When the Bengals open the 2014 NFL season, they'll do so without rising star Marvin Jones. How soon he's able to return is still up in the air, but it's clear Cincinnati will be without their No. 2 receiver for at least the first month of the season.
So, we posed this question to a few of our staff:
"With Marvin Jones out, who do you expect to step up in his absence?"
Marvin Jones really seemed to find his place on this offense at the end of last season. In the Bengals' game against the Jets, Jones had eight catches for 122 yards and four touchdowns. This was the coming out party for the guy who wrapped up the Bengals' No. 2 receiving position, it seemed.
Losing Jones leaves a void on the offense. This void probably would have accounted for close to 1,000 yards receiving and double digit touchdowns. When teams worked to cover A.J. Green on the other side, Jones would have had the opportunity to exploit single coverage and cause damage.
That being said, all is not lost. The Bengals have some other talent on the roster than can soften the blow for as long as Jones is sidelined. Mohamed Sanu and Dane Sanzenbacher can step up and fill in on that side of the ball.
Tyler Eifert seems to have made strides in camp and could post big numbers this season. Jermaine Gresham has all the talent to become a safety valve for Dalton. The Bengals can survive this.
Ultimately, I hope it is a committee-approach to replacing Jones. I want to see the Bengals use the tight ends like we all hoped they would last season.
I want to see Sanu become the threat that his physical tools hint he can be. I want to see Sanzenbacher get the chance to come up big more than just a couple of times this season. In short, I want the Bengals to use all their weapons to soften the blow.
After watching the Bengals this preseason, I don't think Jones will be as big of a loss as it's been made out to be. I believe Cincinnati can still beat Baltimore, Atlanta and Tennessee without Jones.
However, in order to beat the likes of New England, Denver and New Orleans, the Bengals will need all hands on deck to keep up with those offenses. Those games will likely require Cincinnati to score in the high 20s to win, and it just so happens that nine of Jones 10 touchdowns last year came in games Cincinnati scored 27+ points.
Once Dalton and Jones developed good chemistry, the offense became very hard to stop. The good thing is Cincinnati doesn't play New England until Week 5, and the other two offensive juggernauts come later in the season.
The silver lining here is guys like Mohamed Sanu, Tyler Eifert and even Giovani Bernard are getting more targets this preseason, and thus, developing a better chemistry with Dalton.
Sanu appears to have been the biggest benefactor. Against the Cards, it was evident Dalton was looking for him early and often, and it seems there's a stronger connection between them than there was in the previous two seasons.
In my eyes, it's a big loss - one that is only lessened in magnitude due to the fact that he's expected back after the first quarter of the season, or so. Even so, there will remain concerns about his ability to get back into football shape after missing most of the preseason and all of the final workout sessions of training camp.
Healthy in a physical sense of the word is one thing, but getting back into the mental grit of the game is another. I hope he gets back up to speed quickly, as we need him. With that thought, I'm going to count on him being back to 100 percent by around mid-season.
To replace the production that we've seen from Magic Marvin, I'm going to say that, first off, it needs to be a combined "next man up" effort by Gresham, Eifert, and Sanu. Gresham has seen too many hit-or-miss games in his career. He needs to erase the doubt this season, because he's certainly proven he has the natural ability. It's time to match that ability to a stronger, more consistent work ethic. Eifert could potentially have a very strong sophomore year, and I hope that potential comes to fruition.
However, the largest role player that will need to step up in my mind in Mohamed Sanu. The wide receiver has a lot of raw talent, and we've seen extremely acrobatic movement from him on the field. This could also be a golden opportunity for Sanu to step into a No. 2 or No. 3 role that he hasn't seen action in before. I fully believe he's capable of excelling in that position, and I expect that this is what the Bengals will bank on for at least the first half of the 2014 season.
Who knows, Cincinnati may realize just how much of hidden gem they have on their receiver depth chart.