For all the questions surrounding what receiver will step up to take pressure off A.J. Green, the Bengals spent the last month racking up answers -- six of them, to be exact.
When cutdown day shook out Marvin Lewis held on to seven receivers for the first time in his head coaching tenure.
“I think I really felt like those guys earned their way on the football team,” Lewis said. “In productivity on the field, productivity on offense, productivity on special teams. When you look at the 46-man squad I saw where those seven guys all had a chance if they were in the 46 they'd be big contributors on Sunday.”
Potential doesn't hide that none of the six own more than 24 career receptions. This comes following an offseason where the team's second- and third-leading receivers, Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell, were allowed to take their 87 combined receptions for 1,042 yards elsewhere.
This would have to mean a drop-off, right?
Lewis couldn't feel more opposite. He reiterated his point over and over again this preseason. He backed up his words with the roster. This collection of Armon Binns, Brandon Tate, Andrew Hawkins, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones and Ryan Whalen may not be name players, but the staff agrees they're a significant upgrade from last year's group.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden inherits the task of distributing the football to as many as possible. They've made his life remarkably easier because he no longer worries if his receivers will execute plays as they are called. Binns and Tate made “few mentals if any,” this preseason according to Gruden, who admits Whalen knows the playbook better than he does.
“You don't have to worry about calling a formation and worrying about them lining up wrong and being too tight or not wide enough, the depth of the route being too short,” Gruden said. “They are all very disciplined in what they do. That's why it's been very hard to get rid of anybody.”
And why Gruden sees a difference in what he calls and how he calls it.
“It's easier because I don't have to worry about, 'Oh, he's out here I can't call that,'” Gruden said. “Makes it easier, makes it flow out of your mouth a lot easier and Andy (Dalton) is more comfortable calling it and doesn't have to say, 'You do this, you do this.'” You just call it and go and we're playing a lot faster because of it.”
Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for Bengals updates on Twitter at @CBSSportsNFLCIN.