Fay: Bengals need wideouts not named Green to step up

Over-reliance on one weapon can backfire

CINCINNATI -- The Bengals' No. 1 offense faced six third downs in last week's 30-12 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Four times Andy Dalton threw to A.J. Green, once he threw to Joe Mixon on a dump-off on third-and-21. The other pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage.

Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green celebrates a Bengals win.

Green is the team's best wide receiver and arguably the best player overall. But in the NFL, over-reliance on one weapon can be a bad thing.

There's been a lot of talk about all the offensive weapons the Bengals have in camp.

The Bengals could be a little more diverse in the passing game in this week's preseason game against the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

"I think we can spread the ball around and get guys involved," Dalton said. "It's still the preseason, so you don't do everything you're normally doing. But I think we can go in and get different guys involved in the offense. We've got the weapons. We've got guys who can make plays for us. If it happens in the preseason . . . maybe it does, maybe not. It depends on how the game goes."

But when the regular season starts, the team clearly needs another wide receiver to step up and take the pressure off Green. When the team was still in contention last year, no other wide receiver stepped up.

The Bengals' A.J. Green leaps to make a catch.

That's one of the reasons the team drafted John Ross in the first round and Josh Malone in the fourth.

Ross, recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, has not played yet. He could play Sunday. Dalton is looking forward to time with Ross, the fastest man in the NFL, based on his 40 times at the Combine.

"I am," Dalton said. "I think this will be a good chance for people to see him for the first time and for him to get some first game action, which will be good for him."

Malone has five catches from 47 yards in the two preseason games so far. At 6-foot-3, 206 pounds, he's built similarly to Green and presents a different look than Ross.

Getting Green help has been a two-year project. The Bengals let Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu leave via free agency before the 2016 season. The club signed free agent Brandon LaFell and drafted Tyler Boyd in the second round and Cody Core in the sixth round last year to offset the loss.

LaFell finished with 64 catches for 862 yards and six touchdowns. But he did a lot of his best work after Green was out. Two-thirds of his catches and yards came in the final three games.

Boyd and Core are currently listed as the No. 2 receivers on the depth chart. Both put up decent numbers last year -- Boyd caught 54 balls for 603 yards and a TD; Core caught 17 balls for 200 yards -- but Green carried the wideout corps.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis says any team can take away any player by altering its scheme. Two examples from the last year: Pittsburgh held Green to two catches for 38 yards on two catches on Sept. 18; Dallas held Green to 50 yards on four catches on Oct. 9.

The results were ugly losses.

Maybe the addition of Ross and Malone, the maturing of Boyd and Core and another year in the system for LaFell will help take the pressure off Green.

Dalton said don't read too much into the Kansas City game.

"We need to get the ball to other guys," Dalton said. "But the way the defenses were drawn up, it allowed A.J. to get the ball. It kind of depends on what they do. We trust the other guys, too."

John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at johnfayman@aol.com.

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