There are three certainties for the 2012 Cincinnati Bengals.
One – 43,546 times ESPN will report the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990. Two – ACLU declares Marvin’s news conferences to be torture. Three – the team goes nowhere if a solid No. 2 WR doesn’t emerge.
Last season brought us possibly the NFL’s best-ever rookie QB-WR tandem in Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, yet the Bengals’ passing game ranked a meager 20th in the league.
Look, no doubt Green is a stud and the centerpiece of the team’s offense, but virtually every other WR position remains a huge question mark. Okay, sure, Green’s 1,057 receiving yards accounted for nearly one-third of Dalton’s 3,398 passing total, but if the team’s air game is to see marked improvement, someone has to step up in the No. 2 spot.
But who? Who? Question marks. Question marks. Question marks.
Maybe Brandon Tate, the special teams guy? Maybe the rookie third-round pick Mohamed Sanu? But can a rookie and second-year guy (Green) successfully hold down the X and Y spots? Is Sanu best suited for the slot? Possibly rookie fifth-round pick Marvin Jones? How about third-year receiver Jordan Shipley, who missed last season with an ACL tear?
Lots more question marks.
Oh yeah, isn’t there Armon Binns from the practice squad, and second-year water bug Andrew Hawkins, who showed big-play skills late last season? Or maybe second-year wideout Ryan Whalen is the guy? Question marks. Question marks. Question marks.
Look, if a ‘No. 2 guy’ doesn’t quickly emerge this team will struggle, mightily. We contend Jay Gruden can’t conduct both running back and wide receiver by committees – passing games are all about timing between QB and receivers (shuffling handfuls of WRs in and out kills that timing).
Unless the team gets approximately 800 yards/75 receptions/8 TDs from the No. 2 spot, we say Green again sees double and triple coverage, which will effectively stall the offense. Because it’s apparent there’s no plan to bring in an experienced No. 2, team success in ’12 rides exclusively on Tate, Sanu, Jones, Shipley, Binns or Whalen being the answer. Are They?
Make no mistake, Lewis and Mike Brown are risking all the team’s good moves the past two years on untested No. 2 WR’s.
Tate, Sanu, Jones, Shipley, Binns or Whalen – which one emerges? Question marks. Question marks. Question marks.