR Keenan Allen, taken out of Cal in the 5th round of the 2012 draft. The potential to have a play making Wide Receiver other than Green makes Jones the Bengals Most Important Guy You Never Heard Of (MIGYNHO) on offense.

Why He Is Important

Green is one of the league’s best receivers, already posting 1,020 receiving yards and 6 TDs this season. Even with that production, he does not lead the Bengals in receiving TDs to this point in 2013. The team leader in that stat is Jones, with 7. As impressive as that sounds, 4 of those TDs happened in one game (against the Jets on October 27).

While the Bengals need Jones to be a consistent threat on the side opposite from Green, he has been anything but reliable this season. Two weeks after the 8 catch on 8 targets game against the Jets, Jones was targeted 7 times. He caught 1 pass for 2 yards.

The Bengals are hoping Jones has a good day in San Diego; the 4 TD game against the Jets resulted in a 49-9 blowout win while the 1 reception for 2 yard game resulted in an overtime loss against the Ravens. Green will always get blanket coverage, so for diversity in the Bengals passing game, they rely on either Jones or Mohamed Sanu. Of the two, Jones has more TDs and higher average yards per reception. The Bengals have a much better chance of beating the Bolts if Jones has even a decent game, because he will be singled while Green receives extra attention from the defensive secondary.

Honorable Mention

Tyler Eifert; TE (#85) – The only reason Eifert is an honorable mention is that rookie 1st rounders are usually talked about some, especially if they came out of the Notre Dame. Between him and long-time Bengal stalwart Jermaine Gresham, they provide other alternatives to Green in the passing game. Eifert started well, but has tailed off over the last month. He caught just one pass last week. The Bengals may have caught a break by playing the Bolts after their bye week. For a rookie like Eifert, the season can start to wear them down in late November.

On the Defense

I’ve heard of this guy, but only because I live in Dallas, which threw this CB onto the NFL scrap heap after 2011. Former first round choices are either superstars or busts. The Bengals MIGYNHO is a rarity because he is not either a star or a bust, but a mostly reliable and steady corner that does a decent job and was good enough to make it to the Pro Bowl twice in an 11 year career. Terrence Newman (#23) has emerged as a vital member of the Bengals defense this year.

Why He Is Important

Newman leads his team in passes defended this season with 14. This equals the production of both Adam (Pacman) Jones and Leon Hall combined (each has 7) in that metric. He is also second on the team in tackles with 41, which is fairly common for a safety, but unusual for a corner. To top off the measurables, Newman has started all 11 of the Bengals games this season.

To add to the solid production on the field, Newman has provided veteran leadership and presence to a team that has had its share of immaturity and off-field issues in recent years. Having an element of stability in a defensive backfield that has Pacman Jones starting at one CB spot has solidified the talent available with a professionalism and mature demeanor that the Bengals have been lacking at times in the last decade. The hustle and willingness to get involved with tackling on run defense has elevated the overall cohesion of a defense squad that has a lot of talent and an excellent coordinator.

The Bengals defensive players have come to look up to Newman and he has not disappointed either teammates or coaches. On Sunday, DC Mike Zimmer will be counting on Newman to shut down Keenan Allen or Vincent Brown.

Honorable Mention

Michael Johnson; RDE (#93) – Johnson has nearly the perfect size and build for 4-3 DE at 6’7" and 260 pounds. His specialty is not sacks, though (he has just 3 this season); Michael likes to use his height to knock down passes. With 8 passes defended this season, he is second on the team for turning thrown footballs into incompletions. The Bolts LT this Sunday (likely D.J. Fluker) may not have their hands full with pass rush, but may want to pay more attention to knocking down Johnson or otherwise keeping his arms down.