Minicamps are in the rearview, and the Bengals’ wide receiver competition will be the talk of the summer. A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd are all locks to make the roster which leaves Cody Core, Mario Alford, Jake Kumerow, James Wright, Antwane Grant, Michael Bennett, Alonzo Russell Alex Erickson and everyone's favorite player, Brandon Tate competing for the remaining receiver spots on the Bengals receiver roster.
In a recent interview with Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson, wide receivers coach James Urban praised the Bengals’ offseason acquisition of LaFell and reiterated the point that the Bengals’ young wideouts will have to prove themselves in order to earn a roster spot.
"Everything is new, from how we line up in the huddle to how we call a play to how we run a route," Urban said in regards to his first impressions during minicamp. "There’s a lot of teaching going on and a lot of learning. I’m very encouraged about the progress we’ve made. We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re heading in the right direction."
"Adding Brandon LaFell was a great decision [by the] personnel department [and] owners," said Urban. "He’s a veteran player who shows the guys how to be a pro, and that’s the most important thing: learning how to do things the right way right now."
And, while it takes time for rookies to acclimate to the NFL, Urban doesn't allow that to be an excuse.
"We don’t use rookie as an excuse," Urban said of his young receivers. "There’s an understanding that [they’ve] got to learn and we’ve got to teach them, but when it comes time to playing football, you can’t use any excuses. So we have that mindset, and we’ll see how we go once training camp starts."
According to Bengals.com’s Hobson, many wide receivers had their moments during the Bengals’ minicamp. James Wright finally participated in individual drills with his teammates after missing over a year with a PCL injury and microfracture surgery recovery. Jake Kumerow made a number of impressive catches, including a sideline pass while being covered by rookie cornerback William Jackson and second-year defensive back Josh Shaw. Brandon Tate beat Jackson III and torched the secondary on a play and continued to impress with his hands in catching both passes and punts. Michael Bennett, who spent parts of last year on the practice squad, also beat Jackson for a touchdown.
Urban mentioned a few specifics in regards to some of the receivers on the roster, per Hobson. He praised Erickson, expressing his eagerness to see what the wideout will look like with pads on and hope that he’ll be just as good as he was in minicamp. Urban also called Alford a tease, citing some explosive plays as impressive but pointing out that there are many plays Alford would likely take back if he could . Urban also called LaFell "a pro’s pro" and expressed his opinion that while Core has already impressed, he thinks the rookie wideout will look even better in pads. Finally, he praised rookie wide receiver Tyler Boyd and said that he’s improving every day.
In both of his interviews with Hobson, Urban emphasized the importance of noting that the wide receivers have not been able to face bump-and-run coverage this offseason, as the NFL prohibits teams from playing bump-and-run until training camp. Most, if not all, of the Bengals’ young wideouts will likely struggle in bump-and-run, as the Bengals’ veteran corners are very experienced in press coverage.
As of now, it doesn’t appear as if any of the young wideouts have distinguished themselves from the competition, but there’s plenty of time left for them to do so. Training camp will be here in just over a month. Until then, we'll continue to speculate about which receivers are most likely to make the roster.