This week, John Fay is getting answers to nine questions the Bengals face heading into the regular season. This is the seventh of the series.
CINCINNATI — Who will emerge at the No. 2 wide receiver?
The two biggest-name free agents to depart the Bengals both were wide receivers. Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu accounted for 98 catches and 1,210 yards last year.
A.J. Green, of course, is the star.
He caught 86 balls for 1,297 yards and 10 touchdowns. But he was aided by the fact that Jones and Sanu were good enough to relieve the pressure on him, i.e., reduce the number of plays against double coverage.
The Bengals addressed wide receiver in the draft (second-round pick Tyler Boyd, sixth-round pick Cody Core) and free agency (Brandon LaFell). And they added a college free agent (Alex Erickson) for good measure.
The three rookies all had moments in the preseason. Core (eight catches, 135 yards) and Erickson (seven catches, 77 yards) finished one, two in receiving. Boyd averaged 18.4 a catch.
Quarterback Andy Dalton has confidence in the rookies.
“There’s a reason those guys made the team," Dalton said. "They proved that they can play. We’re going to need them to. It comes down to communication, making sure everyone is on the same page, in the right spot.”
The Bengals have done extremely well in filling holes through the draft.
“The management upstairs does a great job of bringing guys in who are ready to play,” running back Jeremy Hill said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in those guys.”
LaFell is a seven-year veteran and a big target at 6-foot-3, 201 pounds. He caught 37 passes for 515 yards last year for New England last year after opening the season on injured reserve with a foot injury. In 2014, he had a the best year of his career. He caught 74 balls for 953 yards and seven TDs. He also caught a TD pass in the Super Bowl.
LaFell was limited in the preseason by a hand injury. He played only in the third game, catching one pass.
Boyd has leaned on Green and LaFell during camp.
“Having so many veterans here, so many leaders has allowed me to stay focused and not get over myself, thinking too much,” Boyd said. “It allows me to play comfortable and play my game.”
Dalton said who will be the No. 2 receiver will play itself out. But he’s confident in the group.
“It was a looked-at position all through training camp,” he said. “But we feel like the guys we have are talented guys who are going to help win games.”
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org