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4 additional thoughts from Bengals’ sweep of Browns

After the Bengals beat the Browns to sweep the Battle of Ohio, we have some additional thoughts from win No. 5 this season.

NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

1. Boyd has replaced Sanu

When the Bengals failed to land any of the premier receiver prospects in this year’s NFL draft, they still ended up with a guy they really liked in Tyler Boyd. The second-rounder broke a ton of school records at Pitt and was viewed as a someone who could help offset the losses of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu this offseason.

It remains to be seen if Boyd will ever be the kind of receiver that Jones was, but it’s clear he’s already as good as Sanu ever was in Cincinnati in terms of just receiving skills. Boyd is up to 48 grabs on 71 targets (67% rate) for 526 yards (11.0 avg.) and one score.

This season, Sanu has just 49 catches for 521 yards (10.6 avg.) and three scores on 70 targets (70%). After Week 14, Boyd (46) isn’t far behind Sanu (37) in Pro Football Focus’ wide receiver ratings for this season (Jones is actually 51st, for what it’s worth).

Boyd may not be as good of a receiver as Sanu is quite yet, but he’s close enough that the loss of the former Bengal is offset by the addition of the rookie.

2. Goodbye Hunt?

With the Bengals giving more snaps to younger and inexperienced, you’d think Margus Hunt would be playing a lot more, especially with Wallace Gilberry sidelined with a calf injury.

Not so. Hunt has played a grand total of 30 snaps in the last four games, including just three in Sunday’s win in Cleveland. He was playing in closer to 50 percent of the defensive snaps over the first two months, but has slowly gotten less and less snaps in favor of guys like Gilberry, DeShawn Williams, Will Clarke, and Pat Sims.

And it’s not like he’s been terrible. Pro Football Focus actually ranks him 68th out of 109 edge defenders (outside linebackers and defensive ends). He’s actually ahead of notable names like DeMarcus Lawrence, Paul Kruger, Dante Fowler, and even Robert Quinn.

Hunt was by no means wreaking havoc left and right when he played, but he was getting push in the pass rush, maintaining his gap in run defense, and even got good pressure on quarterbacks when he was playing.

He certainly isn’t the problem, as evidenced by the Bengals having just 25 sacks this year (1.9 per game) and just 12 over their last seven games (1.7 per game), but they had nine over their first four games (2.25 per game) when Hunt was playing more frequently.

Maybe this is just a situation where Hunt isn’t the problem, but he’s not enough of a solution either. Either way, if this keeps up, Hunt is probably better off trying his luck with a new team and it doesn’t look like the Bengals will have a problem with that.

3. Future in question for veterans

Even as the Bengals have gotten back on the winning track, they’ve done it without several veterans playing meaningful snaps. Rey Maualuga has been the biggest mystery as he continues to get around 15 snaps per game.

Since Week 6 vs the Patriots, Maualuga has failed to get more than 24 snaps in a single game. He isn’t the only one playing less though as Domata Peko is also seeing less than 50 percent of the defensive snaps.

With both players nearing the final years of their deals, with sizable salaries in 2017, I’d be shocked if at least one of them wasn’t cut this offseason. You just can’t pay two players more than $7 million to play less than half of defensive snaps.

4. Life without Green getting smoother

The first two games without A.J. Green were an utter disaster for the Bengals. They scored a whopping 12 points in a 16-12 loss to the Bills, followed by another 12-point debacle from the offense in a 19-14 loss to the Ravens.

But during the last two weeks, the Bengals have dropped 32 on the Eagles and 23 on the Browns while racking up 772 total yards, four passing touchdowns and no interceptions.

Andy Dalton completed under 56 percent of his passes vs the Bills and Ravens, but completed 74.2 and 71.4 percent respectively against the Eagles and Browns. He also has five touchdowns vs zero interceptions in his last three games, all with Green sidelined.

It’s great seeing life can go on without Green in Cincinnati, even though the team will need him to beat upcoming opponents in the Steelers, Texans and Ravens in the final three weeks of the season.