A.J. Green is set as the team's No. 1 receiver now and for as long as he's wearing a Bengals uniform, which is hopefully a very long time. Where there are some question marks, though, is at the No. 2 wide receiver position. There is a large pool of talented receivers, but there hasn't been a single receiver to step up to play opposite of Green.
There's a decent chance that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden won't really run with a true No. 2 receiver and move wide receivers and tight ends, including Green, all over the place to create mismatches. However, for the purposes of this article, we're going to pick out a second receiver for the team.
Sanu finished the 2012 season with 16 receptions for 154 yards and four touchdowns. While that doesn't sound like a lot, those four touchdowns came in a three-game stretch from Week 10 through Week 12. Just when he was really coming on strong, he suffered a season-ending injury, which he is fully recovered from now. Sanu isn't going to burn many cornerbacks deep, but he's a big, strong receiver and can catch passes across the middle and in traffic.
Jones is faster than Sanu and not much smaller. Of the two favorites to be named the No. 2 receiver, he's more of a deep threat and when Sanu went down with an injury in 2012, he did a good job stepping up. He finished the year with 18 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown. Jones is a little more explosive, but isn't likely as natural of a receiver as Sanu.
Hawkins is one of the most exciting receivers to watch on the Bengals roster because of the havoc he can create in space when he gets the ball, but he's built more as a slot receiver than an outside receiver. He's extremely small, but makes up for it by being one of the shiftier receivers in the league. He's more for special plays made for him, like screens, than he is for being on the field for every offensive snap.
Tate caught 13 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown in 2012 but lost playing time as a receiver to Sanu and Jones as time went on. He's likely going to be used more for special teams for his return ability than as a receiver if he makes the team.
Whalen is a talented receiver who works hard, runs good routes and has good hands, but he isn't a good enough athlete to take the team's No. 2 job away from the top contenders like Sanu and Jones. However, if he makes the team he will likely contribute on offense.
The Bengals have a very talented group of receivers, but there's a very good chance that the real No. 2 receiver will be either Jermaine Gresham or Tyler Eifert. Those two tight ends can create so many mismatches that they could create a Rob Gronkowski - Aaron Hernandez situation.