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Cobi Hamilton ready to earn bigger role with Cincinnati Bengals

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Tom Pennington

After getting drafted by the Bengals in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, wide receiver Cobi Hamilton spent his rookie season on the practice squad.

"It's pretty hard trying to come in and get immediate playing time as a rookie," Hamilton said, via "There's a lot of stuff you got to know off the field and on the field to earn your time. This year is completely different for me. I know exactly what I have to do to get on the field."

After catching 90 passes for 1,335 yards and five touchdowns his senior year, Hamilton fell further in the draft than most expected.

No matter. The Bengals will give him every opportunity to earn a roster spot and become a contributor this season. That's what they've done with all of the current receivers.

Just ask Mohamed Sanu (3rd round), Marvin Jones (5th) or Ryan Whalen (6th), three players who've gone from developmental picks to significant contributors (Whalen on just special teams).

A.J. Green is the only receiver drafted in the first or second round on the roster. The rest of the group were ether picked later in the draft, or plucked off the waiver wire.

That said, Hamilton has a long battle in front of him just to earn a roster spot before even becoming a contributor to a tea, expected to make the playoffs in 2014.

His biggest weakness to this point has been his reluctance to devote himself to special teams and making an impact there.

"Cobi Hamilton, you were an accomplished wide receiver at the collegiate level, you had 1,300 yards receiving your senior year, but can you prove that you can contribute on special teams? Those kinds of things come up," receivers coach James Urban said.

Hamilton posted seven receptions for 68 yards receiving and a touchdown during the preseason. He showed flashes of a receiver capable of cracking the top 4 of the Bengals' rotation.

Earlier this offseason, Urban is very high on Hamilton going into his second NFL season:

"I have high hopes for him. He has high hopes for himself. He just has to do it," Urban says. "He's got great size, great range. He's a bit of a long strider, but once he gets going he can run, he runs fine. I think he had an adjustment getting into great NFL shape and finding a comfort level like many rookies do and he started to make a lot of plays.

"He worked his tail off. He stayed out with me after practice, he started seeing things and it started to click for him."

With Andrew Hawkins now gone, that leaves an open receiver spot on the final 53-man roster. Hamilton has to make a bigger impact on special teams though to catch on as a fifth or sixth receiver.

Dane Sanzebacher, Brandon Tate and even Whalen have found ways to make an impact on that unit. The Bengals also spent a 7th-round pick on LSU receiver James Wright, a noted special teams ace.

"I came in more mature than I did my rookie year, of course, I'm just really excited for camp because I know what to expect and just kind of how to practice and how to go about things," Hamilton said. "I'll make sure from now until camp to keep myself in tip-top shape so that if I am not here playing, I'm somewhere else playing. My goal is to be somewhere playing this year."

It sounds like Hamilton is ready for the challenge.