If there’s one position to watch for roster battles when the Bengals open training camp next week, there may not be a more fierce competition then the wide receiver spot. As of now, the projected top-5 receivers consist of 4 drafted players. A.J. Green(1st-round), Mohamed Sanu(3rd), Jordan Shipley(3rd), Brandon Tate(3rd), and Armon Binns (undrafted) have all drew the praises of coaches and other players this offseason as they’ve thrived in minicamps and OTAs. Sanu and Shiply are all but locks, and Tate and binns are expected to be on the opening day roster. The 6th, and possibly 7th receiver spot will be fought out by several quality players. Andrew Hawkins may have the upper-hand in that race after plating last year on the active roster. The former 4th-and-Long Star and younger brother of former Bengals safety Artrell Hawkins couldn’t hold onto a roster spot with the St. Louis Rams of Cleveland Browns, but when the Bengals came calling, Baby Hawk, as he’s nicknamed, wasn’t going to let his third and potentially last shot at the NFL slip away from his hands. He caught on with a young Bengals squad that made the playoffs while catching 23 passes for 263 yards. Hawkins recently did an interviewwith Bengals play-by-play man Dan Hoard and expressed his willingness and desire to re-earn a roster spot on this year’s team after finishing last season as a solid contributor:
No – last year doesn’t matter. It’s the nature of the business. They have to put their best players out there. I have to come in here and prove it all over again and that’s the name of the game. You go to work. Teams are not going to be made in the spring. They’re going to be made in training camp and they are going to be made in preseason games. I tell the young guys that everybody is not going to be able to play here, but if you work on becoming a better receiver and put it on film.
Hawkins proved last year he can help the Bengals in a variety of ways, from running reverse receiver runs out of the backfield, his elusiveness on screen passes, his abilities on gunner/punt coverage, or the fact that he totaled a combined 9 receptions for 103 yards in back-to-back games against the Ravens and Steelers. He also finished the season with 3 catches for 34 yards against the Ravens, including this highlight reel snag. Hawk knows he’ll have to contribute in every way he can if he wants to be a part of the 2012 Bengals squad:
I’m hoping to do whatever they ask me to do. If they want me to return punts or kickoffs, or run down on coverage, that’s what a football player does. I’m trying to get better at everything. You’ll have a place to go play. That’s really what it’s all about. Perseverance and hard work man. That’s the name of the game. You have to believe in yourself and you have to put in the work to back it up.