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Should James Urban remain as the Bengals WR coach in 2018?

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St Louis Rams v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

Let’s backtrack a little.

Around mid-February 2011, Cincinnati’s wide receivers coach at the time, Mike Sheppard, departed for Jacksonville to become their quarterbacks coach. Cincinnati conducted a week-long search for a replacement, coming up with Eagles quarterbacks coach and (momentary) assistant offensive coordinator, James Urban. By this point in the offseason, the NFL was roughly three weeks away from their four-month long NFL lockout. Jay Gruden, and his staff, could not teach his players the terminology, philosophy, or schemes he was implementing until mid-to-late July, when a new Collective Bargaining Agreement lifted the lockout. In addition, Cincinnati had just drafted a new quarterback and wide receiver in Andy Dalton and A.J. Green respectively. This offense was undergoing significant change.

Since 2011, the Bengals have drafted 11 wide receivers, and signed three college free agents that played in a regular season game and posted at least one reception.

Bengals WRs drafted or signed (as a CFA with at least one reception) since 2011

PLAYER YEAR ROUND OVERALL GAMES REC YDS TD
PLAYER YEAR ROUND OVERALL GAMES REC YDS TD
John Ross 2017 1 9 3 0 0 0
Josh Marone 2017 4 128 11 6 63 1
Tyler Boyd 2016 2 55 26 76 828 3
Cody Core 2016 6 199 21 17 200 0
Mario Alford 2015 7 238 1 1 15 0
James Wright 2014 7 239 24 5 24 0
Cobi Hamilton 2013 6 197 0 0 0 0
Mohamed Sanu 2012 3 83 57 152 1793 11
Marvin Jones 2012 5 166 43 134 1729 15
A.J. Green 2011 1 4 102 556 8213 57
Ryan Whalen 2011 6 167 17 11 80 0
Andrew Hawkins 2011 CFA 35 86 995 4
Armon Binns 2011 CFA 8 18 210 1
Alex Erickson 2016 CFA 32 18 251 1

Throughout Urban’s seven seasons as Cincinnati’s receivers coach, his receivers have thrived:

  • A.J. Green (a freakish receiver) has been a pro bowl player in each of his seven seasons with numbers that are rivaling franchise and NFL records.
  • Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones developed into quality receivers who earned significant money when they hit free agency.
  • Andrew Hawkins, a former college free agent, was a threat as a slot receiver and during his best season had generated 533 yards receiving on 51 receptions.
  • Players like Jerome Simpson (2011) and Dane Sanzenbacher (2014), players drafted before 2011 or signed from other teams, had their best seasons under Urban.

However, there have been misses too.

Ryan Whalen, Cobi Hamilton, James Wright, and Mario Alford, have come and gone with little affair; Wright suffered a nagging knee injury, so maybe it’s unfair to group him into this conversation. Tyler Boyd, who generated 603 yards receiving on 54 receptions during his rookie year, had a significant drop-off in 2017 with injuries, a legal issue (drug and traffic charges) and had been a healthy scratch several times. And then there’s John Ross, who was a healthy scratch for most of the season and was rarely part of the gameplan. And in fairness to Urban, Ross and Boyd could be involved in circumstances that are beyond Urban’s control.

Should Urban return in 2018?

Sure. He’s done enough to earn your confidence. On the other hand, if the Bengals move in a new direction, that’s fine too.