The Cincinnati Bengals signed wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell this offseason. Given his time working with Bill Lazor, it could pay off for receivers.
The Cincinnati Bengals have plenty of untapped potential in their young wide receivers group going into the 2018 season. Second-year receiver John Ross will play healthy for the first time this season while players like Tyler Boyd, Cody Core, or Josh Malone all are waiting for their opportunity to see reps in the Cincinnati offense. New wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell could be the right answer to develop these young receivers into their full potential.
Bicknell is familiar with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor as they worked together in Philadelphia under former head coach Chip Kelly. Lazor coached quarterback Nick Foles in that 2013 season when Bicknell was the wide receivers coach. That same season, wide receiver DeShaun Jackson had a career season hauling in 1,332 yards. The following season in 2014, Jeremy Maclin had a career season totaling 1,318 yards. Bicknell has also gotten the full potential out of other receivers around the league.
The season before Bicknell was the wide receivers coach in Philadelphia, he spent time with the Buffalo Bills and Stevie Johnson had a career season of 1,046 yards. Now Bicknell is working with players like A.J. Green, who he says is the best wide receiver he has been around, and John Ross. Many comparisons can be made of Ross and Jackson, but Ross has to prove himself to make those comparisons come to life. Here’s what Bicknell had to say about the Bengals wide receivers group:
"“Obviously in Philly we had some really good players,” said Bicknell, who has chalked up three 1,000-yard receivers with three different teams. “In Buffalo Stevie Johnson could really separate. In San Francisco Jeremy Kerley was an accomplished guy. But this group as a whole has a little bit of everything. You’ve got really good speed. You’ve got guys that can separate. You’ve got big players that can make contested catches. As a group, it’s impressive.”"
Bicknell has plenty of talent to work with as the Bengals spent the 2016 and 2017 drafts to bolster the wide receivers group. Unfortunately, those players have not had a chance to prove themselves. Tyler Boyd, John Malone, Cody Core, and John Ross were all drafted in those two offseasons. Ross is the obvious front-runner for the second receiver role across from Green, but Boyd has shown flashes that warrant some significant snaps in 2018.
We still have yet to see what the new offense will look like in 2018 as the organization has put restrictions on what the media can talk about. Our best guess is something like we saw in the final two weeks of the season when Lazor changed up the offense and it finally started to click. According to Bicknell, it sounds like there will be more moving around for the receivers in 2018 instead of lining up in the same place every play.
"“Bill does an outstanding job moving guys around. With the group we have, No. 1, you have to do that with a couple of players that we have so they just can’t say, ‘Take ‘em away,’’’ Bicknell said. “In the NFL you need to have a bunch of guys that can do a lot of things so you can move them around. So it’s not always, ‘Running this.’ We have a group that’s extremely intelligent that can do those things. Plus they have little bit of a feel for the game and they have some skill sets that allow them to separate in different ways.”"
Fans are still skeptical on their wide receivers which is understandable. However, there is plenty of potentials that should find it’s way to the surface this season under Lazor’s new offense and Bicknell taking over as the wide receivers coach. When it comes to Ross and Boyd, I expect a good season is just around the corner. Hopefully this time next year we are talking about one of the best receiving units in the league.