Each week for the rest of the 2012 NFL season, we’ll be doing an “Earning their stripes” series showcasing the top Bengals performers from the previous week.
This weeks’ award goes to wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, who exploded for the game-clinching 50-yard catch-and-run touchdown vs. the Browns on Sunday. The 5-foot-7, 180 lb. bundle of energy out of the University of Toledo now has 10 receptions for 142 yards, both team-highs.
The great thing about Hawk is his down-to-earth humbleness not often seen in Bengals receivers over the past decade, and is desire to play every down of football as if it were his last:
I know there’s a fine line between me playing here and me not playing anywhere. That’s the approach I take every week. And I can’t say it enough: I thank God every day that he’s blessed me the way he has.
Hawk has been one of, if not “the” breakout player of this year, not just for the Bengals, but in the entire NFL. After coming into the year with just 23 career receptions for 263 yards, many questioned whether he would even make it onto the opening-day 43-man gameday roster. Now the former CFL star is making everyone take notice of his play, and he’s arguably been the best offensive player for the Bengals this year. Coming into the season, everyone knew that if the Bengals couldn’t find a legitimate #2 receiver option to make defenses pay for focusing their overages on Pro-Bowler A.J. Green, their offense would struggle mightily.
While Hawkins mainly plays in the slot, making him technically the teams’ #3 receiver, he’s been the most consistent receiving threat thus far, and its now becoming a game of “pick your poison” for opposing defensive coordinators: force Green to beat you deep, or let Hawk kill you slowly and methodically on short catch-and-runs.