clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Bengals 2016 Roster Reset: State of the wide receivers

New, comments

Now that Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones are gone, the Bengals need some new guys to step up and take some pressure off of A.J. Green.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to Cincinnati Bengals wide receivers, the discussion begins and ends with A.J. Green.

After five years in the NFL, Green is already carving his name into the franchise record books and should finish his career as the leader in every Bengals receiving category. He currently ranks No. 6 in catches (415), No. 5 in yards (6,171) and is No. 4 in touchdowns with 45.

Every other Cincinnati receiver ahead of him on the list spent at least eight seasons with the team, and we should expect Green to have most, if not all of those records broken by his eighth season.

As for this past season, Green caught 86 passes for 1,297 yards (15.1 yards per catch) and 10 touchdowns, marking the fifth straight season in which Green topped the 1,000-yard mark.

The only bad mark on Green's career to this point has been his occasional disappearance in big primetime games and in the playoffs. That theme continued in 2015 as Green caught 'just' 23 balls for 327 yards and two touchdowns in five primetime/playoff games. That averages out to 4.6 catches for 65.4 yards per game, which isn't bad production. But, it's just not what you['d expect from a star receiver who is capable of playing at an All-Pro level.

And after signing a contract extension in 2015, Green is now signed through the 2019 season. That means the next time he's up for a new contract, Green will be 31-years-old, heading toward 32 in July. In other words, Green is going to be dominating in the NFL for many years to come, and he'll be doing so in Bengals stripes.

Green will doing this with a new group of fellow receivers in 2016 after both Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones left in free agency this offseason. Jones quietly caught a career-high 65 passes for 816 yards to go with four touchdowns this past season.

Sanu has also been a solid player for the Bengals, averaging 45 catches for 546 yards and 2.3 touchdowns per season from 2013-15 while playing in every game. He was often the third or fourth option in the offense during that span, and losing him and Jones was a hard pill to swallow for the Bengals.

With those two gone, the newly-signed Brandon LaFell is now going to play a major part in this offense. LaFell was a major player in the Patriots' run at Super Bowl XLIX, but a foot injury derailed his 2015 season, causing him to miss the offseason training period and spend the first half of the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

After a 74 catch, 953 yards and 7 touchdown season in 2014, LaFell followed that up by playing in just 11 games and making 37 catches for 515 yards in 2015. LaFell was later released and has since signed a one-year deal with the Bengals. He is now expected to be a starter for Cincinnati in 2016.

As for the other returning Bengals receivers, Brandon Tate is the guy with the most experience, but he's primarily been a returner for most of his career. If he has to be a focal point in this offense, the Bengals are probably in big trouble.

Also returning are James Wright, Mario Alford, Jake Kumerow and Michael Bennett, the latter two of which having spent 2015 on the practice squad. Wright is also more of a special teams guy who's not expected to have a big role in the passing game. None of these guys are currently expected to take on big roles in 2016.

Two other receivers who could take on big roles in the offense this year are rookies Tyler Boyd and Cody Core. Boyd, a former Pittsburgh Panthers star, was drafted with the No. 55 pick in Round 2 of the 2016 NFL Draft. He caught 78 balls for 1,261 yards and eight scores while his 27.6-yard kickoff return average ranked 10th in the NCAA in 2014.

This past year while playing for a more run-heavy offense, Boyd still finished with a career-high 91 catches this past season, but only for 926 yards and six scores. He can play both the slot and boundary receiver spots, but he's more likely to play the slot for the Bengals as a rookie.

As for Core, he's more of a project who may end up making a bigger impact on special teams as a rookie. Core, who was selected with the 199th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, caught 78 passes for 1,202 yards and 10 scores over the past two seasons in Oxford. In 2015, Core ranked fifth among SEC players and 33rd nationally with 17.4 yards per catch. He finished second on the team with 644 receiving yards.

More than likely, one or both of these rookies will have big roles in the offense this coming season. Here's a look at what the depth chart at wide receiver looks like heading into the summer.

Starters: A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd

Backups with a great shot of making the final roster: Brandon Tate, Mario Alford

Squarely on the bubble: Jake Kumerow, Cody CoreJames Wright

Practice Squad candidates with little shot of making final roster: Antwane Grant, Alex Erickson, Alonzo Russell

Wildcard: Does Rex Burkhead stick to his dual WR/RB role, or will he make the switch to WR with that being a bigger area of need in 2016? If he moves to WR, the Bengals may opt to keep one less true receiver.