Unlike the other positions, the Cincinnati wide receiver core, when healthy, might be the best in the league. Spearheaded by wonder-kid A.J. Green, there are a plethora of young talents who could step up and make this team a huge passing threat. The problem is, no one is stepping up.
I don't need to talk about Green. No. 18 picked up where 2011 left off, and aside from a few off games, is doing incredibly well with eight TDs and over 700 yards. He's is perfect.
The depth behind Green is far too suspect, though. For the first time in many years, the Bengals elected to have seven wideouts on the team: A.J. Green, Andrew Hawkins, Armon Binns, Brandon Tate, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Ryan Whalen. On paper, these receivers, although young, have the talent to take the league by storm. But they don't.
Hawkins is a very surprising player. He's 5'7", one of the smallest receivers in the league, and has seen his time come and go with several NFL teams. He was playing in Canada when the Bengals picked him up.
Hawkins is a gadget receiver normally, able to turn short passes into big yards. He's very quick and makes cuts like LeSean McCoy. The weeks he's on, he's on. He has two scores for over 50 yards on the year. He's 13th in the NFL in YAC.
But the weeks Hawkins is off? Against Denver, 32 yards. Pittsburgh, 17 yards. Cleveland, 35 yards. He can disappear entirely from games against some of the weakest passing defenses in the NFL. He lacks consistency.
Armon Binns out of the University of Cincinnati made the roster the hard way, through the practice squad. He has the size, strength, and hands of a pro-caliber receiver. In games you'll see him make some fantastic catches. He easily has the talent to be the second best receiver on the team. But he averages just 30 yards a game. He has just one TD on the year. He's a complete enigma.
And the other receivers? Tate, Sanu, Jones and Whalen all have less than 150 yards on the year with one TD between them.
Tate can get a pass considering his main role is special teams. Sanu and Jones have—like the rest of the team it seems—been injured. Injuries aside, though, in their opportunities, they've hardly shined, excluding the Wildcat pass from Sanu.
And Whalen? Decent in his one game, bringing in four receptions. His limited playing time despite the last of standout receivers speaks for itself.
Don't be surprised if the Bengals take a wide receiver in the first or second round next year. Sanu, Jones, and Binns are the real deal if they can step up and be healthy, but this team has playoff potential now and needs to bring in reliable targets for Andy Dalton.