The Bengals keep six receivers. With Jordan Shipley and Andre Caldwell ending the season on IR, we have eight names to sort through as we evaluate the wide receiver position.
As a whole, the wide receiving group could have and should have been better than it was in 2011. Is getting Shipley back enough to get Andy 4000+ yds next year? Should the Bengals draft a WR? Should they pursue a free agent?
A.J. Green: 15 games. 65 recs for 1057 yds, 7 TDs.
Show me a guy that doesn’t like A.J. Green, and I’ll show you an idiot. He posted more yards in his rookie season than did Marques Colston (1038), Dwayne Bowe (995), Andre Johnson (976), DeSean Jackson (912), or Calvin Johnson (756).
A.J. has the ability to stretch the field and to grab the ball where CBs cannot make a play. He needs a little help next year from another WR and/or RB, and he will continue to be a matchup problem for the stout defenses of the AFC North.
Jerome Simpson: 16 games. 50 recs for 725 yds, 4 TDs.
When the Bengals drafted Simpson, we said, “Who the **** is Jerome Simpson?” His selection was followed by almost 3 years of deactivations as the D2 Coastal Carolina product struggled to learn and execute an NFL play book.
Simpson’s athletic ability is so good, it’s stupid. But his lack of discipline and football intuition show up at terrible times. He is too prone to being erased from games. He is a free agent this year.
Andre Caldwell: 13 games. 37 recs for 317 yds, 3 TDs.
Caldwell’s career numbers are OK: 124 recs for 1172 yds, 6 TDs. He struggled as a slot receiver. His best games were the final three of 2010, playing outside after the T.Ocho show got shut down. But in the NFL, a guy has to make the most of any opportunity that he gets, and Caldwell has not made the most of his time in Cincinnati.
Jordan Shipley: 2 games. 4 recs for 14 yds, 0 TDs.
I groaned when Shipley went down with an ACL injury in Week 2. His absence was felt all season. The Bengals never really owned the middle of the field this year. We can only wonder how a healthy Shipley might have made Dalton, Gresham and the whole WR corps better. However, we would never have seen Hawkins had he not gone down.
Andrew Hawkins: 13 games. 23 recs for 253 yds, 0 TDs.
When Andrew’s brother, former Bengal Artrell Hawkins, compared him to Wes Welker, I thought he was carrying water for his younger sibling. Now I think differently. He is quick, shifty and elusive. The Bengals should find creative ways to get him more involved in the passing game. Good things happen when he touches the ball.
Brandon Tate: (no stats)
We have to include Tate in this group simply because there is technically not a roster spot called “kick returner/punt returner”. He was an upgrade at kick returns and a wash at punt returns.
Ryan Whalen: 4 games. 4 recs for 27 yds, 0 TDs.
Whalen got a lot of praise in the preseason. He was targeted six times in the last three games of regular season, and he was 2-for-2 for 24 yds in the postseason game in Houston. He should make the roster in 2012.
Armon Binns: (no stats)
Binns was added to the roster when Caldwell was placed on IR. He did not appear in a game. But the UC product is popular locally, and he will be given the chance to fight for a spot in training camp.
Planning for 2012
Green and Tate are in (unless the Bengals draft a returner). Shipley and Hawkins have shown enough to be secure in making the roster in 2012, locking up 4 of the 6 spots.
What about Caldwell and Simpson? Let Caldwell walk. The production just isn’t there. Simpson is a tougher call. If his coaches can guarantee he will take another step forward next year, he is worth keeping him. But if they can get a good free agent, let him go.
That leaves Whalen and Binns. Let them duke it out in camp for the last spot along with any CFAs.
That leaves the WR corps looking like this: Green, Simpson, Shipley, Hawkins, Tate, Whalen/Binns.
A draft pick will need some time, and I want production right away. If you have a college guy you want to lobby for drafting, make your case below.
The Bengals have upward momentum and cap room, two keys for landing top free agents. WR is where I look to add one of those FAs. The Bengals need a consistent threat opposite Green. Adding a proven, big time guy across from him will open the field and create serious coverage issues for the Steelers, Ravens, etc. And makes Simpson expendable.
My top candidates for the #2 spot include:
- Reggie Wayne
- Brandon Lloyd
- Steve Johnson
Welker, V. Jackson, Bowe, Colston, Manningham, Garcon and Wallace are not on this list because I doubt their teams let them get away. I left D. Jackson off because his attitude is crap.
Any of these guys give the Bengals two legit #1 WRs. I was chided a few weeks ago when I posted about it, but Reggie Wayne is still my choice. The oldest at 34 next year, he has never missed a game due to injury in his 11 years. He might be the cheapest of the three, and he should accept being in a complimentary role to Green the best of them. Also he could mentor Green (and others) in the finer points of the game.
- Robert Meachem
- Early Doucet
- Anthony Gonzalez (the guy is a walking injury)
- Roy Williams
The problem with these guys is that none of them are better than Simpson. And they will be more expensive. Maybe one of these guys thrives in the Begnals’ offense and blooms into a true #2 that thrives when Green is doubled. And maybe not.
So my lineup at WR in 2012 is Green, Wayne, Shipley, Hawkins, Tate and Whalen. Can you imagine Green, Wayne, Shipley and Gresham all running free on the field? Andy would certainly have options.
What’s your lineup?