The Cincinnati Bengals failed to find a legitimate #2 receiver to compliment A.J. Green last year, but Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu both showed enough in their rookie campaigns to give the coaching staff enough confidence to not pursue a veteran in free agency, or spend a high draft pick on a wideout.
Jones and Sanu will enter training camp as the likeliest candidates to start alongside Green, with Andrew Hawkins likely manning the slot. Rotoworld’s Nick Mensio did a fabulous breakdown of Sanu and Jones’ rookie seasons, and how they will translate going forward. Whoever wins the job will likely also have a significant impact in fantasy football, but that’s a story for another day.
They pointed out some very interesting statistics I’ve noted below:
When looking at snap breakdown and where they lined up, Sanu was used mostly at the X spot, while Jones played both the X and Y:
Sanu goes 6-foot-2, 211, but his 4.6 wheels limit him to a between-the-numbers role in the passing game. When lined up out wide, he typically played “Z” off the line of scrimmage. Sanu’s toughness and “get off” were questioned entering the league, so keeping him away from defensive back jams made sense.
Sanu is a non-factor in the deep passing game. He isn’t going to run many routes further than 7-10 yards downfield.
I had Jones down for 364 snaps – 190 wide left (52.2 percent), 104 wide right (28.6 percent), 68 in the slot (18.7 percent), and two in the backfield on kneel downs. The two second-year receivers play different styles. Jones played a lot of “X,” along with “Z.” Jones is much more physical than Sanu, and putting him up in the face of cornerbacks doesn’t bother him as much.
If Jones lined up in the slot, the Bengals were likely going with a run play:
I’d venture to say that over 90 percent of Jones’ slot snaps came on run plays. Jones is a very willing blocker, and the
Bengals often motioned him close to the ball to get him involved in the run game. It got to the point where any time Jones was in the slot, Gruden was clearly going to call a run.
While Sanu appears to be more limited in where he can line up at wideout, he certainly proved to be better 3rd-down option and a bigger scoring threat:
I charted Sanu with 25 targets (including penalties) as a rookie. Six targets came on first down, nine on second, nine on third, and one on fourth. Clearly, the Bengals value Sanu’s reliable hands on late down and distance. Sanu reeled in 16 passes – ten moved the chains – for 154 yards and four touchdowns. He was a red-zone maven; seven targets came in the red area and five Dalton passes were directed toward Sanu in the end zone.
Ultimately, Nick thinks Sanu will win the #2 job, while the future isn’t quite as bright for Jones:
I don’t think Jones’ skills mesh with Dalton’s strengths. Dalton struggles throwing deep, and Jones is best suited for a situational intermediate-to-deep threat role. To compare him to a former Bengal, I see Jones as a savvier Jerome Simpson. Both players are athletic and look good in practice. In 2012, Jones averaged just one target for every 10-11 snaps played. That’s not enough to warrant fantasy relevance. Unfortunately for Jones, it’s not going to get better.
It will certainly be one of the better competitions to watch during training camp, and hopefully with HBO’s Hard Knocks there, will get to see the competition up close.