Much of the discussion in Cincinnati this offseason was who the Bengals would utilize their #2 wide receiver in order to give second-year QB Andy Dalton another consistent offensive weapon, while also preventing defenses from double-teaming PRo-Bowler A.J. Green. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden stated his desire this summer to go into the 2012 season using a receiver-by-committee approach after coming out of the teams’ minicamp impressed with what he saw from all of his candidates for the #2 role:
Right now, the way they’ve performed, I have no reservation whatsoever of anybody coming in there. My play calling won’t alter one bit if Sanu, Armon or Tate is out there.
There wasn’t much doubt as to who the slot-receiver would be, as it appeared Jordan Shipley was on pace to fully recover from last years’ ACL tear and reclaim the slot-receiver role. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, as his knee continued to swell up during training camp, and he never could regain his 2009 form when he led all NFL rookies in receiving yards. But stepping up for his loss was Andrew Hawkins, who now has 12 catches for 208 yards and a team-hightwo TDs in three games after coming into the year with 23 career catches for 263 yards and no TDs.
Through the first three weeks, Andy Dalton’s six touchdown passes have gone to five different targets, including Hawkins, A.J. Green, Brandon Tate, and Armon Binns, and TE Jermaine Gresham. Dalton knows he has a special group of receiving threats:
We have a lot of guys that are capable of doing a lot of things. That’s what’s nice about this offense – you don’t have to rely on one guy.
After three weeks, it seems as though if you had to pick the #2 receiver, it’s Armon Binns, whose tied for second on team in receptions(12) and receiving yards(157), and has caught 12 of the 13 passes he was targeted on(92.2%), the best % of any Bengals receiver. He’s done well complementing Green and Andrew Hawkins playing the role of the slot receiving scoring threat. Hawk has turned a short route into a 50+ yard gain in each of the last two games now. This kind of vision and elusiveness simply can not be taught, either you have it or you don’t, and the former CFL star clearly has it.