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Bengals' Tyler Boyd wants respect, and that starts with winning

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CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd understands the correlation between recognition and team success. But that doesn't mean he's thrilled about it.

Boyd is one of 11 wide receivers with 1,000 or more receiving yards in each of the past two seasons. But because Boyd was on the NFL's worst team in 2019, perhaps the fifth-year veteran doesn't receive nearly as many mentions as the others who have accomplished that feat.

"If that's what it's gotta take for us to get talked about, then it's time for us to start winning," Boyd said Wednesday. "But I'm all about the respect. You always gotta respect players that are legit guys in this league. Because I've done it."

Boyd and running back Joe Mixon have been the Bengals' most reliable offensive contributors over the past two seasons. In 2019, Mixon posted his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season, an improbable feat considering he had just 320 combined yards in the first eight games.

Yet, despite both arguably being among the best at their respective positions, Boyd and Mixon were left out of the NFL Network's and ESPN's offseason ranking of the league's top 100 players.

"If not both of us, at least one of us should have been in the top 100," Boyd said.

But there's no question how those at One Paul Brown Stadium feel about Boyd.

Before last offseason, Boyd was given a four-year deal worth $43 million. It's worth noting that Boyd got a long-term deal while A.J. Green, a seven-time Pro Bowler who has battled injuries the past few years, was relegated to the franchise tag for the 2020 season.

While Green missed all of 2019 with an ankle injury, Boyd was Cincinnati's unquestioned top target. His 148 targets were tied for the sixth highest in the league and were 67 more than Auden Tate, the next closest Bengal.

In addition to his on-field production, Boyd grew into one of the team's top leaders, which always is important for a rebuilding franchise. That was evident during Cincinnati's Week 16 game against Miami, when Boyd fought through a cramp to stay on the field to allow the Bengals to score a touchdown on the final play of regulation that eventually forced overtime.

"Tyler knows he's one of our best players and [felt], 'I need to be out there on the most critical play of the game,'" Bengals coach Zac Taylor said the day after the game. "To get himself back out there, knowing they're going to double him, and he got out there and gave them everything he had."

The wins Boyd and the Bengals are seeking could be difficult to obtain this season.

Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, the top overall pick in April's draft, is the presumed Week 1 starter and will try to find his footing despite having no offseason team workouts and no preseason games because of COVID-19. But even if the victories don't come, Boyd could still see an uptick in his numbers.

If Green and John Ross can stay healthy, Boyd should receive less attention from defenses. Boyd's function in Taylor's offense could also change if the unit finds overall improvement.

Last season, the Bengals opted for quick, short passes. Cincinnati led the NFL in average time to throw, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Among qualifying receivers, Boyd ranked 57th in air yards per target and was 129th in percentage of receptions that were 20 or more yards, per ESPN Stats & Information.

If Burrow can get up to speed quickly and those around Boyd stay healthy, the Bengals could achieve the progress those around the team expect. And Boyd could receive the recognition he believes is long overdue.

"I've been in this position my whole life," Boyd said. "I've always been overlooked. I always didn't get the respect I deserved. Every year, I play with that chip on my shoulder. It's just going to continue to build."