Bengals draft picks expected to take burden off A.J. Green and make offense more dynamic

OTAs may show who can make an impact
Posted at 4:26 PM, May 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-31 09:09:58-04

CINCINNATI -- There were times last season when to stop the Bengals passing game, all you needed to do was stop A.J. Green.

That was a big reason the Bengals blew up a lot of mock drafts by going heavily on offense -- taking wide receiver John Ross with their first pick, running back Joe Mixon with their second pick and wide receiver Josh Malone with their fourth round pick.

Ross, of course, isn't just any wide receiver. He ran the fastest 40-yard dash in NFL Combine history. The new guys figure to give the offense a new look.

Bengals top pick John Ross definitely adds speed to the team's receiver corps. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

"We're going to have new guys out there," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "I think we'll be faster with the guys we've added. I think with the speed and the qualities these guys bring, we may be able to do a little more."

Dalton's numbers dipped from 2015 to 2016 across the board.

His quarterback rating fell from 106.2 to 91.2. His yards per attempt dropped from 8.4 to 7.5. And his touchdown passes fell from 25 to 18, despite 177 more attempts.

Dalton, of course, is pretty much the same guy. In fact, at 29, he is arguably in the heart of his prime.

The offense last year never seemed to recover from the losses of Mohammed Sanu and Marvin Jones. The Bengals began last year with one holdover at wide receiver in A.J. Green, who is about as good as it gets at the position. But without much support on the other side, especially early in the season, he faced a lot of double teams.

Adding Ross and Malone, a 4.4 40 guy with good size, should help.

The Bengals are counting on Brandon LaFell's veteran leadership. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

But the Bengals are going to need the holdovers to play well, too. Veteran Brandon LaFell, signed as a free agent, came on as the year progressed. LaFell caught 64 passes for 862 yards and led the team with six touchdown receptions. Tyler Boyd, a second-round pick in last year's draft, caught 54 passes for 603 yards.

"The guys we have coming back have another year in the offense," Dalton said. "They understand what we're try to do."

The Bengals re-signed LaFell. He's an eight-year veteran who won a Super Bowl with New England.

"He's a extremely smart player," Dalton said. "He can move around. He can play every position. He's a guy who understands what we're trying to do. He'll go in there and block. He does it all. I think that's the big reason we brought him back."

Dalton added that LaFell is a good mentor to younger players.

If Boyd and Cory Core, last year's sixth-round pick, can take next step, the Bengals will suddenly have a deep and talented receiving group.

"Coming in each year, you want to get better at something," Green said. "That's what I'm looking for in the young guys. The biggest guy as far as improvement is Cory Core. He's really worked on his craft. (Boyd) is playing really fast. Those guys worked their butts off this offseason."

The addition of Ross and Malone will mean new twists. That's what OTAs (organized team activities) are for.

The Bengals like rookie Josh Malone's combination of size and speed. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

"This is the time to try some new stuff to see if we like it," Dalton said. "We have put in some new things. But it's also the time to get back to basics and make sure everyone's on the same page."

Ross is not participating in OTAs. That's the rule since he attends a school (Washington), which is on the quarter system.

Ross is expected to be a star. But the Bengals don't need him to be one from Day 1 of the season.

"With John, we're not going to rush him in," Green said. "We've got guys who can play. There's no pressure to play right away. We've got a great receiving corps. We're going to give him some plays and let him work himself in."