Bengals: 5 Things to Watch vs. Cardinals

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Ryan Whalen (and the rest of the Receivers)

Ryan Whalen has been a stalwart amongst the receiving group despite being relentlessly overlooked.

October 21, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Chris Rainey (22) tries to get past Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ryan Whalen (88) on a kickoff return at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Fans have often wanted to move on from him even though he’s a sure-handed backup who contributes well on special teams.  Whalen had a strong game against the Jets after not playing in the game against the Chiefs.  Whalen is so overlooked that I couldn’t even find a quote, much less a thought about him following the game.

The Bengals have clearly been pushing Cobi Hamilton in efforts to find out whether or not he’s worthy of a roster spot.  He’s struggled in the Bengals’ two preseason games thus far.  He’s received 14 targets in two games but has only been able to produce two catches for 11 yards.  Hamilton is clearly the most talented receivers amongst the Bengals backups which includes himself, Whalen, and special teams aces, Brandon Tate and James Wright.  If the Bengals continue to give Hamilton the bulk of the offensive snaps, he’ll need to produce a big game tomorrow if he hopes to stay in this race.

As far as Tate and Wright go, both are largely what the Bengals expected.  Tate is a solid, yet unspectacular returner, but his job is in serious jeopardy due to Adam Jones potentially taking over punt return duties and Dane Sanzenbacher showing well as a kick returner during the Bengals first two games (other than one fumbled return).  Wright was drafted for his special teams prowess, but has committed a couple of blocking penalties during the team’s first two games, so he’s put himself in jeopardy.

The receivers’ situation will be decided, in part, when the coaches decide how many they’ll keep for the upcoming season.  I personally base my thoughts in the assumption that the team will keep only five due to the many receiving options the Bengals possess on offense, outside of the receivers, and assuming they’ll keep more cornerbacks, such as R.J. Stanford, to contribute towards special teams.  If this is true, then only one of these receivers can make it.  If the team decides to keep six, then they may be able to afford keeping at these one of these receivers without expecting them to contribute towards special teams.  This would be music to the ears of Hamilton as he has struggled to contribute anything towards special teams.

When watching tomorrow’s game, I’ll be most interested to see if the team continues to overlook Whalen or if they put him on the field as much as they do Hamilton.  If given an equal opportunity, I wouldn’t be surprised if Whalen continues to be the best all-around contributor on the unit and, hence, locks up his roster spot because of it.