2. Auden Tate vs. Josh Malone
The wide receiver position is a strength for the Bengals and it is a crowded room. A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd are awaiting new contracts, but will lead the line in 2019. John Ross will hope a number and scheme change will lead to becoming a consistent threat in the three receiver sets.
Outside of that, the competition will be intense. Alex Erikson’s shiftiness could see him carve out a regular offensive role. Still, his special teams value means he is a roster lock. The rest of the group will be battling for two or three spots.
Perhaps the most intriguing battle will be second year receiver Auden Tate and third year man Josh Malone.
For the second year in a row, Tate has grabbed some attention in OTAs. His contested catch ability and physical nature continues to enamor coaches, but can he become more than that? Tate’s 4.68 40-yard dash was a major concern that led him to sliding to the 7th round. If he can show a more rounded profile in the preseason, his size makes him a great asset when forming a diverse receiver group.
In contrast, Malone has a more complete athletic profile. His 4.40 40 yard dash along with a solid junior season at Tennessee meant Malone was seen as a dark horse to be a success with the Bengals. However, his promise hasn’t developed into production.
Despite Green and Ross missing time last year, Malone only had one reception, missing five games himself. If he can stay healthy, the new regime will likely give him a lifeline, but if he can’t make the most of preseason opportunities, there will be plenty of suitors for his roster spot.
Verdict: Tate has received more buzz during OTAs. His height and jump ball ability will always get him noticed. He needs to translate that into meaningful snaps. You have to trust the new coaches can find a role for him. Unless Malone can do something special, his time with the Bengals could come to a sudden end.