Receiving By Committee: A Different Look At The Bengals Receiver Situation

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 12: Marvin Jones #82 of the Cincinnati Bengals works out during a rookie minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium on May 12, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Bengals search for a complimentary receiver opposite from A.J. Green has left them with two rookies in Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones to compete with a 2nd-year undrafted player in Armon Binns. All three have flashed starter qualities in college and in their short time with the team. Marvin Jones has the quickness and body control. Mohamed Sanu is the precise route runner and great on intermediate routes. Binns has slightly more experience and displays big-play ability. Which receiver will eventually win the starting job? I don't think any of these three candidates will be the permanent number two option in 2012, but there are other options.

I don't see a particular receiver winning the number two role because Green is the one, two and three. With A.J. Green able to play anywhere and win at any point on the field, it offers Jay Gruden flexibility with his mixed bag of receiving depth. The passing offense will be designed around Green. Depending on where A.J. lines up, the rest of the WR depth will unfold. Then, with Jermaine Gresham's ability, he should be the secondary target on almost every passing play. The offenses' number two receiver will only be the 3rd or 4th option on most plays. With most teams turning to a running back by committee to gain yards on the ground, other teams are also beginning a receiver by committee approach to augment their passing offense. I think the Bengals are next to take on this philosophy.

The Packers and Saints can be Cincinnati's model offenses. They both have their primary target in Greg Jennings and Marques Colston that can line up anywhere. They also have their big, athletic Tight End as their secondary target. To fill their other receiving roles, each team rotates role players that are used to each individual's strengths. The Packers use Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb. The Saints rotate Devery Henderson, Lance Moore and have replaced Robert Meachem with rookie Nick Toon. Every receiver brings a unique skill set to their offense. The Bengals could be looking to these two franchises as their blueprint to offensive success. With Green and Gresham as the main targets, Sanu, Shipley, Jones, Binns and Andrew Hawkins can provide advantages due to their varying styles of game play. Through this rotation at the number two WR spot, when Sanu, Jones, Binns, Shipley and Hawkins' powers combine I am Captain Planet, together they are more than enough to compliment Green, Gresham and Andy Dalton.

A look at each receiving role and the Bengals' depth

The 'X' WR position is on the weak side of the formation. The TE and the other WR (Z) is lined up on the strong side. The 'X' is lined up on the line of scrimmage and must be able to beat press coverage. They usually don't have help from other offensive targets, so the 'X' must be able to win in man coverage and often with a safety over top. There are very few true 'X' receivers in the NFL. The ideal 'X' is tall, strong and fast because they must be able to win on all levels of the field with little scheme help. A.J. Green is that rare talent. He can do it at as we know. Armon Binns is a poor man's version of the ‘X' WR. At 6'3" 210 lbs. Binns is a big target that can get deep with his size and ball skills. Sanu may be a little slow to be a true ‘X', but he has the size. Marvin Jones has the speed, quickness and ball skills, but is he physical enough and can he consistently beat press coverage?

The 'Z' WR position usually lines up on the strong side of the formation and will have the TE or slot WR lined up on the same side of the formation with them. The 'Z' is usually not lined up on the line of scrimmage and press coverage is less of an issue. The 'Z' receiver and the 'Y' (TE or Slot WR) work together in their routes to help get each other open. The TE may clear out the middle on a deep route with the 'Z' dragging underneath in the vacant space. Because the 'Z' and 'Y' work together, they face more single coverage and in result, can take advantage of the opportunities to catch more passes. Besides Green, Marvin Jones is the prototypical ‘Z'. His quickness and body control will give CBs a handful in one-on-one coverage. With Sanu being a natural underneath and over the middle, he'll find a home as the ‘Z' also.

The 'Y' (TE) and Slot WR receiver has become the chess piece in NFL offenses. The TE and Slot WR can create the biggest mismatches and therefore end up being targeted the most in many passing offenses. Slot receivers need to be smart, tough, have good hands and be on the same page with the QB. The Slot WR (SWR) is usually off the line of scrimmage so it's OK to be smaller; they won't face much press coverage. Many times, the SWR will go against a Linebacker or Safety if the defense remains in their base defense. That's why having a TE that can split out into the slot can be a dangerous weapon. It's advantageous for the offense in either scenario (TE or SWR). A newer trend is the speed-slot WR like Victor Cruz and Kendall Wright. Even Vincent Jackson gave Safeties fits on deep passes from the slot. There are plenty of slot-capable players on the Bengals camp roster. Shipley is the smart, reliable route runner that will make the tough catch. He and Sanu are very similar in those attributes but Sanu provides a bigger, stronger target. Andrew Hawkins provides a new element. He possesses elite agility and acceleration. Getting the ball into Hawkins' hands is very dangerous for defenses. Both TEs (Gresham and Orson Charles) can also play the slot and create their own advantages for the offense when a LB or Safety covers them in open space.

WR Depth

X-Receiver

Z-Receiver

Slot Receiver

A.J. Green

A.J. Green

A.J. Green

Armon Binns

Marvin Jones

Jordan Shipley

Mohamed Sanu

Mohamed Sanu

Mohamed Sanu

Marvin Jones

Armon Binns

Jermaine Gresham

Vidal Hazelton

Andrew Hawkins

Justin Hilton

Orson Charles

Taveon Rodgers

Ryan Whalen

Kashif Moore

Justin Hilton

Taveon Rodgers

Examples: (If Green lines up at...)

X-WR: Green, Z-WR: Jones, Slot: Shipley
Z-WR: Green, X-WR: Binns, Slot: Shipley
Slot WR: Green, Z-WR: Jones, X-WR: Sanu

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