Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis recently volunteered to do a chat with the Bengals fanbase through the Cincinnati Enquirer website. Lewis' responses were very candid, and he didn't shy away from the tough questions at all. There's a lot of hidden clues in the responses he gave, as well as a few clear statements like the one we reported this morning - "there's no clear cut leader" at the second safety position.
One major thing that we pulled from Lewis' responses is that Marvin Jones was not often mentioned by Lewis. Amongst fans, he's been considered a candidate to take the second wide receiver spot this year, and possibly be the solution of the future there. But, there's a lot of talented wide receivers on this team right now, and when Lewis was asked about the second wide receiver spot, he didn't mention Jones' name.
Entering into training camp opposite of AJ we feel we have a strong competition between both Brandon Tate, Mohamed Sanu and Armon Binns. I think during our offseason work they have shown the ability to be that starter and we look forward to it playing out throughout the preseason along with guys like Ryan Whalen.
In that one response, Lewis mentioned the three leading candidates (Tate, Sanu, Binns), and then sort of added on Ryan Whalen as another guy they were looking at.
Ryan Whalen? Not Marvin Jones? Whalen definitely came in and did his job as a rookie last year, but surely the Bengals staff recognizes that Whalen's physical potential is limited, while Jones' is through the roof?
Lewis responded to another question similarly, without the mention of Jones.
Comment From Chris: Who do you think has made the biggest strides over the offseason?
Marvin Lewis: I think the wide receiver position, the evolution of Brandon Tate and Armon Binns and the addition of Sanu.
Again, Tate, Sanu, Binns. No Jones in the picture.
In another answer later, Lewis later didn't even mention Marvin Jones as a posible kick returner. Only as a punt returner, behind some very good candidates - Adam Jones, Brandon Tate, and Andrew Hawkins.
Apparently, Marvin Lewis is playing no favoritism to the rookie named Marvin Lewis Jones Jr.
Jones wasn't extremely productive at college, but even one of the best showings at the Senior Bowl ever seen (when he finally had a decent quarterback throwing the ball to him) wasn't enough to boost him out of the fifth round for NFL teams. At 6'3", 200 pounds, with great hands, great elusiveness, and great speed, we wonder exactly what's wrong with him. He has the measurables to be the Bengals' second wide receiver of the future.
But, right now, there's not a lot of space for him on the team if he can't contribute right away.
At the second outside receiver spot, Lewis mentioned four players ahead of Jones. At the slot, you have Jordan Shipley, Mohamed Sanu, Andrew Hawkins, and Ryan Whalen. At punt returner, you've got the electric Adam Jones, last year's starting punt returner Brandon Tate (whose 543 punt return yards was the best in the AFC last year), and the elusive 5'7" speed demon Andrew Hawkins. Not a lot of room to contribute in 2012.
The team has generally only kept six wide receivers in the past. Some NFL teams only keep five. A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu are locks to make the team. Brandon Tate and Armon Binns are the leading candidates to take the second receiving spot, and, if all this talk about their "evolution" is true, they are pretty close to locks too. Then, you've got Jordan Shipley in the slot. Andrew Hawkins and Ryan Whalen played the slot well last year when Shipley went down. We're already at seven.
So, it's going to come down to a very interesting bubble battle between Andrew Hawkins, Ryan Whalen, and Marvin Jones for that sixth receiver spot. Jordan Shipley, Armon Binns, and Brandon Tate could all be cut as well, but they seem pretty safe, based on a large amount of positive offseason reports.
Maybe the team chooses to keep seven receivers. Maybe the Bengals end up trading one of these capable players. Otherwise, two out of Hawkins/Whalen/Jones will be placed on waivers, and contributing to another NFL team in 2012.