Josh Malone is becoming the forgotten man with all the hype surrounding the Bengals’ offense. Much of the attention this offseason is going toward John Ross, Tyler Eifert, Joe Mixon and the offensive line. Does Malone deserve to be included in all of that?
His stats from last season don’t suggest it at first glance. Only six catches for 63 yards and a touchdown during his rookie year isn’t noteworthy. It doesn’t help that he also played just more than 25 percent of the Bengals offensive snaps last season, which was the fourth most among Bengal receivers. Still Malone has some things working in his favor in 2018, maybe enough so that he could become the Bengals’ No. 2 WR if things go his way.
Malone ran a 4.40 second 40-yard dash at the combine. He is 6’3” and and roughly 200 pounds. That right there is already quite the weapon to have on offense. As a big and fast receiver, you can do fairly well for yourself in the NFL. It would be nice to see Malone go up and attack the ball more. He absolutely has the height advantage against many defenders, but he is still good at adjusting to the ball while it is in the air.
He was also a top five recruit out of high school. This guy has talent, and though things didn’t immediately click in his rookie year, his second season in the NFL could be much different.
Another season with Andy Dalton
It was clear Malone and Dalton just weren’t on the same page that often during the receiver’s rookie season.
All of the missed deep shots to Josh Malone. The last one was preseason, but he was open. pic.twitter.com/kBT7cBsmoy— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) May 19, 2018
Some of those plays are painful to watch. Malone can get open in the NFL, and there is no doubt that another offseason with Dalton could correct a lot of the mistakes seen on film in his first season. If Malone had more snaps during the regular season that would be helpful, too. Obviously the more chances you have at making a play the more plays you will make. Brandon LaFell could see his opportunities dwindle, which would leave Malone, Ross and Tyler Boyd to fight for more snaps. If Malone even gets a fraction of those snaps and plays roughly 40 percent of the offensive snaps this season, you could see a fairly big jump in his production. It really depends on Dalton trusting Malone and developing a connection with the former Volunteer.
The offensive line should allow more time for deep shots
Last season, Dalton was forced into throwing his check downs or tossing arrant deep shots down field with pressure in his face too often. This made Malone’s value as a deep threat fairly irrelevant. The same would have been true of John Ross, if he were to have seen more of the field.
Now that the offensive line seems to be on track and ready for a big step forward, new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is vowing to take more deep shots. Malone could be in line for more opportunities down field, as he should be. An offensive line allowing Dalton a little bit more time and confidence in his deep throws could help the two connect more on those types of plays.
Where does Malone end up on the depth chart?
Malone has all the ability to be a No. 2 receiver in this league. I don’t think 2018 will be that year though unless a receiver ahead of him on the depth chart goes down or if he completely surpasses expectations during training camp. A more realistic outcome is his success this upcoming offseason could lead to the team determining guys like LaFell and Cody Core are expendable and he and Boyd would end up in a competition for the third spot on the depth chart behind A.J. Green and Ross.