Should the Bengals be making better use of Alex Erickson?

Cincinnati Bengals, Alex Erickson (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Cincinnati Bengals, Alex Erickson (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Bengals have a loaded wide receiver group in 2020 but are they missing out on the talents of slot man Alex Erickson?

One man’s injury tends to be someone else’s opportunity. The immediate impact of C.J. Uzomah’s achilles tear in Week 2 against the Browns was the promotion of Mason Shreck to the active roster. He joins Drew Sample and Cethan Carter on the Bengals’ depth chart at tight end.

While Sample should fill most of the gaps made by the loss of Uzomah, there will be opportunities for others considering the injured tight end was averaging 52 snaps per game. One of those players could be Alex Erickson.

Erickson has had only 12 snaps on offense in 2020, down from his game average of 43 in 2019. HIs snap share was buoyed by an injury riddled receiving corps but his lack of usage this year has still been somewhat of a surprise.

How Erickson can help the offense out

One of the main concerns raised in the aftermath of the Browns game was the lack of separation the wide receivers were getting. A.J. Green looks to still be knocking the rust off while consistent pressure on Joe Burrow has thwarted some of his deeper throws.

Alex Erickson could offer somewhat of a solution for head coach Zac Taylor. Taylor has been experimenting with empty and five-wide formations in the first two games. Now could be the time to mix up the personnel and give Erickson his shot.

The former Wisconsin Badger posted a respectable PFF grade of 67.1 last year, putting him right around the middle of the pack in terms of receivers. He was a dependable option in the slot, able to get cushion on defenders, and make chain-moving grabs.

His speed and yards-after-catch ability are certainly something Taylor should be looking to incorporate in the Bengals offensive gameplan. His shiftiness and elusiveness has been clear as a punt returner and could be utilized on end arounds or trick plays, giving Burrow another weapon in his arsenal.

Not only that but we have seen Erickson get legitimate separation vs top-level cornerbacks. Take, for example, this grab versus the highest paid cornerback in the game, Jalen Ramsey. While Erickson mainly operates out of the slot, he offers plenty more.

Certainly, the injury to Uzomah moves Erickson slightly up the food chain. John Ross has struggled so far while Tee Higgins is early in his development. All those factors could see an upturn in usage for Erickson.

What does the future hold for Alex Erickson?

If all of these factors don’t result in an uptick of playing time for Erickson, it would be fair to question what his role and value is to Taylor. Erickson is a punt returner but if Darius Phillps returns to a backup role when Trae Waynes is cleared from injury, then the Bengals have cover in that area. That includes Brandon Wilson, who is one of the most dangerous returners in the league.

Should Erickson not see increased action on offense, it would be fair to think he could be a trade target for someone. With a history of success on special teams and a good record as a receiver, he may be worth a late round pick near the deadline.

The next few weeks will be a crucial indicator to see how the coaching staff feels about Alex Erickson. Given a shot, he could just be the boost that Burrow and co. needs.

If no one else will, Zac Taylor has to protect Joe Burrow. dark. Next