CINCINNATI -- As we've mentioned a few times these past couple of days, it might seem like a monumental task for the Cincinnati Bengals to replace their now-injured No. 2 receiver, but the Bengals think differently about how the next few weeks will go.
They're actually quite calm about the whole situation.
Because as much as they will miss Marvin Jones between now and the Week 5 showdown against the Patriots on Oct. 5, the Bengals believe his replacements will be just fine in picking up the slack. And just how will the Bengals accomplish that in the passing -- and even running; remember, Jones has been a key part of Cincinnati's occasional reverse plays -- game? They'll get work from a host of other wideouts.
With Jones out, Mohamed Sanu, the player poised to be the No. 3 receiver this season, will be forced to step up and execute alongside No. 1 receiver, A.J. Green. The plan had already been to make Sanu a more effective weapon in areas other than pass-catching. He, too, can run off reverses and double reverses. He also can run from the backfield off a direct snap, or pass as a quarterback out of a Wildcat formation. To this point in camp, he's already done some of all of that.
Behind Sanu and Green, the Bengals are looking for some combination of Brandon Tate, Dane Sanzenbacher, Ryan Whalen, Cobi Hamilton, James Wright and Colin Lockett to catch passes in relief of Jones. Tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert will carry their share of the receiving load, as will running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. Eifert and Bernard could even line up in the slots or flanked off the line as outside receivers.
All of that is to suggest this: the Bengals believe they'll be just fine during the three games they'll miss Jones.
"It's 'next man up' mentality," receivers coach James Urban said Tuesday. "That's what we've always had."
We'll have more on the blog later Wednesday and Thursday about a few of the candidates most expected to fill Jones' shoes. Specifically, we'll look a little closer at Wright and Hamilton; two players who seem to be battling the hardest for the final spot in the receiver's portion of the roster. Tate and Sanzenbacher appear to have another battle brewing that in part hinges on the perceived value they have as return specialists. Here's more on Tate's fight for a roster spot from earlier this week, just before news of Jones' foot injury.
Sanzenbacher an option? Sanzenbacher remains one of the receivers who continues to quietly impress in the position battle. Against Kansas City last Thursday he caught two passes for 46 yards, including an impressive, pylon-diving 26-yard touchdown reception. The effort he had finishing that catch and score was duly noted.
Along with his offensive play, Sanzenbacher also returned three kicks, averaging 29.3 yards on them. His longest was a 34-yard kickoff return, and he had a 52-yard punt return negated because of a blocking penalty on Wright. It's safe to say very few around the Bengals agreed with the referee's opinion of Wright's block. Sanzenbacher's return was good, in their eyes.
Just like for everyone else, Jones' injury opens up an "opportunity" for Sanzenbacher to show he can serve as an adequate replacement.
"We talked about it in our room the other day when Marv got hurt," Urban said. "I said, 'Look, Marv, we're supporting you, we love you, we want you to get healthy, but for the next guy up, this is a great opportunity.'
"They're going to get more reps, more reps with the 1s and more opportunity to show what they can do."
Saturday's Week 2 preseason game against the Jets will be the first time we get an idea of just how the Bengals might replace Jones.