CINCINNATI -- Before turning our full attention to free agency, the draft and the 2015 season, let's take one last look back at 2014.
We're doing that this week through this position-by-position review of the Cincinnati Bengals' recent 10-5-1 campaign that ended with a wild-card round loss at Indianapolis.
Previous entries in the series. Now we continue with receivers:
2014 cap value: $10.7 million total -- A.J. Green ($6.3 million), Dane Sanzenbacher ($1.2 million), Brandon Tate ($1 million), Mohamed Sanu ($730,813), Marvin Jones ($615,950), James Wright ($432,456), Greg Little ($417,353)
Highlights: When Green was healthy, he was really good. The problem, though, was that he missed parts of five games during the regular season and playoffs with a toe injury and a concussion. Still, he made a fourth-straight Pro Bowl after leading the team with 69 catches for 1,041 yards. Among his highlights were his career-high 12-catch day at Houston, and an 11-catch performance two weeks later in a loss to Pittsburgh. In that Steelers game, he easily beat cornerback Ike Taylor for an 81-yard touchdown reception on a ball quarterback Andy Dalton put in the perfect spot. It was one of several times the pair hooked up perfectly on deep routes.
Along with Green, Sanu was a highlight waiting to happen. Sanu became a runner and a passer as part of the Bengals' gadget- and misdirection-filled offense. However, Sanu's career-high seven drops weren't much worth remembering.
Lowlights: We'll get to the slew of injuries further down, but along with them, it was a travesty the Bengals weren't able to much use rookie James Wright. Just as he began getting comfortable in the offense, he suffered a knee injury he never returned from. He got hurt during the Week 12 win at Tampa Bay. During the game, he caught three passes for 59 yards -- all were third-down conversions.
From a game-play standpoint, the receivers' worst moment of the regular season came when Green couldn't hang on to a ball he had just caught late in the finale at Pittsburgh. The Bengals were driving for a comeback when he fumbled after taking a hard hit to the head by a safety. The Steelers recovered the football and held on for the win, and in turn, the AFC North division title.
Play of the year: We'll go with Wright's 30-yard catch on a late third-and-11 at Tampa Bay. The conversion may look inconsequential in the box score now, but at the time, it was an enormous play. When he jumped for the pass along the sideline and came down with a foot and knee in bounds, he helped give the Bengals necessary positive field position with about 2:30 remaining in the game. Cincinnati went from inside its own 20 to near midfield on the play. That was important because five plays later, the Bengals punted. Instead of the Buccaneers getting the ball at midfield, they took over at their own 20. They nearly got in field-goal range, but thanks to a key penalty, they didn't. Cincinnati held on, winning a third road game in as many weeks.
Necessary improvements: Health has to be the No. 1 priority for the Bengals' receivers heading into next season. Not only did Wright and Green miss significant action, but the unit also was without Marvin Jones the entire season. Jones was the second-leading receiver in 2013. Due to the injuries, the Bengals had to get even more creative with their tight ends, running backs and eligible offensive linemen. The injuries at the pass-catching positions were so glaring in the playoff game that third-string running back Rex Burkhead had to fill in as a slot receiver.