Bengals philosophy and depth causes little concern about Hawkins injury

Joe Robbins

The Cincinnati Bengals aren't concerned about Hawkins being out. They have depth at slot receiver and a philosophy that may neutralize a constant need for someone in the slot anyway.

While the Bengals are seeking a second opinion regarding the severity and treatment with Andrew Hawkins' ankle injury, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden feels comfortable enough about the team's depth.

Whether it's Mohamed Sanu stepping into the slot with A.J. Green and Marvin Jones on the outside, or Tyler Eifert splitting out, the Bengals developed a roster deep enough to Hawkins' injury in the slot. Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden isn't concerned right now. He even points out that the team's two tight ends in Eifert and Jermaine Gresham would reduce the overall snaps for a slot receiver anyway.

"I think the slots is covered,"Gruden said via "With Tyler and Jermaine on the field at the same time we’ll only have two receivers. But we'll still feature the three-receiver set and the four-receiver set from time to time and that's when they get their reps. Probably not as much as they had last year, but you never know. It depends on how the game is going. Who's doing what and what type of personnel package we feel like is best to go after the defense."

If the team goes into a three-wide situation (and Eifert isn't the third receiver), and Hawkins remains out with an ankle, look for Sanu to step into the slot with Jones and Green on the outside.

"(The slot) fits (Sanu) perfectly," Gruden said. "He's a great target, very smooth, and the bigger body on smaller nickels (cornerbacks)."

The one thing that the Bengals won't be able to replicate is Hawkins' speed and big-play ability; Hawkins posted two touchdown receptions of 50 yards or more against the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins. Yet, for as quick as he is, Hawkins failed to generate more than 47 yards during any game after week four and only twice generated a double-digit average.

Hawkins was third on the team in receptions (51), yards receiving (533), and touchdowns (4), but only sixth with a 10.5 yard/reception average.

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