The Bengals are no stranger to injuries. In recent years, the team has lost several key players at different points such as Geno Atkins, Leon Hall (twice), and Robert Geathers. But the Bengals have found ways to weather these storms consistently while continuing to find success and put themselves into the playoff picture. This is no coincidence and the Bengals will prove it this year when they adjust their plans and effectively deal with Marvin Jones’ absence due to a broken foot.
Marvin Jones had a breakout year in 2013 and established himself as the Bengals number two receiver. While taking full advantage of the attention A.J. Green draws, he produced 51 catches for 712 yards and 10 TDs. He’s strong at the point of the catch and is an excellent red zone threat while also making plays on deep throws. Clearly he’s a multifaceted weapon that produces in all areas of the receiving game. The Bengals have an incredibly deep and versatile roster and luckily their deepest position may be wide receiver. This personnel depth will keep the team running smoothly and ensure that Jones doesn’t have to rush back from injury.
The main responsibility will fall to Mohamed Sanu, the Bengals jackknife on offense. Sanu is a powerful receiver who likens the build of Anquan Boldin. He’s had a tremendous camp this year following a down year in 2013, though receivers coach James Urban took the blame for that. Prior to his foot injury during his rookie year, Sanu began to establish himself as a valuable possession receiver and great red zone target. This year he is looking faster and stronger and just in time for Jones’ absence. Jones has yet to practice this year and Sanu has been filling in during this time, so he’s already had a lot of work with the first team. If Sanu can return to the form he began to show during his rookie season, he may be able to account for Jones’ loss nearly by himself.
But then who would make up for Sanu’s 2013 production? Enter Bengal fan favorite Dane Sanzenbacher. Sanzenbacher’s best year came during his rookie season when he caught 27 passes for 276 yards (10.2 yards/catch) and 3 TDs. Since then he has been a victim of circumstance never receiving (no pun intended) a fair shot to produce as he did. Sanzenbacher has the skills to be an excellent slot receiver, Sanu’s role last year, and has proven his ability to make difficult catches during pressurized situations. The increased playing time is well overdue for the oft-overlooked receiver and, based on his rookie season, producing at a similar rate to what Sanu did last year shouldn’t prove terribly difficult for the fourth-year veteran.
The receivers won’t be solely responsible when accounting for Jones’ loss. The Bengals possess two immensely talented tight ends who will be hungry for the increased targets. Jermaine Gresham is a grizzled vet and has never had a problem making plays. He’s a big target in the red zone and possesses the strength to shed blockers and move the chains. He’s been slow to recover from a couple of off-season injuries, but once healthy he should form an impressive duo with second-year player Tyler Eifert. Eifert has been possibly the most impressive player in camp this year along with Sanu. He’s become a reliable target for Andy Dalton while showing off the skills the team drafted him for. He’s a unique weapon as he can line up all over the field, much like Sanu, and uses his size to shed would-be defenders while catching passes above their reach. Eifert was already in line for a breakout year, even considering how much the Bengals spread the ball within the passing game, but now with Jones assumedly missing several weeks, Eifert’s opportunities only stand to increase.
The Bengals emphasis is recent years has been to develop a deep and talented team and by the looks of it they’ve achieved their goal. If all these players pitch in, making up for Jones shouldn’t prove overwhelming. The Bengals were built to withstand these types of situations in hopes of maintaining a consistent level of success. 2014 should be no different.