As the dust settles in Kauffmann Stadium following the MLB All-Star game, the atmosphere of the upcoming NFL season inevitably becomes more prominent for football fans. Training camp is just around the corner. In Cincinnati, training camp alludes to answers that, until July 27th , we can only speculate about. Training camp provides information - visual evidence of what players are capable of on their respective teams. In the case of the Bengals, training camp will, at the very least, fuel the fire on the long-debated topic of the seemingly elusive No. 2 wide receiver.
The topic of AJ Green’s counterpart has hardly been overlooked, particularly in regards to Bengals fans. To say the position battle at wide receiver has been excessively discussed would be an understatement. There has simply been too much time to discuss minimal developments in the organization’s ultimate decision. However, fans can’t help but debate and discuss the glaring (and attractive – I’ll go ahead and say it) need heading into Week 1 of the regular season.
With everything considered, I think the topic of who will serve as the Bengals No. 2 Wide Receiver deserves some finality – a “swan song,” of sorts. While many positions on the Bengals roster are going to have their fair share of competition, the wide receiver battle has been nothing short of absorbing. With that said, I present you with the usual suspects:
Brandon Tate: Brandon Tate is entering his third year in the NFL. In many circles, third year receivers are viewed as entering their “breakout” season. While a receiver entering their third NFL season after primarily being a return specialist hardly screams “breakout,” it’s worth considering Jay Gruden’s admission that Tate has vastly improved as a result of his perceived desire to contribute beyond special teams. Tate has been generally labeled as a stretch-the-field threat, and his talents have seemingly been acknowledged by Bengals coaches.
Armon Binns: The University of Cincinnati product is a capable possession receiver with no NFL snaps to account for. Binns has a year of the Bengals system under his belt, albeit on the practice squad. Regardless, Binns was discussed heavily as a potential crucial component of the 2012 roster before newcomers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones redirected attention after the 2012 NFL draft. It will be interesting to see if Binns serves at least in a complimentary role as he adjusts to what would be his first time playing in an NFL season.
Mohamed Sanu: Sanu is at the forefront of Bengals wide receiver discussions not only because he was the first wide receiver drafted by the Bengals in 2012 (3rd round), but because he is a tough physical possession receiver who thrives in the middle of the field. Sanu’s ceiling on the outside of the field is arguably limited, so it’s understandable that many wonder how his inside presence may affect Jordan Shipley. There’s no question that Sanu will be a weapon Andy Dalton will appreciate if utilized property. Sanu’s role and overall chemistry with Andy Dalton will determine his effectiveness.
Marvin Jones: Jones has been touted as a disciplined route runner that can stretch the sideline – an assessment that leads many to believe he fills the void left by Chad
Ochocinco Johnson. The 5th round draft pick may surprise the casual fan this season, but his potential has been celebrated by many since the 2012 Senior Bowl . I’d expect Marvin Jones to be involved in this offense in 2012, and his amount of playing time could increase as the season progresses.
Jordan Shipley: Shipley’s return less than a year removed from a torn ACL is still understandably questionable. Either way, Shipley will find plenty of competition in the slot position. While he might as well be tagged as a “veteran” amongst a majority of first and second year receivers, let’s not overlook the fact that Shipley has less than a month of regular season experience under Jay Gruden’s offense along with a shortened 2011 offseason. Fortunately for Shipley, Gruden’s offense demands a lot out of the slot receiver role and Shipley has the talents to make the most of his opportunity provided he is in good health.
Andrew Hawkins: Leaving Andrew Hawkins out of the wide receiver discussion would be a crime, primarily because Hawkins is so versatile. His elusiveness and smaller size has enabled him to offer a specialty in the receiving game and special teams. Some may think Hawkins could be on the block for the very reason many teams in the NFL overlooked him in the past: He doesn’t offer a “true position.” The fact remains: Not only does Andrew Hawkins deliver with whatever he is tasked with, but he’s been praised as an extremely hard worker and coaches love Young Baby Hawk – an attribute that can take you far in the Bengals organization.
It’s worth pointing out what should be an equally discussed possibility: Wide receiver by committee. While the possibility of rotation at the wide receiver position is a likely method for the Bengals, it’s very possible that this method will lead to a more consistent contribution by any of the wide receivers already mentioned as the de facto No. 2 as the season progresses, based on initial output in the regular season.
While the list above offers condensed player profiles, it reminds fans of who we have in front of us and what we have to look forward to. Digging deeper could lead to even more players (Ryan Whalen, Kashif Moore) or positions (Tight End) that could be relied upon in the passing game. At the sake of bringing this article back home: The conventional speculation at the wide receiver position heading into the 2012 season, while analyzed to death, has been a notable highlight of the Bengals offseason - I’ve certainly enjoyed it more than spending last offseason debating Carson Palmer’s eventual outcome (although, Mike Brown did give us a grand finale, of sorts, once Palmer was eventually traded). Preseason will develop solutions, the regular season will resolve our ponderings, but it all begins with training camp. Enjoy the wait, Bengals fans - July 27th is just around the corner.