Bengals looking to develop receiver opposite Green

In a training camp that will have a lot of competition for roster and starting spots, one of the more intriguing battles to watch will be to see who lines up opposite A.J. Green at wide receiver.

With the departures of Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell via free agency, the Bengals drafted Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu in the third round and California’s Marvin Jones in the fifth.

Sanu, who set a Big East single-season record last year with 115 receptions, can play both inside and outside and is a more physical receiver. He has great hands and has the strength to break away from tackles due to his upper body strength.

Said receivers coach James Urban of Sanu: “He’s very crafty. He had a great knack for sticking his foot in the ground and using his big body to get in between the defender and the ball. He uses his body very well. He has a great natural instinct in zone, a good feel for where the zones are and how to stick and slide in zone. He has great hands too. So you put those things together, you get 115 catches.”

When asked if he can make the adjustment from being an inside receiver to playing primarily outside, Sanu said that it would not be a problem. In his first two years at Rutgers, Sanu played on the outside but went inside last year due to the lack of depth at the position.

Jones has been considered by some scouts to be a more polished route runner and can make the tough catches in traffic. He also has versatility in special teams as a punt returner which could be big considering that the Bengals had bouts of inconsistency there last year.

“With the Bengals, you look at Andy Dalton, he’s a great talent and he’s very young. You look at A.J. Green, who was in the same high school class as me. Those two, the way they work and the way they’ve done things this past season is very incredible,” Jones said. “That’s something great that I wanted to be a part of.”

Both though are considered to be possession receivers, which is what the Bengals needed last season. A.J. Green tied for the league lead in catches over 40 yards with eight but once Jordan Shipley was lost for the year with an Achilles injury, tight end Jermaine Gresham became the possession guy.

It still remains possible that the Bengals could try to add a veteran via free agency since among the returning receivers, the one with the most experience is Shipley, who is entering his third season in the league. Andrew Hawkins has played three seasons of professional football, but two of those were in the CFL with Montreal.

Head coach Marvin Lewis though doesn’t seem that concerned with having a young cast of receivers. The conventional wisdom is if he thought it was a major need, he would have tried to add one early in free agency.

NOTES, QUOTES

Pike will get chance on tryout basis at Bengals minicamp

–Linebacker Rey Maualuga was shocked and saddened over the news of the death of All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau. Maualuga had attended Seau’s golf tournament the past couple years.

“He looked great and was having fun being around everyone. He was just another guy who seemed happy,” Maualuga said. “It’s a tough situation. This is not a good day for anyone.”

This was the second straight year that Maualuga got to play in Seau’s tournament. Even before Maualuga got a chance to meet Seau, he had a big impact on Maualuga.

When it came time to pick a college, Maualuga attended Southern Cal because of what Seau accomplished there.

–When the team’s rookie minicamp takes place May 11-13, one of the more interesting names for people to watch will be quarterback Tony Pike, the former University of Cincinnati standout who was drafted in the sixth round by Carolina in 2010. He underwent elbow surgery though last year and received an injury settlement from the Panthers.

“It’s something that growing up in Cincinnati and always being a fan of the Bengals, I always wanted to be a part of that organization,” Pike said. “For them to give me a shot, that’s all I can ask for. I’m excited about it.”

–Jim Lippincott retired as the team’s director of football operations following the draft. Lippincott had been with the team for 20 seasons but is going back to coaching.

With Lippincott’s departure, his duties have been divided among other members of the organization and two scouts were hired.

–With training camp possibly opening on July 26, it will be interesting to see what the logistics will be like for the team’s first training camp at their home complex. Even though the team will be using the practice fields, the Macy’s Music Fest will be going on inside the stadium while team meetings are taking place.

QUOTE OF NOTE: “All of these guys come from outstanding programs. They are used to the training regimen and things like how to eat and so forth. It has just fallen into place that way this year. Programs like Alabama, Wisconsin, Georgia, Clemson, Boise State, Cal, Iowa, and Penn State … all great programs. Looking at how this all fell into place and where they came from is impressive. Also looking at what they have on their campuses is impressive too. They all won a lot of games in the places where they have been in their careers, so that is also a positive.” – Coach Marvin Lewis on all of his team’s draft picks coming from major programs.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

There was one position change that came out when the team announced uniform numbers. DeQuin Evans, who was on the practice squad last year, has moved from linebacker to defensive end. Evans played on the defensive line at Kentucky.

With the signings of college free agents, the roster currently stands at 87. It is possible they still could add another free agent at linebacker with re-signing Brandon Johnson as one of the priorities.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: PK Mike Nugent (tendered at $2.654 million; signed April 25).

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

–RB Cedric Benson has three straight 1,000-yard seasons with the Bengals but offensive coordinator Jay Gruden wants to go more with a running back by committee approach which Benson has balked at. Expect both sides to have a mutual parting of the ways.

–CB Kelly Jennings was mainly the corner in nickel situations once Leon Hall went down due to injury. Considering the lack of depth in the secondary, they would like to re-sign him.

–LB Brandon Johnson has been a key backup at weak-side linebacker and has been one of the top players on special teams. He is looking for a multi-year deal after three straight seasons on one-year contracts.

–TE Bo Scaife spent all of last season on injured reserve after injuring his neck. He is not expected to be back.

–OG Bobbie Williams went into last season with the team’s longest streak of consecutive games but ended up serving four games for a violation of the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances then fractured his ankle late in the season and missed the last three games. Going into his 13th year despite being entrenched at right guard, he is not a priority to re-sign.

–S Gibril Wilson saw a mix of defensive and special teams snaps after missing 2010 due to a knee injury. Could be back on a one-year deal.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

–OT Anthony Collins: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
–LS Clark Harris: RFA tendered at $1.26M with seventh-round pick as compensation); terms unknown.
–DT Nick Hayden: Potential ERFA; $615,000/1 yr.
–CB Adam Jones: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
–LB Manny Lawson: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
–TE Donald Lee: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
–S Jeromy Miles: ERFA; $540,000/1 yr.
–S Reggie Nelson: UFA; $18M/4 yrs.
–PK Mike Nugent: Franchise FA; $2.654M/1 yr.
–RB Cedric Peerman: Potential ERFA; $615,000/1 yr, terms unknown.
–FB Chris Pressley: Potential RFA; $2.1M/2 yrs.
–LB Vincent Rey: Potential ERFA; $450,000/1 yr.
–OT Dennis Roland: UFA; terms unknown.
–DT Pat Sims: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
–LB Dan Skuta: RFA tendered at $1.26M with no compensation); $1.26M/1 yr.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

–CB Jason Allen: UFA Texans; $8.2M/2 yrs.
–DE Jamaal Anderson: UFA Colts; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
–OG Jacob Bell: UFA Rams; 1 yr, terms unknown (subsequently retired).
–RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis: UFA Patriots; $9M/3 yrs.
–DE Derrick Harvey: UFA Broncos; 1 yr, terms unknown.
–CB Terence Newman: FA Cowboys; terms unknown.
–OG Travelle Wharton: FA Panthers; $10M/3 yrs, $3.2M guaranteed.

PLAYERS LOST

–WR Andre Caldwell: UFA Broncos; $1.8M/2 yrs.
–S Chris Crocker (released).
–DE Jonathan Fanene: UFA Patriots; $12M/3 yrs, $3.85M guaranteed.
–OG Nate Livings: UFA Cowboys; $19M/5 yrs, $6.2M guaranteed.
–OG Mike McGlynn: UFA Colts; terms unknown.
–CB Rico Murray (released).
–LB Keith Rivers (traded Giants).
–DE Frostee Rucker: UFA Browns; $21M/5 yrs, $8M guaranteed.
–WR Jerome Simpson: UFA Vikings; $2M/1 yr.