When it became clear that Marvin Jones wasn't going to play this year, the team moved to find alternatives. As customary, when their infirmary is overpopulated, the team invited an army of free agents for a workout a couple of Tuesdays ago. Former Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders wide receiver Greg Little was joined by former Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts receiver Da'Rick Rogers, as well as former Bengals receiver Cobi Hamilton. At the end of the day, the Bengals signed Little to their 53-man roster.
It was an inauspicious start. Little played seven snaps against the Indianapolis Colts and caught one pass for 13 yards (which happened during garbage time late in the fourth quarter). Little was targeted an additional time, but he dropped the third down attempt -- something that has characterized his career in the NFL. However, his hard work, dedication to this craft and desire to rebound his career, has impressed head coach Marvin Lewis.
"When Greg came out of North Carolina, we really felt like he was a talent," Lewis said via Bengals.com. "When you sit on your couch for a little bit, man, you come to the realization. This guy has really come in here and hit the ground running. He was here at 10 o'clock on Thursday night this week. This guy's in here and just trying to get his career back going. He's got great ability."
Needless to say, Little was a significant contributor on Sunday. He played 30 snaps on offense and scored a Pro Football Focus score of +1.3... second to Mohamed Sanu (who had a team-leading +2.7).
With 11:31 remaining in the first quarter, the Bengals had third-and-14 from the Ravens 22-yard line. It was the first drive of the game -- a possession that already generated a first down and a third down conversion. Andy Dalton was in shotgun with Jermaine Gresham and Giovani Bernard flanking each side. Mohamed Sanu was in the slot on the left, about five yards inside of Brandon Tate. Little was wide right.
Little ran to the five-yard line and spun around toward Dalton, who beautifully launched the football while Little was in mid-route. It was a bit high but the athletic Little hauled it in, forcing one missed tackle and extending an arm towards the goalline. He fell one-yard shy of a touchdown. It's the type of play that shows how much a player is adapting to a new home while becoming comfortable in Hue Jackson's system.
"They've really allowed me to come in and be myself," said Little after the game on Sunday. "I haven't had to live inside of a box at all. This team has been very welcoming in the locker room as well. Very challenging. That's what I like about this team. They have guys that are going to challenge you throughout the week to make plays. I think that's what is helping everyone get better."
The Bengals would score a touchdown three plays later to take an early 7-0 lead.
Fast-forward to the 2:16 mark in the fourth quarter. Cincinnati was losing 24-20 when the Bengals had third-and-two from the Ravens 19-yard line. Little, from the slot, ran toward the left sidelines on a five-yard out.
Both flanking receivers go vertical, Cedric Peerman blocked and Jermaine Gresham chipped and then flared out. By this time, Little was wide open.
"It was a play where we have guys running deep on the outside and the guys in the slot run to the flat," Little said after the game. "We knew they would play off because we had seen that all game. They sunk back in coverage, and I was able to get the ball in my hands and make a play."
In summary, Little caught the third down pass, avoided a tackle and refused to go down (or even out of bounds), picking up 13 yards. Cincinnati, inside the six-yard line, scored the game-winning touchdown four plays later.
And to think that this guy was without a home two weeks ago.
"Those days get long on the couch and you sit there and watch some games some weeks and other weeks you go out and try to pass the time," said Little. "I just told myself when I get another chance do you want to be back on the couch or do you want to be on the field on Sunday? It means a lot to me that they gave me a fair opportunity to come in and compete and I took it upon myself to learn the offense as fast as I could."
We won't label him as the next great thing... but he could be a reliable contributor... Well, as long as he doesn't drop the football, something that's been permanently etched into his scouting report.