Why Andrew Hawkins' Roster Spot is Secure and Jordan Shipley's Is Not

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 18: Andrew Hawkins #16 of the Cincinnati Bengals eludes a tackle against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 18, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Bengals beat the Rams 20-13. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

This is the aspect of training camp and talent evaluation that is unpredictable; how much can a particular player progress and how does another player recovery from injury? It has become almost automatic to expect players to fully recover from injuries and regain their previous form; especially when a player like Jordan Shipley is known for his work ethic and never-give-up attitude. It's also reasonable to have lowered expectations for undrafted players that don't fit the prototype size; a player like the 5'7" 180 lbs Andrew Hawkins. Jordan Shipley was a very successful receiver at a big school (Texas), was a third round pick in the NFL draft and led all rookie receivers in catches and yards in 2010. Andrew Hawkins played at a much smaller school (Toledo), went undrafted and was cut by the Rams after one practice before catching 23-balls as a rookie for the Bengals in 2011 as Shipley's slot replacement. Sometimes a player loses his job due to injury, but even when/if Shipley gets healthy, I believe Hawkins is the better player for the Bengals and is as close to a lock to make the final roster as you can find. I'm NOT sure Jordan Shipley's place on the 2012 Cincinnati Bengals' roster is secure.

A Different Offense

When Jordan Shipley arrived as a rookie in 2010, he came to the perfect offense for his skill-set. Bob Bratkowski was the offensive coordinator and used his slot receiver as his primary target. With Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco on the outside, Bratkowski used Shipley on option routes from the slot the same way he used T.J. Houshmanzadeh. With Shipley's smarts, vision and toughness, his college transition seemed to be a breeze. He caught 52-passes for 600-yards (11.5 ypc) and three touchdowns as a rookie. We only had the opportunity to see Shipley in Jay Gruden's west coast offense for about 6-quarters of football which resulted in four-receptions for 14-yards (3.5 ypc). The current offense uses much more two-TE sets instead of the three-WR packages that Bratkowski deployed. The routes are shorter and the receivers are asked to gain yards after the catch in the current system. Andrew Hawkins offers that run-after-catch ability. The Bengals like to use Hawkins on reverses, screens, pitches, shovel passes and hand offs; anything to get the ball into Hawkins' hands. It's obvious that Jay Gruden spends valuable time injecting plays for Hawkins into the offensive game plan.

More Than a Receiver

If you're going to be the 4th, 5th or 6th receiver on an NFL team's depth chart, you MUST contribute on special teams. Currently, Andrew Hawkins backs up both kick and punt return spots with the opportunity to win one. Jordan Shipley returned early in college but hasn't had many opportunities to showcase his abilities in the NFL. Currently, he's not even listed on either depth chart as a returner. Andrew Hawkins also plays on both punt and kick coverage units. He's probably their best gunner of punts. With his unique agility and acceleration, Hawkins cannot be blocked one-on-one. Here's an example:


Besides contributing on every special teams unit, Hawkins is a valuable chess piece in the Bengals offense. He lines up out wide, in the backfield and in the slot. Jordan Shipley has played 99% of his NFL snaps from the slot.

Age, Health and Ability

Age and health are the easy to see. Jordan Shipley will be turning 27-years old this season while Andrew Hawkins turned 26 just five months ago. Not much of a difference, but when you consider health, Shipley is more of concern. He missed the 2004 (Knee) and 2005 (Hamstring) seasons at Texas with injuries. Shipley ended up playing for the Longhorns for six-years. Hawkins missed 6-games for Toledo in 2006 but it wasn't anything serious. He was held out for a possible medical red shirt. Current health favors Hawkins as well. Shipley is recovering from a reconstructed knee and isn't back to full health yet.

The hard part to accept is ability. Where is Jordan Shipley after his 2nd major knee injury? He's recovered once before but that was 8-years ago when he was an 18-year old young man. Andrew Hawkins is the Bengals' most laterally explosive player on the team. His ability to stop, start and get to full speed in a flash is rare. Even healthy, Shipley doesn't compare. You'd think, at the very least, Jordan Shipley has the advantage when it comes to hands, toughness and experience. Instead, Hawkins is one of the hardest working, mentally tough players on the team. You would have to be after going undrafted, getting cut, and fighting through lower-level professional leagues waiting for another opportunity. Hawkins has good hands also and a very surprising catch radius. He made a few incredible catches vs. the Steelers and Ravens last year. And, as far as experience goes, Hawkins has more playing and practice time in Jay Gruden's offense than Shipley does. Hawkins has caught more balls from Andy Dalton than Shipley has also.


Visual Comparison

Skills - Advantage

Andrew Hawkins

Jordan Shipley

Size

X

Speed/Agility/Accel

X

Special Teams Value

X

Experience in System

X

Offensive Versatility

X

NFL Production

X

Age & Injury History

X

Run After Catch

X

Hands

X

X
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