Only one fact holds indisputable among the Bengals WRs as training camp leaves Sunday's mock game behind and enters the first game week.
“We know A.J.’s going to be on the field,” QB Andy Dalton said. “That’s the only one we know that’s going to be out there.”
The rest remains undecided. And Marvin Lewis couldn't be happier.
While outsiders see the battle of the No. 2 WR position as the most important in camp, Lewis repeatedly downplays the competition. He doesn't see players vying for a starting job, he sees depth beyond what was available last season.
“The group is a lot better than we were a year ago and that's where we need to be,” he said. “Everybody keeps saying, 'Who's second?' Well, two, three, four, five and six are better than they were a year ago. And that's the most important thing.”
Last year, the group behind Green was Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, Andrew Hawkins, Ryan Whalen and Brandon Tate. Whalen caught four passes and Tate didn't play a down at receiver. Simpson and Caldwell were inconsistent.
The first depth chart will be released Monday and likely Armon Binns or Brandon Tate will be listed as the starter at No. 2 WR. Both showed flashes to warrant the position during Sunday's mock game. Binns caught a team-high five passes for 69 yards, including two acrobatic sideline snags, and Tate ha four catches for 30 yards and a 5-yard TD.
A consistent narrative coming from Bengals coaches and players is the team expects to use a rotation following Green with every receiver taking snaps outside and/or in the slot. Perhaps instead of one No. 2, the Bengals are rolling out three No. 3s.
“There’s not going to be one guy that’s going to be in there,” Dalton said. “There’s going to be the guy that’s going to walk out there for the first snap of the game, but other than that, everybody’s done enough here to where they’re going to be getting some playing time.”
A model for the concept exists. Take a look at the passing games of the Packers and Saints last season. Granted, they passed more than the Bengals are expected too, but the template remains.
Green Bay had five WRs catch at least 25 passes last season. Four caught at least six touchdowns.
For the Saints, Marques Colston led the receivers with 80 catches for 1,143 yards. Lance Moore, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem rotated to combine for 124 receptions and 1,750 yards with nobody catching fewer than 32 passes.
Nobody expects the Bengals to turn into the Saints or Packers, but signs point toward utilizing the same philosophy on the wide receiver position.
“You can see they can all make plays,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. “Tate made a couple good plays, Binns had another good day, they’re all good.”
Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for Bengals updates from training camp at @CBSSportsNFLCIN.