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Dane Sanzenbacher's Route To Final Roster Might Be Through Andrew Hawkins' Injury

With the uncertainty of the length of time that slot receiver Andrew Hawkins will be missing, a door might be opening for Dane Sanzenbacher to make the Bengals' final roster if he continues to perform well.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday afternoon, we received some disturbing news regarding wide receiver Andrew Hawkins' ankle injury. Though it didn't look pretty from the onset of the injury, the team played the severity of the issue close to the vest, but Joe Reedy with The Cincinnati Enquirer gave us the grave news that Hawkins' ankle has been placed in a cast.

Just a couple of days earlier, wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher made quite the impression to the coaching staff against the Falcons. In their preseason opener on prime time, Sanzenbacher scored two long touchdowns--one on a punt return and another on a John Skelton deep strike as he beat his defender. Aside from Josh Johnson's performance, Sanzenbacher was the star of the evening.

In our analyses of the game, our own Mickey Mentzer proposed the idea that if Sanzenbacher continues to play well in the preseason, he could push Brandon Tate from the roster because of their similar ways of contributing to the team. While that's not an inaccurate proclamation per se, Tate had himself a nice game on Thursday as well and doesn't seem to want to go anywhere.

There are now legitimate concerns that Hawkins will be going the way of center Kyle Cook last season, in that he'll be placed on the recall-eligible Injured Reserve list because of the severity of the injury. While Sanzenbacher could be pushing Tate because of the special teams aspect, the door to Sanzenbacher making the final roster may be left open because of Hawkins' unfortunate injury.

The reasoning behind this notion is that Sanzenbacher would likely play the slot receiver role that Hawkins manned over the past two seasons. Sanzenbacher possesses the similar traits that Hawkins does in this role: shiftiness, solid hands and good speed. While he isn't as fast or can do some of the gadgetry that Hawkins provides this offense, he would be a solid band-aid until "Baby Hawk" can return to the lineup.

A lot has to play out over the newt few weeks for this to happen, though. Sanzenbacher has to continue to impress the coaches enough to keep him around and they will need to continue to monitor Hawkins' ankle. It could also happen that if Sanzenbacher makes the coaches comfortable enough, they could decide to take it extra slow and cautious with Hawkins.

Regardless, Hawkins' misfortune could become Sanzenbacher's opportunity to make this team. It's a crazy twist of irony really, as Hawkins replaced an injured Jordan Shipley back in 2011 to seize his opportunity with the Bengals.