The Bengals receiving corps was a mixed bag in 2011. On one hand, you had rookie sensation A.J. Green who broke franchise records and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl. On the other side, you had veteran receivers with little to no experience that were so wildly inconsistent, it was hard to count on them at all. Of all the positions on the team, the receivers vary the most, which will make them tough to grade.
First we'll have to break down each receiver's season and then group them together.
A.J. Green: Green was by far and away the team's best receiver in 2011. He was targeted 123 times and caught 70 passes and only dropped five passes all season. Through the regular season and the playoffs, Green accumulated 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns. He proved to be a deep threat, a possession receiver and a receiver than can catch passes in traffic. He has great hands and was able to pull down some incredible catches despite where the ball was thrown.
Jerome Simpson: Simpson has extraordinary talent and is physically gifted but he is also terribly inconsistent. He was targeted 102 times and caught 53 passes for 758 yards and four touchdowns. While he had a few big games in 2011 (Week 2, Week 6, Week 11) he only had over 50 yards receiving four times. He completely disappeared in some games and had a problem when it came to dropping passes (eight drops in 2011). Due to his inconsistency, his future with the team is in question since he's a free agent.
Andre Caldwell: If Simpson is inconsistent then what do we call Caldwell? Caldwell was targeted 63 times and caught 37 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns. He also dropped seven passes and fumbled once. After Jordan Shipley went out with a season-ending injury, the team needed Caldwell to step up as the team's slot receiver but he had his worst season since his rookie year. He didn't finish the season due to being put on Injured Reserve with groin and abdominal injuries and you have to wonder if the team was better without him. Caldwell is also a free agent.
Andrew Hawkins: Hawkins was a pleasant surprise in 2011. He only played in 12 games this season, including the playoff game. He was targeted 34 times and caught 24 passes for 271 yards. He didn't score any touchdowns but he also didn't drop any passes and he made some big plays and got the offense out of some tight spots. He was fun to watch and while he would be a specialty receiver that only played in certain situations, he showed he can get the job done.
Ryan Whalen: The team's other rookie receiver Ryan Whalen played in the last three games of the season, including the playoff game. When came in to replace Caldwell when he went on IR and did a pretty good job. He was thrown to six times and caught all six passes for 51 yards. He would be best as a slot receiver but that job belongs to Jordan Shipley. Whalen can produce for the Bengals, hopefully they find a place for him in 2012.
Jermaine Gresham: Gresham had a better season in 2011 than his rookie 2010 season but he still isn't where many Bengals fans want him to be. He's incredibly talented but he isn't used as a deep threat like many fans believe he should be. Near the end of the season, there were more deep passing plays for Gresham called and he delivered. Overall, he was targeted 91 times and he caught 61 passes for 642 yards and six touchdowns. He also dropped six passes but the future is undeniably bright for Gresham.
Donald Lee: After the Bengals let Reggie Kelly walk away and after Bo Scaife was injured in the preseason, the Bengals brought on veteran Donald Lee. Lee was injured through the majority of the season as he only played in seven games, but in those seven games he caught 12 passes (12 targets) for 151 yards. He also didn't drop any passes.
Colin Cochart: Cochart, a rookie, played in six games. He was active mostly in the games that Lee was injured but he got significant playing time during some games. He caught five passes for 44 yards in 2011 and his first NFL reception ended up being a touchdown against the Titans.
The Bengals receivers, if you take out Green and a few of the receivers that didn't play much, were terribly inconsistent. It's likely that they won't re-sign Caldwell to a second contract and it's very possible that they won't re-sign Simpson either. In a season when they both needed to step up, both Simpson and Caldwell were pretty disappointing. With new, and more reliable, receivers, Andy Dalton could have a great season and so could the Bengals. A new No. 2 receiver is a big need for this team.
I can't give the Bengals receivers a terrible grade because of how great A.J. Green was and how well Hawkins and Whalen played when they were called upon. Due to the play of the Bengals receivers, I believe they deserve a grade of C.
What grade would you give them?