Can Lions’ offense match diversity of Bengals’?

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Marvin Jones

Cincinnati had one of the NFL’s most diverse offenses in 2016. During an 8-0 start – en route to a 12-4 finish – the Bengals scored 24 or more points seven times and had 31-plus four times.

Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones played a major role in that offense last year, and now that he’s in Detroit, he sees similarities to the group he left in Cincinnati.

“I think in Cincinnati we had a lot of guys that brought a lot of different things to the table, and it’s no different here,” he said last week.

Cincinnati was seventh in scoring last season despite having backup A.J. McCarron start the final three games. The Lions ranked 18th in scoring.

What made the Bengals offense so good last season, particularly in the first half, was their variety of weapons. Obviously, A.J. Green is one of the top receivers in the NFL, but the No. 2 and 3 receivers each received lucrative contracts this offseason, Jones signing for five years and $40 million in Detroit and Mohamed Sanu signing for five years and $32.5 million in Atlanta.

Cincinnati also has Tyler Eifert, who led all tight ends with 13 touchdowns in 2015. Running back Jeremy Hill struggled in his second season, but was still a threat based on his 5.1-yard average as a rookie in 2014. And his backup, Giovani Bernard, had a career-high in rushing (730 yards) and added 49 receptions.

Lions players will have to prove they can be as effective offensively as the group in Cincinnati, but there are some legitimate comparisons.

Obviously, with Calvin Johnson retiring, the Lions no longer have a player like Green, who’s eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his five seasons. But, the Lions are confident Jones and Golden Tate are capable of being a No. 1 receiver in any given game, and they should be a solid tandem.

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Depth could be an issue for the Lions at receiver, but TJ Jones and Jeremy Kerley are both capable of matching the 33 catches for 394 yards Sanu had last year.

Eifert, a first-round pick in 2013, had his breakout in his third NFL season, and the Lions are hoping for the same from tight end Eric Ebron, a first-rounder in 2014.

One area in particular where the Lions are clearly lacking compared to last year’s Bengals is height. Eifert is 6-foot-6, Green is 6-4 and Marvin Jones and Sano are 6-2. Ebron is 6-4, TJ Jones is 6-foot, Tate is 5-10 and Kerley is 5-9.

Running back Ameer Abdullah wasn’t as effective as Hill as a rookie, but he still averaged 4.2 yards per carry, providing optimism for his second season.

Theo Riddick, like Bernard, is an agile weapon in the passing game — and Riddick was one of the best receiving backs in the NFL in 2015.

Then, of course, there’s the quarterback spot. Matthew Stafford and Andy Dalton entered the NFL with significantly different expectations, but Stafford proved last year he can play well when several players make contributions, which has been what Dalton has done much of his career — at least in the regular season.

Time will tell how the Lions’ offense compares to the one in Cincinnati last year, but Marvin Jones is looking forward to seeing how his new team fares.

“When you’re next to everybody and you see what kind of talent that we have, it’s definitely exciting,” he said.