This started as a reply to a comment but ended up inspiring a FanPost. The reply was in response to one of the many people that are skeptical of the WRs we currently have, rightfully so. Limited production at the tail end of the 2010 season doesn't mean we are set at the position. But let's analyze what tools we do have.
I'm writing this assuming Ocho is traded or released. And if he isn't, I think most of you already have opinions regarding what we have in Chad. I'll start with the slot and go from there.
Shipley had instant production. He came in and took firm control of the #3 position. As a third receiver (taken in the third round) he remained near the top of the rookie WR class in receptions and yards. He's got great feet, amazing body control, and usually sure hands. He made a couple key drops over the course of his rookie season, but he made just as many catches that made me want to jump out of my seat in joy. He was the perfect safety valve and it was clear Carson enjoyed having him as an option.
I think it's clear he'll be the starter in the slot next year and we can only expect him to improve his production, even if we have a short or nonexistant offseason. Let me remind you how great football season is with a couple videos, and then I'll address slot depth.
You can't push him around. In the first game of the season the Bengals trailed the Patriots 24-3 with a second left in the half after a thoroughly embarrassing 30 minutes. Carson throws the hail mary and it's Shipley that comes down with the jump ball. He has deceptive speed and he has an eye for the ball, and even if you don't notice it, this kid is tough as hell. Not a touchdown but a huge moral boost to a team that put up a great fight in the second half.
The guy Jordan replaced at Texas gets replaced again. It seemed like the team never quite trusted Cosby with a starting role until they absolutely had to in the Jets playoff game. And when they did he came through. He did a great job at PR his rookie season and his production sort of faltered this past year but as depth at slot I think he's valuable. When given a chance he's made some pretty big plays and he's a utility player on special teams. With TO and Chad likely out the door, Cosby's roster spot may be safe even if we draft a new receiver.
Yeah yeah he's a Tight End I know. But you might remember Hard Knocks, when the coaches told him he needed to learn the man's game. The Bengals drafted him as a vertical TE in a spread offense and tried to make him into the next Reggie Kelly. This stunted his growth as a player and hurt the Bengals depth at receiver. The last appearance he made in 2010 looked promising. He had bulked up quite a bit (he is almost identical to Gresham in size) and may very well turn into the TE the Bengals want him to be. But he should have had a shot at the slot from day 1. He's got that same drive to make a play every time he touches the ball that Brian Leonard does. And he's got the same hops. He's got all the moves of a receiver and he is certainly an option at Slot if needed. Hopefully Jay Gruden can utilize this kid. Just get him on the damn field. I think Chase is safe on the 53, now let's talk about the other TEs.
The kid is a baller. Every bit the athlete we had hoped he was. There are people that would like to tell you that he wasn't worth a first round pick, that we could have had someone like Gronkowski in the next couple rounds. But they can't see past their nose. This kid has elite size, speed, and hands. He's struggled on the blocking side but he began to pull it together by the end of the year. Gresham is a special talent and as much as we all want to see him get vertical (yes that's about as vertical as Brat managed to get him) it's his Antonio Gates like ability to get the ball in the end zone that has me especially excited. He's a mismatch on almost anyone and he plays with a mean streak, he will not be denied.
Special mention goes to Garrett Mills. A journeyman TE claimed off waivers from Philly. Nothing particularly special, and I don't think he's in the plans for the future. If you're reading this Garrett, no offense. The question then becomes with Reggie Kelly an impending FA; do the Bengals need to address TE depth in the draft or free agency, and does it make the most sense to just let the Rev retire as a Bengal? Moving on to the Y receiver.
Bubba seems to garner a lot of resentment from people around these parts and I'm not sure it's fair. I'm going to paraphrase a comment I made yesterday and say that I think people were a bit mislead by the 09 season. Andre was the guy in the slot after Laverneus Coles was brought on board and that's not where he belonged. He's an outside guy with 4.3 speed and decent moves. Speaking of speed I've heard that people don't think he has it on the field and that's just plain wrong. Watch him burn right by Quentin Jammer for 44 yards. Even Carson didn't expect that speed, underthrowing him on what would have been a sure TD. And it's not a fluke, the kid just takes the top off. In each of the last three games he played, he had no less than 87 yards. In two games he did it on only 4 receptions. He had 13.8 ypc on the year, he made the most out of his chance and he deserves to battle for that spot this offseason. By the way, did I mention that he was fast? Carson put it right on Caldwell after a beautiful play action. Check my man Whit lay the devastating block on Abram Elam and notice Gresham get off the ball to occupy his man. Carson this is what you had to look forward to man.
Backing up Caldwell is Dez Briscoe. No wait, that's not right. Now he is catching TDs for the Bucs. How in the world did the Bengals go and mess that up? Right now no one is backing up Caldwell. Shipley could possibly move outside if he had to but that would be misusing him. Given that Chad is still on contract, and it's been said that Simpson only plays the X, isn't it smarter to go after a 2nd or 3rd round Y receiver to compete with Caldwell? Ah well, I've resigned myself to the fact that we will probably draft AJ Green. What do you think we should do about depth behind Caldwell? Draft, FA, or hope that Jay is smart enough to have all the receivers switch around outside (and has a system simple enough for these guys to learn). Speaking of X receivers we may as well talk about the only one we have behind Chad..
The athletic freak out of Coastal Carolina that has hands the size of dinner plates and enough speed to leave subtle smoke trails on the FieldTurf at PBS. We've all been waiting to see something out of him, anything, for a few years now. Until this last year he had only one meaningful catch. He was, by all accounts, a bust and a waste of a second round pick. Until he was given a shot. In the two games he started, had had back to back 120+ yard games and 3 touchdowns with a 13.9 ypc. Chad only had 4 touchdowns all year. This kid looked like Chad did in his prime. He may not be a playbook sponge but the kid can play. And if you have a talented kid that wants to play and get better you find a way to use him. Remember it was Antoine Cason who looked like a fool when Jerome blew right by him. Some of the best throws Carson made all year were to this kid and there is no reason to think he won't have a bunch more 100+ yard games with someone competent throwing to him. Just need to teach the kid to hold onto the ball.
And that's it isn't it? Outside of Chad. That's our receiver corps and personally I think there are a few teams that would be quite jealous. We have a depth issue and the Bengals need to figure out the best way to address it, but maybe someone in the front office will stumble across this FanPost so let's give them our opinion.