The Cincinnati Bengals wide receivers unit sports what many consider to be the best trio in the league. Rookie sensation Ja’Marr Chase is already among the best deep threats in the game. Tee Higgins would easily be the top receiver on many teams. And Tyler Boyd excels from the slot. The unit was key to the team’s success in 2021 and will return intact for 2022. Even better for the Bengals, the unit is incredibly young and under contract for at least two more seasons.
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Previewing the Cincinnati Bengals Wide Receivers Heading into Training Camp
Ja’Marr Chase exceeded all expectations as a rookie. He finished with the most yards by a rookie ever (1,455), while also setting the team’s single-season receiving record. Chase also put up 13 receiving touchdowns, good for third-most in the league. He also led the team with 81 receptions.
Many doubted his selection at fifth overall. It was argued the Bengals should have beefed up the offensive line with Penei Sewell instead. Chase then went through a bad case of drops in camp and preseason, further emboldening his and the team’s critics.
Chase put the doubts to rest easily in Week 1, reeling in a 50-yard bomb from Burrow that was reminiscent of their days at LSU. Indeed it seemed that the two did not miss a beat from their year apart. By midseason, it was apparent that the connection he had with Burrow rivaled that of any quarterback-wide receiver pair in the league. He slowed down a bit after Week 7, going through a seven-week “rookie lull” where he failed to eclipse 80 yards in any contest (though he did have four touchdowns in that span). Chase then put together back-to-back masterful games to help Cincinnati win the division, with 125 yards against the Baltimore Ravens and a dominant 266 yards and three touchdowns against the Kansas City Chiefs.
He continued his dominant season in the playoffs by breaking yet another record, for most receiving yards by a rookie in the postseason, with 368. And no Bengal fan can forget him breaking wide-open from Jalen Ramsey on the last play of the game for a potential game-winner, only for Burrow to get sacked before he could deliver the pass.
Going into year two, Chase will aim to work on cutting down on the drops, as he ended up leading the league with 11. He must also be ready to deal with a lot more focused coverage as he continues to grow. But the promise of his rookie year shows a receiver ready to propel into the conversation for best in the league.
Tee Higgins spent a good chunk of the season in the shadow of Chase. This was not only due to Chase’s hot start, but Higgins’ shoulder injury in Week 2 that cost him two games and lingered for some time after. Through 10 weeks (eight games), he had 446 receiving yards (56 avg/game). However, he turned a corner in Week 11, recording 100+ yards in four of the next six contests. He finished the year with 74 receptions for 1091 yards and six touchdowns.
In the playoffs, he started quietly against the Las Vegas Raiders with only one catch for 10 yards. However, he was scorching hot the rest of the way, including 100 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Super Bowl.
Despite the injury, his sophomore year was a successful step forward from his rookie year. He had more receptions and yards and did so in two fewer games. Undoubtedly, he benefitted from operating opposite Chase, but his talent drove his success. He excelled at snagging jump balls over corners, and Burrow showed absolute faith in putting him in the position to win one-on-ones (or sometimes one-on-twos).
Headed into year three, Higgins will continue to show that while he may be the Robin to Chase’s Batman, he is a number one receiver in his own right. Treat him otherwise, and he and Burrow will make you pay. And speaking of pay, the Bengals will look to lock him down long-term once he is extension eligible next offseason. He will be extra motivated to show his worth before then.
#Bengals WRs in 2021:
– 7.5 targets/game
– 21.2% targets/route run
– 2.51 yards/route run
– 7.9 targets/game
– 22.4% targets/route run
– 2.26 yards/route run
— Fantasy Footballers (@TheFFBallers) July 23, 2022
Tyler Boyd may be one of the most underappreciated wide receivers in the league. He continues to be a reliable presence in the slot year in and year out. His targets (94), receptions (67), and yards (828) in 2021 were all his lowest output since his second season, owing largely to the emergence of Chase and Higgins, but he still proved a key cog in the Bengals’ passing offense.
Chase and Boyd tied for the team lead with 16 receptions for a first down on third down. He also has the speed to make teams pay for covering him with a linebacker. Boyd only had one drop the entire season, but it was a critical one in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Still, his hands are more than trustworthy for Burrow.
While Boyd is under contract for the next two seasons, he will likely be the odd man out as the team looks to secure Chase, Higgins, and Burrow in the next two offseasons. This season and next will serve as his audition for one more big contract in free agency after the 2023 season.
Mike Thomas had the next most receiving yards on the team (among wide receivers), with…52. The Bengals only spent 20 snaps in four or five wide receiver sets, and so simply did not ask much of the receivers on offense behind the big three. He returns along with special teams ace Stanley Morgan, Trenton Irwin, and Trent Taylor. Taylor took over punt return duties in Week 13 and looks to retain that position this year.
Pooka Williams will also be with the Bengals wide receivers in camp this year. The second-year player switched positions from running back shortly before the 2021 season kicked off. He only saw action in one game as a returner but seeks a larger role on the team for 2022. Beyond that the team will come into camp with several rookies at the position, all signed as undrafted free agents: Jaivon Heileigh, Kwamie Lassiter II, Kendric Pryor, and Jack Sorenson. At best one will make the team as the sixth wide receiver. But all are more likely competing for spots on the practice squad.