The Cincinnati Bengals special teams is one of the best units in the NFL, but after losing a number of its core players, it will take a little rebuilding and retooling to keep it among the league’s best. The Bengals coverage and return teams have ranked in the NFL’s top half over the past two seasons, and that’s not expected to change this year.
In 2012, the Bengals finished first in the NFL for highest average ranking, according to Bengals.com. In Another study done by the Dallas Morning News, which incorporates 22 categories of special teams play and combines them into one composite ranking, the 2012 Bengals ranked second in the league.
So how will this unit shape-out in 2013?
Nov 25, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (12) catches a pass for a touchdown against Oakland Raiders cornerback Ron Bartell (21) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports
While the Cincinnati Bengals are hoping to have Mohamed Sanu become the #2 receiver to compliment All-Pro A.J. Green this year, they may have other plans to expand Sanu’s role on the team. Yesterday during the team’s OTA session, San was seen returning punts, along with Andrew Hawkins and Brandon Tate. Adam Jones is out with a strained calf right now, but the Bengals were already hoping to reduce his role on special teams in hopes of having him on the field on defense for more snaps after Pro Football Focus graded his cumulative coverage grade at +10.6, which ranked sixth among all cornerbacks in the NFL last season.
In 2012 Jones’ 15.3 yards per return ranks third in the NFL behind Buffalo’s Leodis McKelvin and New England’s Julian Edelman, so that would be a tough loss on ST if they do play him less there, but at age 29 (will be 30 in September) and already suffering through a calf injury in OTAs, it may be necessary.
With Brandon Tate being the last person you want to see returning punts, this could mean that there are snaps at punt-returner up for grabs, and Sanu could be one to get them, though if you go off of his college numbers (29 returns for 121 yards for a 4.2 avg), that seems like a pretty tough transition.
But what about Cedric Peerman’s role? Peermen has served as the team’s personal protector for punter Kevin Huber, and while lined up there, accounted for 80 yards on two fake punts that led to first downs last year. He ended up with 258 yards rushing on 36 carries and nine receptions for 85 yards receiving.in 2012.