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NFL Week 1 Bengals at Jets: Cincinnati’s receivers step up big in win

A lot has been made about the status of the Bengals’ wide receiver group this year, but both old faces and new ones at the position contributed heavily to Cincinnati’s big Week 1 win.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Cincinnati Bengals have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL, concerns permeated through the fan base this offseason. Injuries and a lack of overall additions to the defensive line became issues as August came and went, while the addition of two new wide receivers combined with a rookie offensive coordinator was another aspect fans were anxious to see.

It was a weird day for the Bengals’ offense, to put it lightly as they beat the Jets in New Jersey. The running game was largely stalled and the offensive line did a poor job against a stout Jets defense on Sunday afternoon in New York. Quarterback Andy Dalton is likely hitting the ice bath after getting sacked seven times, while the chemistry between he, Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell lacked early on in the contest.

Nevertheless, Dalton and the Bengals powered through for a stressful 23-22 win, while the veteran signal-caller used a multitude of weapons to lead the team back to a 1-0 start to the season. Let’s have a look at how Cincinnati’s wideouts played on Sunday against the Jets.

A.J. Green: One could argue that this was the most impressive performance by the future Hall of Fame receiver in a number of respects. First and foremost, Green absolutely dominated one of the better cornerbacks in the league, Darrelle Revis, all afternoon. While his 2015 Week 3 performance against the Ravens likely stands out to many as his best Bengals performance, he routinely made plays when the Bengals needed them in The Big Apple.

In the second quarter with the Bengals trailing 7-3, Dalton hit Green deep for a 54-yard touchdown that changed the game. Initially, it looked as if Dalton sailed a perfect pass, but a light breeze made the ball hang up a bit more than anticipated and Green made an excellent contested catch against Revis. Even so, Green had the perennial Pro Bowl corner beat by a handful of steps before hauling in the touchdown.

As if that wasn’t enough of an exclamation point to Green’s 12-reception, 180-yard day, he made a catch in the fourth quarter that could arguably be coined as his best as a pro. With just under 11 minutes to play in the game, Dalton floated a pass to Green down the left sideline. Revis had great coverage in a one-on-one situation, but somehow, No. 18 managed to come down with an insane catch. Unfortunately, the play didn’t end up netting points, as Mike Nugent missed a 52-yard field goal attempt.

While we have come to consistently expect great performances by Green, this one was a welcomed surprise. Many believed he would have trouble against Revis and the vaunted Jets defense, but he torched them on short, intermediate and deep routes. It’s also important to note that Dalton had a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3 (10-of-10 for 152 yards and a touchdown) when targeting Green when he was being covered by Revis on Sunday afternoon.

Brandon LaFell: Even though he was a new addition and had been fighting a hand injury, Cincinnati labeled the veteran as their No. 2 receiver. Fans were hesitant as to what his impact would be this year, both because of a number of personnel switches within the organization and LaFell’s subpar 2015 campaign with the Patriots.

Despite concerns, LaFell was a great passing option for Dalton on a day during which he predictably kept feeding Green the ball. LaFell finished with four catches for 91 yards on the day, but they were all gigantic plays to keep drives moving. Two of his catches were on third downs, netting a total of 70 yards—one of which was a 49-yarder on a critical 3rd-and-18 in the third quarter, and another was a 21-yarder on a 3rd-and-7.

Tyler Boyd: One could argue it was a predictable up-and-down day from the rookie, but there were positives to be taken from his inaugural Bengals performance. Boyd finished with two catches for 24 yards and had trouble separating from defenders--a stigma he carried over from college, against the Jets.

He did have one first down conversion, but his biggest play was drawing a pass interference penalty to set the Bengals up with a field goal right before the half. It wasn’t the greatest debut, but with LaFell stepping up, he was still a nice supplemental piece to the outstanding passing offense on Sunday.

James Wright: Aside from his special teams ability, many wondered why Wright secured a spot on this team in 2016. When you look at his box score numbers, Wright didn’t impress, but two of his three touches resulted in Bengals first downs.

Although he was stymied on an end-around for an 8-yard loss, he had another carry out of the wildcat formation for a first down in the third quarter, as well as another 7-yard catch to move the sticks. It wasn’t an afternoon to write home about for No. 86, but he continues to do just enough and whatever the coaches ask of him to contribute.

All in all, it was a good day for a receiver group that was littered with questions this offseason. If the Bengals’ offensive line can clean up the poor protection they displayed on Sunday, these guys should continue to contribute to more Cincinnati wins.