The wide receivers have been the talk of Bengals camp, but who’s been the best of all? We asked you, and there was no true consensus.
As training camp continues for the Bengals, one thing remains very obvious – the wide receivers have been the standouts of camp. We have discussed the wide receivers almost ad nauseam to this point, but I was curious what you guys thought about these players so far.
Though each of the receivers has done something notable so far, there have been a few that have separated themselves. John Ross, Tyler Boyd, and Auden Tate, along with Alex Erickson, seem to have risen to the occasion during camp, so they were the four names I polled. I left out AJ Green (because he’s AJ Green) and Josh Malone, who has been hurt for a while, although they have both been strong as well.
The poll was exceedingly close, but Tyler Boyd won just barely. He received 40% of the votes – just edging out John Ross. Boyd is entering his third season, the year in which a lot of young receivers traditionally break out. He has been handling primary short routes in the Bengals offense thus far, but looks ready to expand his role.
In training camp, Boyd has been flashing his potential versatility. At Pittsburgh, he lined up all over the field for the Panthers en route to over 3,300 receiving yards in just three seasons. His yards per catch were over 13 with the Panthers as well, compared to just around 10 with the Bengals.
Finally, though, Boyd is displaying the ability to line up outside and work not only underneath the safeties, but also over the top. Andy Dalton has recognized this and targeted Boyd heavily during camp. Boyd’s potential increased usage and his connection with Dalton make him a strong choice for best WR performer in Bengals camp.
John Ross only barely lost to Boyd, and he should certainly be in the conversation for best performer thus far. Ross, entering his second season, has far more to prove than Boyd in 2018. The ninth overall pick of last year’s draft, Ross has been nothing short of a bust so far. However, he’s definitely shedding that reputation this season.
In camp, Ross looks like he could start for the Bengals this season. His speed has really shown up, as he routinely blows by the Bengals’ lesser corners. Ross has even challenged William Jackson III with his pure speed. In addition, he’s shown nice route running and and footwork on shorter routes, making him a yards after catch threat. If Ross can just excise a few more drops from his game, he could be the true star of camp.
Auden Tate, unsurprisingly, came in a safe third, receiving 27% of the votes. Tate was absolutely the Bengals’ breakout player for the first part days of camp, although he has missed the last few practices with an injury. He will be a rookie this season after the Bengals selected him in the seventh round, and he’s making a strong case to make the 53-man roster. Coming out of Florida St., everyone knew Tate had NFL size and physicality. The question was always if he had other crucial ancillary skills to make the Bengals’ roster.
The answer, definitively, is yes. Tate has shown he has incredibly soft hands, reeling in just about everything thrown his way. He has also displayed functional speed during camp. Although Tate is a slow straight-line runner, he has good quickness on his breaks, and can also accelerate from a slow start. Overall, Tate absolutely has been a star for the Bengals thus far – now, he has to sustain it.
Coming in a clear last place was Alex Erickson, who did not receive a single vote in the poll. That result is understandable since Erickson hasn’t popped for the Bengals as much as the other three receivers. However, Erickson has quietly had a great camp, building his reputation as a versatile player.
He has made some great catches, especially from the slot, where he’s best utilized on this offense. Also, Erickson has seemingly cemented his role as the lead returner. He may not be having the best camp of all these receivers, but he’s certainly performed great.
All in all, the Bengals should be thrilled with what the receivers have shown so far. Boyd and Ross look like real starters, and Tate and Erickson have seemingly secured spots on this roster. What seemed like a weakness for the Bengals now looks like a serious strength.