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2023 Bengals Breakout Player Watch: Charlie Jones

The Bengals double-dipped at wide receiver in this year’s draft with a talented duo. Their fourth-rounder could immediately contribute in a number of ways.

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The Cincinnati Bengals’ wide receiver group is one of the most loaded in the NFL. The trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd provides matchup nightmares for opposing defenses, while Trent Taylor, Trenton Irwin, and Stanley Morgan, Jr. have all brought nice moments with Joe Burrow.

But, with a little bit of long-term contract uncertainty and the desire to add to the talent pool at the position, the Bengals went with two talented options in April’s draft class. The first of two picks was made in the fourth round in the form of Iowa/Purdue wide receiver, Charlie Jones.

“Chuck Sizzle” was a Swiss Army Knife of a weapon for both schools, showing big plays as a receiver, runner, and return man. While he may be the No. 4 receiver or perhaps even lower on the depth chart, there are a number of reasons why Jones could provide sparks for the Bengals as a rookie.

Why he could break out this year

The Bengals like their receiver corps and were impressed with Irwin’s contributions last year, but Jones brings multiple dimensions for possible contributions. He can be an additional slot option, showing solid speed and the ability to make tough catches that oftentimes extend drives.

In college, he also showed the ability to make big gains on end-arounds, which could be a nice change-of-pace play in the Bengals’ 2023 offensive arsenal. The knack for finding the sticks through the air or on the ground could have him see a higher volume of snaps than originally thought with the depth at the position.

And, with Burrow at quarterback, the ball is dispersed to a variety of players on the regular. We’ve seen backup running backs, tight ends, and receivers at the lower part of the depth chart make trademark plays in Cincinnati’s last two exciting seasons.

It’s also possible that Jones gets in the mix or even wins the special teams return man job(s). If he gets buried behind Chase/Higgins/Boyd on offense, his ability to pop big plays on kickoffs and punt returns stood out on tape, which could be his largest immediate impact. And that’s fine.

What he needs to prove this year

Acclimating to “NFL speed” aside, Jones is entering the rough-and-tumble AFC North. The ability to bring in those tough catches we routinely saw from him in college against uber-physical defenses is key.

And, with the ever-changing NFL kickoff rules, Jones will need to be able to prove he can be a savvy return specialist in the NFL—be it on kickoffs or punts. “The Trents” are well-liked by the coaches, so Jones will have to show reliability along with big-play potential to unseat both of those guys in their respective roles.

What is a big key in doing that? Aside from relying on his natural skills, Jones will need to heavily immerse himself in the playbook to have it down pat if he is to see the field on offense early in his career.

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