By failing to sign an established free agent wide receiver to play opposite A.J. Green, the Bengals have created a storm that will continue to build as to who should fill that role. One of the guys standing at the center of that storm is University of Cincinnati product Armon Binns.
Unless the Bengals decide to use one of their first round picks on a wide receiver (and I would argue that there are bigger needs for those picks, namely corner and guard), that player is going to have to come from in-house because the free agents left — Plaxico Burress, Braylon Edwards, Ted Ginn Jr — are not exactly inspiring as the #2 WR.
Jerome Simpson has the size, speed and athleticism for the spot. But after four years of development, he still doesn’t seem to have “it” as the #2. Last year he frequently was the ghost receiver, nowhere to be seen. And his legal issues (and likely suspension by Goodell) do not help make him a good option.
Jordan Shipley has the hands for the role. But he is exactly what you want in a slot receiver, and he has a bit of an injury history. If he goes down again, they are right back at this spot again.
Andrew Hawkins has the quickness and shiftiness for the position, drawing comparisons to Wes Welker at times. Love that. He only had 23 catches for 263 yds in 2011, which is not a very big resume to hand over a job like this.
Then there is Armon Binns. He has a nice size, and coaches seem to really like how he developed last year. The description of his play on NFL.com is exactly what you would hope to see for a #2 WR.
Binns has an above-average combination of size and speed. Doesn’t lose speed at top of stem or in and out of his breaks. Capable of locating soft spots in zone coverage. Displays excellent hands. Plucks and snatches away from his frame and can make the tough catches; over-the-shoulder, poorly thrown balls, etc. Tough.
The potential is certainly there. But of course, he has his flaws as well. And if Hawkins has a slim NFL resume, Binns has none at all so far outside of a couple of preseason catches. So naturally many fans are going to be reluctant to see the job handed to someone with so little experience.
The remedy is simple for now. No one gets the job yet. No one needs to be named the #2 for another 5 months. Shipley, Hawkins and Binns, as well as Whalen, Hazelton and whatever receiver the Bengals draft, will fight it out in camp.
And may the best man win. ‘Cause we are gonna need him.