With the drafting of John Ross III from the University of Washington, the Bengals have now given Andy Dalton another high caliber weapon to not take lightly. Including the hands of LaFell and Green, the Bengals receiving corps appears to have created a strong case for three 1,000-yard receivers.
Starting with A.J. Green, with the exception of 2016, he has completed every season with at minimum 1,000 yards. What makes these feats more impressive is that he is yet to break the century mark in catches in any given season. There is a reason why he is Dalton’s favorite target. Green has the speed to zip past defenders and create enough space for Dalton to fling the ball downfield for massive gains. Green joins Terrell Owens in career average yards per catch at 14.8. Predicted yards this season: 1,200.
Brandon Lafell may be bouncing around the NFL, but now entering his second year with the Bengals, we are seeing Super Bowl champion show off the skills he displayed with the Patriots. His 2014 and 2016 stats are very similar where he has 64 or more catches and nears the 1,000-yard benchmark. Including the legs and possibility of double teams on Green more often this season, you can assume LaFell will continue to see more targets. Predicted yards this season: 1,000.
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John Ross is the key factor that will spread defenses thin in the backfield. The high-octane receiver shows of speeds similar to Percy Harvin with hands similar to Marvin Jones. The advantage that Ross has over Lafell and Green is the rookie background. No defenders that the Bengals will face this season have played against Ross and know his physical style of play. Ross has a quick step, can stop on a dime, and knows how to break coverage. This can cause safeties to drop back or break from coverage on Green and drift more towards Ross’ way, but do not expect it to have major repercussions on the greenhorn. Predicted yards this season: 1,200.
In regards to the Bengals’ quarterback, Andy Dalton has broken 3,000 yards every year and in the last two years had a passer rating of 90 or higher. With the line that he has to stop the passing attack, Dalton has been able to bounce back from a terrible 2014 season and improve his completion rate as well as limit his interceptions to single digits. As long as Dalton continues to improve his situational awareness, we should continue to see his passer rating and completion percentages improve.
In regards to schedule, the Bengals have one of the softest schedules in the NFL, sitting at number 29 for the strength of schedule. With multiple facings against the Browns, Ravens, and Steelers, as well as showings against the Lions, Vikings, Bears, and Colts, you can expect an air raid offense to be heavily favored by the Bengals. In my opinion, the stretch of games when the Bengals face the Browns, Steelers, and Bears from late November to December will be the time the big three breaks 1,000.