Bengals breakdown: Wide receivers ready to answer the call

Cincinnati Bengals' Ja'Marr Chase makes a catch during NFL football practice in Cincinnati, Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Combined ShapeCaption
Cincinnati Bengals' Ja'Marr Chase makes a catch during NFL football practice in Cincinnati, Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the best wide receiver trios in the league, but without established options behind them, depth is a bit of a concern, and the departure of C.J. Uzomah leaves some question marks as to whether there will be a dropoff in pass-catching production at the tight end position.

Cincinnati will have to hope Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd stay healthy or someone steps up as another reliable target when needed. Tight end Hayden Hurst looks to pick up where. Uzomah left off and seemed to get into a good rhythm with Joe Burrow during Organized Team Activities, but the No. 4 wide receiver spot is a big question going into camp. No other wide receivers had more than five catches for the Bengals last year outside of the Big 3.

»BENGALS BREAKDOWN: Running backs

»BENGALS BREAKDOWN: Quarterbacks

Chase was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after a record-breaking first season, and Higgins topped 1,000 yards receiving in his second season, despite playing through a torn labrum most of the year. Boyd was just under that milestone but a favorite third-down target that didn’t disappoint. Hurst joined the Bengals in free agency this offseason and looks to be a bigger contributor in the passing game his fifth NFL season.

Let’s take a look at the past performances of the Bengals’ wide receivers, plus the tight ends, and how they are expected to stack up in 2022 with help from some analysis and data from Pro Football Focus.

WIDE RECEIVERS ON THE ROSTER

Starters: Tyler Boyd, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins

Reserves: Stanley Morgan, Kwamie Lassiter, Trent Taylor, Mike Thomas

Others in the mix: Trayveon Williams, Shemari Jones, Elijah Holyfield, Pookah Williams, Jack Sorenson, Jaivon Heiligh, Kendric Pryor

BOYD BY THE NUMBERS

2021 stats: 828 yards and 5 TDs on 67 catches and 94 targets (12.4 yards per reception)

PFF grades for 2021: Boyd ranked 48th of 115 qualifying wide receivers with a 70.8 overall grade. He was 52nd of 117 wide receivers in receiving grade at 70.4.

PFF ranking for 2022: Listed among the “Tier 4, maybe not elite, but high-quality pass-catchers,” Boyd is 28th of 32 wide receivers ranked by PFF.

CHASE BY THE NUMBERS

2021 stats: 1,455 yards, 13 TDs on 81 catches and 128 targets (18.0 yards per reception)

PFF grades for 2021: Chase ranked seventh of 115 qualifying wide receivers with an overall grade of 85.3 and seventh of 117 wide receivers in receiving grade at 86.1.

PFF ranking for 2022: Listed among the “Tier 1, elite” receivers, Chase is sixth of 32 wide receivers ranked by PFF. Raiders WR Davante Adams is ranked No. 1, followed by Rams receiver Cooper Kupp.

Combined ShapeCaption
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (85) runs for a touchdown after catching a pass against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Credit: Chris O'Meara

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (85) runs for a touchdown after catching a pass against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Credit: Chris O'Meara

Combined ShapeCaption
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (85) runs for a touchdown after catching a pass against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Credit: Chris O'Meara

Credit: Chris O'Meara

HIGGINS BY THE NUMBERS

2021 stats: 1,091 yards, 6 TDs on 74 catches and 110 targets (14.7 yards per catch)

PFF grades for 2021: Higgins ranked ninth of 115 qualifying wide receivers with an overall grade of 83.4 and 10th of 117 wide receivers in receiving grade at 82.8.

PFF ranking for 2022: Listed among the “Tier 2, young talents on the cusp of Tier 1″ receivers, Higgins is 13th of 32 wide receivers ranked by PFF.

TIGHT ENDS ON THE ROSTER

Starter: Hayden Hurst

Reserves: Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox

Others in the mix: Nick Eubanks, Thaddeus Moss, Justin Rigg, Scotty Washington

HURST BY THE NUMBERS

2021 stats (Atlanta): 221 yards, 3 TDs on 28 catches and 31 targets (8.5 yards per reception)

PFF grades for 2021: Hurst had an overall grade of 55.3 and a receiving grade of 57.4 but did not have at least 20 percent of the league-highest volume among tight ends so he did not earn a ranking.

PFF ranking for 2022: N/A

FURTHER ANALYSIS

PFF analyst Sam Monson wrote that the Bengals’ wide receivers are their biggest strength and their biggest weakness is at tight end, thanks to C.J. Uzomah’s departure.

Cincinnati’s wide receivers were ranked by PFF as the top group in the league, ahead of Tampa Bay’s receiving corps, while none of the tight ends earned a mention in the individual position rankings. Hurst will look to be more involved than he was with Atlanta, and a chance to play with a quarterback like Joe Burrow could be just what he needs. A good pass-catching tight end remains a key to this offense.

“No team has a more impressive collection of young pass-game talent than the Bengals,” PFF analyst Ben Linsey wrote of the receiver corps. “Obviously, quarterback Joe Burrow is a big part of that, but the starting wide receiver trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd that came together last offseason contributed heavily to Burrow’s progression from his rookie season to 2021.

“Chase established himself as one of the NFL’s best deep threats (league-high eight touchdowns on throws 20-plus yards downfield) and after-the-catch weapons (third among wide receivers in yards after the catch) at the position. Cincinnati’s decision to reunite him and Burrow also allowed Higgins and Boyd to profile as some of the better No. 2 and No. 3 options in the league, respectively.”

This is the third in a series of pieces breaking down each position group for the Bengals. Next up: Offensive line.

About the Author