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Bengals’ receivers becoming the most interesting position group in 2019

There has been a flurry of recent news surrounding some of the Bengals’ wideouts and it’s making for some wild predictions

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During the early portion of the Marvin Lewis era, the wide receivers of the Cincinnati Bengals were known as both very talented and very loquacious. Led by Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the brash group had swagger from top-to-bottom, including the dancing Kelley Washington and the Randy Moss-like Chris Henry.

The newer generation of Bengals receivers have been just as talented, if not more so in some ways, but are much more low-key. The easy-going A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd lead a talented group, which is looking to (re-)blossom under new head coach, Zac Taylor.

Even so, that hasn’t kept a handful of players from the position group out of the headlines recently. And, the news stemming from these stories range from promoting optimism to creating questions.

Starting with Green, he had some eye-opening comments pointing to the differences in the Lewis and Taylor eras.

“Playing with coach Lewis, it’s all about the defense,” Green told Chris Simms of Pro Football Talk. “You don’t show up the defense at practice. But Zac is like, ‘OTA one, we’re going to kick the defense’s butt.’ That’s what we like to hear. I love the way he teaches. He’s not yelling at you, he’s teaching every little detail and having you understand why we run it this way.”

Whew. This could very well be an example of “player speak” and some edification from one of the team’s MVP’s regarding the unproven coach, but there is a lot here when reading between the lines.

For those who are into researching the personality profiles of generations, millennials are quite the amalgam of many traits. As John Sheeran noted on this week’s Orange and Black Insider, those in the 20-35 year-old range who are in the workforce often need a form of rational reinforcement as to why/how they’re performing a certain task.

If we’re really getting specific here, Green’s comments about Taylor the teacher could go a long way to bridge a major generational gap that existed in the Lewis era. It could be a major grasp at straws in the wake of optimism surrounding the other AFC North teams, but it’s one of the reasons we can think of as to how Taylor “blew the doors off of the building” during his interview for the head coaching gig.

Also of interest is the sudden rise to prominence from Alex Erickson. After being one of the best return men in the league over the past three years, the team seems to value him far more than most thought.

Cincinnati has apparently turned down multiple trade offers for the veteran receiver—especially this season. While it could point to Darrin Simmons taking a stand amongst the new coaching staff, it could also mean that Taylor has plans for Erickson in his offense.

If we’re equating Bengals receivers to those in the Rams’ offensive hydra , could Erickson be Cincinnati’s version of Cooper Kupp? He’s probably not as explosive, but he’s reliable and can move the chains well, so his progression in year four is something to keep an eye on this summer.

However, perhaps the most important key to the Bengals’ 2019 potential offensive success is the progression of John Ross. He made a couple of leaps last year, but noticeable issues continued to appear on film.

One is inclined to believe that Green’s comments on Lewis could also positively play into Ross’s corner this year. After all, he seemed to have been paying rent in Lewis’ doghouse for two full years.

But, even with the questions surrounding Ross, Josh Malone, Cody Core, Auden Tate and Co., the Bengals felt that they didn’t need to heavily-invest in the position group this offseason. In fact, one could say that undrafted free agent Stanley Morgan is the most significant addition to the receiver room this spring.

Regardless, Ross recently showed confidence about his 2019 outlook to the media and for good reason. Lewis isn’t micromanaging him anymore and Taylor’s offense could play greatly to his strengths.

Also pointing to Taylor’s gravitas with the players was in Ross’ comment about receiving a call from the new head coach to dispel the February trade rumors. “A sign of relief” was how Ross put it, in a subtle nod to his desire to stay in Cincinnati to right his career.

What does all of this mean?

Well, it could mean something significant, or nothing at all. We know who Green is and see Tyler Boyd’s career beginning to take off. The hope is that the group thrives in this new system and that these actions and words from the players is more than just rosy sound bytes to reel in fans.

One thing is for sure: the Bengals are largely comfortable in who they already had in the building at the position. Both the front office and the new coaching staff has held the belief that the new regime can get the most out of the many high picks they’ve used on receivers in recent years.

We see better than we hear, though.

Also on this week’s episode:

  • Could Giovani Bernard be in for more of a receiver-type role, given his skill set and the team’s drafting of two running backs?
  • What is the future for Clint Boling? What is the likelihood of his finishing the remainder of his contract with the club after so many offensive line acquisitions?
  • In an early look at a possible 53-man roster, what are some of the surprises and positional shake-ups that could occur this summer?
  • Is Erickson poised for a bigger role this year, given the rumors and the Bengals’ unwillingness to part with him?
  • Is the national media’s disrespect of the Bengals’ 2019 outlook warranted?

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