According to reports, the Cincinnati Bengals will not have A.J. Green this weekend against the Carolina Panthers and maybe it's for the best... He needs rest to recover and if the rehabilitation favors a quick resolve, the Bengals could use him against the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens in the succeeding weeks -- important games for postseason prospects.
Not having Green obviously hurts.
Green and Marvin Jones, who reportedly suffered an ankle injury during practice last week, are in the infirmary... as is Tyler Eifert. It's possible Cincinnati will only have Mohamed Sanu, Dane Sanzenbacher, Brandon Tate and James Wright at wide receiver this weekend... and the following weeks if they don't sign anyone else and resolution is stagnant with Green and Jones. Giovani Bernard is an obvious threat -- he's the recipient of 20.4 percent of Dalton's targeted throws (third behind Green and Sanu). Tight end Jermaine Gresham has 13 receptions on the season, but no one really takes him seriously anymore.
Let's look at some options.
Cobi Hamilton is experienced in this offense, knows the system and offensive coordinator. Couldn't he come in for a spell while A.J. Green and Marvin Jones rehabilitate?
Saying that Cobi Hamilton struggled during the preseason would be an understatement. When training camp started, he had an opportunity to make a case for the 53-man roster -- and he may have been all-but-locked for a position if he kept working at it. Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson really liked Hamilton.
"Hamilton made spectacular plays in practice and I watched him improve every week," said Jackson in April. "We have a very talented wide receiver group but I don't think you can ever have too much. It’s going to be fun to see where he fits because he's a big physical player."
Unfortunately, he dropped it. Literally, he and two others lead the entire NFL with three dropped passes during the preseason. And two passes that targeted him led to interceptions, arguably because he didn't fight through either one.
When the team released him during final cuts, from our understanding, he was offered a contract to join the team's practice squad but declined... signing with Philadelphia's practice squad instead. So even if the Bengals were interested in bringing him back for a spell, who knows if he'd even take it. It almost feels this marriage didn't end on the best of terms. Then again, an unemployed man can't really be picky.
What about the practice squad?
The Bengals have Colin Lockett and Tevin Reese on the practice squad. During his four-year career with San Diego State, Locket became the all-time leader in kickoff return yards (2,216). He posted 20 career touchdowns (16 receiving, three kickoff returns and one rushing) with 130 receptions. Lockett also has experience on defense, which could translate more on special teams.
And that's the thing that benefits Lockett... special teams. The issue with having only four wide receivers is the bottom of the Cincinnati's depth. Sanu and Tate will likely start this weekend. But if someone gets hurt, then Cincinnati is in trouble. That said, consider special teams.
Tevin Reese was signed to the practice squad after Hamilton moved on to Philadelphia. Reese (5-10, 170) was a seventh-round 2014 draft selection by San Diego by way of the Baylor Bears. He had five receptions for 43 yards for the Chargers in preseason and was waived on Aug. 31.
Reese caught 187 passes for 3,102 yards and 24 touchdowns in four seasons at Baylor, leaving Waco as the school’s third-leading receiver in all three categories. Reese scored 21 of his 24 touchdowns on plays of 40 yards-or-longer, the most in NCAA history.
An explosive player, the average length of Reese’s 24 touchdowns was 50.6 yards and nine of his touchdowns were on plays of 60 yards-or-longer. Reese was also part of the first class of Bears to play in four straight bowl games, capped off with the program’s first-ever Big 12 championship and BCS bowl berth.
Bengals made a mistake not signing Andrew Hawkins.
Some harbor resentment that Cincinnati didn't offer Andrew Hawkins a better compensation level, essentially allowing him to leave when Cleveland signed him to a four-year offer sheet worth $13.6 million. And there are some that are calling Cincinnati's indifference towards Hawkins a mistake... after A.J. Green was carted off during stretches prior to Wednesday's practice.
It really boils down to how you saw his production.
We're talking about a guy who averaged 2.9 receptions and 33.3 yards per game in his past two seasons with the Bengals. We're talking about a situation where, during the offseason, Cincinnati had A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Giovani Bernard, Tyler Eifert, Jeremy Hill and Jermaine Gresham (probably shouldn't include him in this argument).
Where are we playing Hawkins?
As a special teams gunner? Hasn't Dre Kirkpatrick carried that torch somewhat brilliantly?
Additionally, Hawkins played 35 games with the Bengals. The amount of games where he posted more than five receptions or more: Six. Amount of games with 50 yards receiving or more: Six.
Don't get me wrong... Hawkins, who I really enjoyed watching, had brilliant moments. When Andy Dalton was flailing around like a duck in water, Hawkins found a way to get open for the scrambling quarterback. Dalton doesn't do that much anymore and most of Cincinnati's routes are based entirely on timing... not really a strength of Hawkins.
Was it a mistake for Cincinnati not to offer a higher compensation package (aka, a second-round level)? Or were they just going through the motions and if no one signed him to an offer sheet, so much the better. Some say the Bengals were cheap or misjudged the market. Nah. If they really wanted to keep Hawkins, they could have. There just wasn't any room for him anymore.
Yet, injuries have happened and the team's receiver depth has taken a hit. It happens. But if it makes you feel better to say "I told you so"...