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Malone's Changes Paying Off In A Big Way

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone (80) celebrates with running back Joe Mixon (28) at the team's NFL football practice.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone (80) celebrates with running back Joe Mixon (28) at the team's NFL football practice.

The ingredients for a breakout season seem to be there for wide receiver Josh Malone.

With both A.J. Green and John Ross sidelined with injuries at the start of camp, Malone, a third-year receiver from Tennessee, has made the most of his opportunity. Malone is taking reps with the No. 1s and showcasing the playmaking ability that eluded him in his first two seasons with the Bengals.

He's looked strong early on in training camp. The 6'3" 205 lb receiver has made plays in the middle of the field and on the outside. What has impressed many observers is Malone can beat the coverage with some speed and strength, yet have the ability to go up and pinpoint the ball. It makes Malone a worthy red zone target.

"The offense gives you a lot of options with your routes, gives you a lot of creativity with what you can do with those routes," said Malone. "Personally, I felt like with my playing style this helps out and there is a better fit."

Malone has always had the physical tools. He was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 draft with the 128th overall pick, a selection the Bengals obtained from the Vikings when they traded down in the second round. Yet, injuries and inconsistency has limited his production early on. 

As a rookie in 2017, Malone saw his playing time increase as season progressed, and ended the year by starting seven of Cincinnati's final eight games as a third wide receiver. He only played in nine games last year and missed a portion of the year with a hamstring injury.

With a new coaching staff in place, a new system and offseason adjustments, Malone is enjoying an eye-opening training camp.

"My workout routine this past offseason was more detailed and rigid to focus on my game and what I just needed to improve on," Malone said. "I've taken everything that I have worked on and brought it to training camp and want to bring it into the season." 

"Josh has been more consistent (during training camp) than he was in the spring," said head coach Zac Taylor. "We told those guys it's still early in camp. You're consistent now, you're making good impressions, but we're asking you to keep that up through these games. We can't see a drop-off. There's a lot of competition at those receiver spots and these guys all know it."

For many receivers, making a significant jump from year two to year three is mostly about understanding the mental game. There are numerous receivers around the league who have made that leap like Davante Adams in Green Bay, Sterling Shepard with the New York Giants and the Bengals' own Tyler Boyd.

Malone would agree that is the blueprint for success.

"It's just a different mindset in year three," Malone said. "You should know everything that is going on, even though we have a new coaching staff. Just being more professional in my approach, taking care of my body and on the mental part of it, just handling things in a different aspect."