While the Bengals’ offense finished 2016 with respectable rankings in terms of yardage, the offense was among the worst at turning those yards into points.
Cincinnati finished 24th in points per game last season after ranking seventh in the category in 2015, 15th in 2014 and sixth in 2013. The outlier in those ‘13 and ‘15 campaigns was Marvin Jones, who caught 14 combined scores in those two seasons.
Without Jones in ‘14 (he missed the entire year due to injury) and ‘16 (when he left in free agency to sign with Lions), the Bengals found it far too challenging to put points on the board, and that was especially true last season. That’s why the Bengals went offense-heavy in the 2017 NFL Draft, including adding wide receiver John Ross in Round 1 and running back Joe Mixon in Round 2.
However, don’t sleep on fourth-rounder Josh Malone. Like Jones, Malone was a Day 3 selection who won’t get a lot of fanfare going into his rookie season, but don’t be surprised if he becomes the kind of impact-receiver Jones was in the Queen City.
A.J. Green thinks that’s very much in the cards.
“He looks like Marv,” Green told Bengals.com. “Just like Marv when he runs. Not Marv right now, but when Marvin first came out. I think we’re getting back to 2012 and 2013 when we had Marv and Mo (Sanu). It’s good.”
Wide receivers coach James Urban has coached a lot of great receivers during his career, including Terrell Owens, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and now Green. Hopefully, he can help coach-up Malone to have as successful of a career as those players. And, Urban likes what he’s seen thus far of Malone.
“He’s a young guy who has a way to go, but he’s on the come. He’s very talented,” Urban said. “He’s a guy that can really get it down the field. Really get it down the field.”
Even Ross mentioned he was impressed with what he saw out of his fellow rookie teammate at the Bengals’ recent rookie minicamp.
“He’s smooth. Smooth. You get a guy like that who’s so big and can run like that,” Ross said. “He’s going to make a lot of noise this year.”
The Bengals probably won’t rely on Malone much, if at all in 2017. Not while Green, Ross, Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd are getting the bulk of the snaps at receiver this year. Then you’ve got Cody Core coming off a promising rookie season, while Alex Erickson will be active most, if not every game for his impact on special teams.
That’s why there’s a very good chance Malone spends the majority of his rookie year on the gameday inactive list, but don’t let that cloud his future NFL outlook, which is already looking good. Who knows, maybe Malone will shock us all and find a way onto the field during his rookie year.