One of the biggest questions coming out of the Bengals training camp was whether or not the team could find a second receiver to complement A.J. Green — for at least one day. In the Bengals’ 34-27 victory over the Browns, Cincinnati had some weaknesses exposed, but the receiving corps certainly wasn’t one of them.
The Browns were playing without starting cornerback Joe Haden, who was serving the first game of a four-game suspension, and the team is hardly know for its stout secondary, but the Bengals receiver corps did what it was supposed to do in that situation — dominate. Armon Binns, Brandon Tate and Andrew Hawkins combined for 10 catches for 193 yards in the win, while A.J. Green had seven catches for 58 yards while constantly facing the extra attention that goes along with being an elite wide receiver in the NFL.
Indeed, it was Hawkins’ 50-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter that showed the excitement that the non-Green receivers can bring. Just as impressive is that, of those three receivers, none of them had a drop and the only time one was targeted on a play that counted and didn’t come up with a catch was when Andy Dalton overthrew Hawkins in the end zone in the second quarter on the drive that netted a 39-yard field goal.
Hawkins’ catch — and run — gave hope that there are enough playmakers that other teams will have to worry about more than just Green.
“He has great quickness and then he has enough speed that he can out-run people,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said of Hawkins. “When he can keep some space and they can’t hold and grab him, he can be an effective player.”
So too can Binns, the former Bearcat, and Tate, previously a return specialist. Tate recorded his first touchdown since 2010 when he scored on a 44-yard pass from Dalton in the third quarter by just racing past his man.
Add Jermaine Gresham (four catches, 37 yards) and the Bengals may just have enough targets that teams will have to pay attention to the group as a whole, not just Green.
On the other hand, if the defense can’t stop anyone, the offense would need more wide receivers than the rules allow to keep up. In just two games, the Bengals have allowed a total of 71 points, the most by a Mike Zimmer-coached defense since his first year as a coordinator. In 2000, Zimmer’s Cowboys defense allowed 73 points in their first two games. The 869 yards allowed is the most in the first two games in his career. Through the first two games, 30.8 percent of the plays run against the Bengals defense have gone for 10 or more yards.
“You can’t win many football games in the National Football League when you give up whatever we gave up in points (Sunday),” Lewis said the day after the team’s victory over the Browns. “I know that for a fact. It’s difficult to score as many as we scored. You have to play better on defense and you can’t give up explosive plays like we did, the six explosive plays we gave up (Sunday), you can’t give those plays up, the run and what, five in the passing game like that. You’re going to put yourself behind a lot.”
The Bengals’ schedule is very forgiving the next four weeks — at Washington, at Jacksonville, Miami at home and then at Cleveland — before their next big test, Oct. 21 against the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium.
Thinking Out Loud
I was shocked — beyond shocked, even — when I saw Armon Binns go back into Sunday’s game after he was hit by D’Qwell Jackson in the second quarter. The TV camera caught Binns wobbling off the field, his eyes in a daze. I’m no doctor and I wasn’t up close, but just the sight of someone being helped off the field for what didn’t appear to be an orthopedic injury would fall into the league’s new rules that are supposed to guard against such actions. ... We’re seeing the arrogance of the NFL and commissioner Roger Goddell in the negotiations with the league’s officials. The officiating in the first two weeks of the regular season has been as bad as expected with replacement referees. It seems that nothing’s going to change until a marquee team is cost a victory. If the Cowboys lose a game because of a blown call, you better bet Jerry Jones will find a way to get something done. Falcons owner Arthur Blank is on the negotiation committee, and after Monday night’s debacle we may have seen a tipping point. ... Johnny Cueto is 3-9 with a 5.10 ERA in 21 career regular-season starts in September and October. While there’s worry about Aroldis Chapman, Cueto’s late-season struggles could be a bigger problem. ... The last team the Reds would want to see in the National League Championship Series is the Cardinals. St. Louis would need to get the wild card, win the one-game playoff and then beat the Nationals for that to happen — but stranger things have happened (and did just last year).
CONTACT C. TRENT ROSECRANS:[email protected] or @ctrent