If you're as big a Bengals' follower as I am, you've probably wandered why one of the fastest men in football can't seem to get on the field.
When the former Auburn standout Onterio McCalebb joined the Bengals in 2013 as an undrafted free agent in 2013, the Bengals immediately converted him to cornerback. Two years later, and despite some initial excitement, it's clear that the experiment has failed.
Now, McCalebb is back on offense, where the 5-10, 175-pounder thrives. McCalebb stands as one of only two players in SEC history with at least 2,000 yards rushing, over 500 yards receiving and more than 1,000 yards in kickoff returns.
At the 2013 NFL Combine, McCalebb turned in an impressive performance in the 40-yard dash by recording an official time of 4.28 seconds, the fastest by a running back. In short, McCalebb is the perfect slot receiver.
At Auburn, McCalebb faced off against some of the better defenses in the nation. Many of those defenders are now in the NFL. Yet he proved his effectiveness as both a running back and a receiver.
In 2011, McCalebb caught 32 passes for 344 yards, an average of 10.8 yards per catch, and scored two touchdowns. His career stats showed 63 receptions for 620 yards, an average of 9.8 yards per catch, and three touchdowns.
The primary thing that has seemed to keep McCalebb off of the field is his size. But that size could be an advantage for him as he lines up in the slot. A slot receiver lines up a yard behind the line of scrimmage, allowing him to get a clean release with a harder chance to jam.
A smaller slot receiver also has a lower center of gravity, which allows him to make faster cuts and makes him a threat from the middle of the field to break in either direction. And the top outside corners usually have a difficult time with this type of receiver.
Without a good cornerback, trying to cover a speedy slot receiver is a losing proposition. Linebackers don't have the quick burst, top-end speed to do so, and most safeties are more comfortable in deep zone. So a good slot receiver has a distinct advantage.
"He's got dynamic speed," Bengals' wide receivers coach James Urban told Geoff Hobson, editor of Bengals.com. "He did some great things with the ball in his hands in college. Let's give him a shot with the ball in his hands."
Good things are sure to follow.