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Bengals select James Wright over Cobi Hamilton

It's not that Wright had a greater pedigree. So it explores the question: Did Wright really win the job or did Hamilton lose something that was his to lose?

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Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

If numbers are what does it for you, then how about this: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Cobi Hamilton was the recipient of 20 targets during the preseason. He caught eight and dropped a league-high three passes. Three others (Willie Snead, Chris Hogan, and Andre Holmes) dropped as many as he did -- but no one in the NFL dropped more during the preseason.

In truth, it's not fair to blame every missed completion to Hamilton -- especially when you have Cincinnati's crop of stellar backup quarterback performances to look forward to. Matt Scott and Tyler Wilson had their share of overthrows, underthrows and panic-throws. Let's generously say that, maybe, half of those incompletions that targeted Hamilton were not his fault -- hell, an NFL technician was forced to add any name to the targeted receiver... and since Hamilton was in the state of Ohio, he must have been the target.

Sometimes, they were on him.

Such as this third down scenario from Arizona's nine-yard line with 11:26 to go in the fourth. Hamilton had single-man coverage, an accurate Jason Campbell football and plenty of room beyond the first down marker. A perfect combination. It was all working in his favor.


The pass slide through Hamilton's arms and the Bengals were forced to take a 16-13 lead on a Quinn Sharp field goal. OK, a final score in the preseason means nothing to any of us; but recalling an easy catch going incomplete, which promotes the difference of four points (a reality that semi-decent NFL teams witness every week), can be a sticking point when discussing the team's chemical development. With 1:14 remaining in the second quarter against New York, Hamilton corralled a Matt Scott pass down the sidelines. A south-of-the-border hit knocked the football free.


OK - that's the type of hit that we should write off as "unfortunate" that could happen to anyone (usually helmet + football = bah-bye football). How many passes has A.J. Green dropped? Plenty. However Green isn't a former sixth-round pick fighting for a roster spot, losing the football on a tough hit in front of his own bench.

Hamilton, who posted a game-high 74 yards receiving against the Indianapolis Colts, presented confidence that he made the squad.

"We had a pretty good preseason as a unit. We'll come back to work Monday and get ready for Baltimore. I'm excited," Hamilton said following Cincinnati's win.

It's not arrogance. It's confidence. And you want confidence in your players. Swagger even. Hamilton finished the preseason with eight receptions (third-most on the team), 127 yards receiving (second on the team) and a touchdown that went 50 yards (which was an awesome combination of instinct and speed).

Yet, poor preseason performances led to Hamilton being one of 13 players that the Bengals waived on Saturday.

Due to his production in practice and special teams contributions, Cincinnati went with seventh-round rookie James Wright as their sixth receiver -- a receiver that posted zero receptions at LSU last year and only two preseason grabs this month. The key for Wright is special teams, of course.

"James has done a great job in practices as a receiver," Lewis said via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Every opportunity he's had on special teams he does some good things he's still learning to do it completely right. ... We just like what his upside is and his athleticism and everything that is about him."

Wright also scored an impressive touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the team's preseason opener.



And it's not like Wright successfully applied a mechanism of flawlessness. He had four special teams penalties, a concussion and only two receptions. How in the... This explores the question: Did Wright really win the job or did Hamilton lose something that was his to lose?

With practice squad eligibility, Hamilton may or may not return to Cincinnati. He might feel a little scorned.

There is another possibility.

Wright is keeping the seat warm for another player that Cincinnati will grab through waivers on Sunday -- like they did with Brandon Tate in 2011. And it doesn't have to be a receiver. Maybe there's a player at another position that they have eyes on.