When the Bengals lost both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu to free agency this offseason, many thought that the team’s receiving corps would take a huge hit and struggle to recover. It’s true that the loss of those two players, who put up a combined 328 all purpose touches for 3,820 yards and 28 touchdowns from 2012-2015, will require a significant effort from the Bengals to overcome. But, the team has been doing a good job building a competitive group of wide receivers who seem ready to step up and fill those roles.
Two receivers who are really making their presences felt in training camp lately are the Bengals’ 2016 second round pick out of the University of Pittsburgh, Tyler Boyd, and former New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers receiver, Brandon LaFell. LaFell, in particular, made a particularly strong impression on Bengals wide receivers coach James Urban.
"I think in the last three or four days (LaFell) has really come on. He’s made some nice plays for us," Urban told Bengals.com. "Some real tough, contested catches. Big body catches I knew he could make. He’s getting to know Andy (Dalton) and we’re moving in the right direction that way."
Those big body, contested catches are exactly the kind of thing that the Bengals were excited to get when they signed LaFell to compete for a roster spot back in March.
Although he started out a bit quiet in training camp, he has been turning some heads as camp continues.
In addition to LaFell, it seems as though Boyd has been living up to the hype that he’s been receiving since the Bengals selected him in the draft.
"He’s been doing great," AJ McCarron said after throwing a 38 yard touchdown pass to Boyd on Saturday. "He plays fast. He’s made a ton of plays. He’s going to be a hell of a player… The potential is there."
The potential is there, indeed. The Bengals drafted Boyd with the hopes that he would make some great catches like this one that he had at Pitt against Iowa State.
"His ability can flash," Urban said. "Attention to detail and getting the timing is where we are right now. He’s got a million things on his mind. I get it, but we don’t make excuses. Just go to the next rep."
Urban believes in the wide receiver group in Cincinnati, and Boyd believes in himself, too. It’s a good situation for everyone involved, as Boyd articulated after practice.
"I believe in myself. I’m confident in myself," Boyd said. "I’m here for a reason. I think they believe in me and I believe in myself."
The more confidence Boyd gains, the better he will play and the more his teammates and coaches will believe in him. In turn, that should increase Boyd’s confidence further. It’s a self sustaining cycle that seems to have already started before his rookie season officially gets underway.
"It feels real awesome just to get into it with the fans and the players and all the cheering and roaring," Boyd said. "It felt so good."
With two of the most talked about receiver additions this offseason playing well so far in camp, it will be exciting to see what they can do in real game action. Right now, there is plenty of room for growth for the entire receiver group.
"Some are more consistent than others," Urban said on Saturday. "We’re one week in. We all want it be now. We have (35) days until we play the New York Jets. We have to get better every day and give ourselves a chance. If we get better every day, we can be in a good position."