Cincinnati Bengals: Full Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Wide Receiver
Following the departure of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens after the 2010 season, the corps of receivers in Cincinnati was pretty depleted. Sure, the argument can be made that both of those guys were more like sideshows that season, but they were talented no matter how you slice it.
Green is arguably the best receiver in the NFL not named Calvin Johnson, Marvin Jones proved to be a fantastic tool last season, and Mohamed Sanu is a versatile and unique receiver, similar to Antwaan Randle El.
There's still a lot that this corps has to prove since it is so young. Jones had his breakout year in 2013 and we could see it happen with Sanu or even Dane Sanzenbacher this season.
However, that will all fall into place based on how they stack up on the depth chart. What's the outlook for the 2014 Cincinnati Bengals' receivers?
No. 7: Brandon Tate
Brandon Tate's main focus has always been on special teams, so he'll be a part of the group simply because of his prowess in that area.
During the 2012 offseason, Tate was actually in a competition with then-teammate Armon Binns to be the team's No. 2 receiver, which he ultimately lost. Despite heavy optimism during the offseason, Tate went on to catch a disappointing 13 passes.
He is never going to be a star receiver in this league—maybe never even one that starts. However, the team enjoys his experience on special teams, so he will be what I like to call an emergency-list receiver.
No. 6: Ryan Whalen
Ryan Whalen has largely been an afterthought in Cincinnati, especially after recording no stats during the 2013 season.
To be fair, it is becoming harder and harder to be relevant in the Bengals' passing game. A.J. Green is going to lead the charge, with Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu behind him. Throw in Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham and Giovani Bernard as receiving threats, and the opportunities are limited.
Nonetheless, Whalen could see playing time on occasion—likely in 3rd-and-long scenarios.
During his senior year at Stanford, he was expected to prove a lot about his game with the impressive Andrew Luck slinging the ball his way. Unfortunately, Whalen's season was largely hindered due to injuries, which he has also struggled with in the NFL.
Since being drafted in 2011, Whalen has only reeled in 11 catches for 80 yards. I don't anticipate him breaking through in any way, but it isn't unreasonable to think he can at least match his career numbers so far next season.
No. 5: Cobi Hamilton
After being drafted in the sixth round of last year's draft, Cobi Hamilton was signed to the practice squad for the season and signed to a reserve contract back in January.
While last season didn't go as Hamilton would have liked, it would not surprise me to see this one go a little better for him.
Hamilton highlighted his senior year at Arkansas by totaling 1,335 yards and five touchdowns, making him a possible X-factor for the Bengals in 2013. Unfortunately, that potential never came to fruition.
This is a new season, and with Hamilton working with a new offensive coordinator who likes versatile athletes, he could see a little more playing time in 2014. I'm not trying to predict any sort of breakout season for the sophomore, but 10-20 catches is a realistic figure.
No. 4: Dane Sanzenbacher
The idea that Dane Sanzenbacher won't have an effect on Cincinnati's offense probably isn't all that insane. To the casual Bengals fan, he may even be an unknown player.
It is important to not underestimate him, though. The former Ohio State Buckeye has largely been irrelevant in orange and black, but he certainly showed potential during his brief stint in Chicago. In 2011, as a rookie with the Bears, Sanzenbacher caught 27 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns.
He's not shattering any records with those numbers, but they are hopefully more indicative of his talents than the seven catches he's racked up in the last two seasons combined.
The idea here is that he'll likely be the other slot man opposite Marvin Jones (spoiler alert). Sanzenbacher stands just under 6'0" tall and is much quicker than he is strong—that is generally a vintage slot-man attribute.
With Andrew Hawkins out of the picture, this could be the opportunity Sanzenbacher needs.
No. 3: Marvin Jones
When it comes to the No. 2 and 3 receiver positions, it seems to be a dead heat between two men—Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. On paper, Jones should have clearly won the position based on stats from last season.
It won't be Jones lining up opposite A.J. Green on Sundays, though.
That isn't a knock on Jones, and it certainly is not to say that he's incapable of playing on the outside. Jones' success largely comes from the slot position, meant for smaller receivers with breakaway speed—which is why Sanzenbacher works there as well.
It will be interesting going forward to see how Jones is used in the Hue Jackson offense. After the 2013 season saw him catch 10 touchdowns, you can expect the third-year man from California to try to improve on those numbers.
For now, he is going to be the main receiver on the field drawing any attention away from A.J. Green.
No. 2: Mohamed Sanu
According to Dave Richard of CBS Sports, Mohamed Sanu's teammates, including Marvin Jones, said the third-year receiver was "a lot faster and more explosive" over the last couple weeks of workouts.
This should come as fantastic news to fans who know how versatile Sanu can be.
If you recall during his rookie season, Sanu launched a 73-yard touchdown against the Washington Redskins. In case you didn't know, Sanu used to be a quarterback and garnered comparisons to Antwaan Randle El from AFC North In The Headset.
While Jones clearly outperformed Sanu in 2013, Sanu is the better option on the outside opposite A.J. Green. He's a much more physical and bigger receiver, thus making him a better threat for the long ball.
Additionally, with him being so versatile, it would shock absolutely no one to see Hue Jackson use Sanu in a variety of ways. Keep in mind that Jackson worked with Darren McFadden in Oakland, and he is one of the more unique players in the NFL.
The unfortunate part of this for Sanu is that he could be in for a "put up or shut up" season. He has been useful to the Bengals so far, but after disappointing last season, this could be the one that really proves Sanu's worth.
Another disappointment could lead to the drafting of another receiver or even the upward motion of Cobi Hamilton.
Until he falls flat, though, expect the former Rutgers Scarlett Knight to get the starting role.
No. 1: A.J. Green
In just three short seasons, A.J. Green has made an incredible name for himself. He's already amassed over 3,800 yards and 29 touchdowns since his 2011 debut.
This season is looking good as well.
ESPN.com's Coley Harvey reported during the beginning of OTAs that Green was already looking like he was in midseason form. "He looked like an elite receiver at times, running through routes and catching difficult passes he could have otherwise let sail on by in a voluntary workout," he wrote.
That should come as fantastic news, as the Cincinnati Bengals are seemingly one of the few teams in the NFL that don't live and die by how well their quarterback plays. If Green has been shut down, it is likely that the entire team has been as well.
As good as Jones has proven to be, none of the other receivers can match Green's athleticism and talent if he winds up being double-teamed and taken out of the offensive game plan.
Green is going to be Cincinnati's starting wideout for as long as he wants to be.