Despite being a tall, athletic receiver who put up more than 1,000 receiving yards during his final season in the SEC, Cobi Hamilton has failed to show himself as a consistent, quality player at the NFL level during his brief NFL career. As a rookie, Hamilton spent the season as a member of the Bengals’ practice squad and some feel as if he will spend this season there as well.
Based on number-of-offensive-snaps-played (Hamilton played 68 percent of the offensive snaps against the Jets), it seems as if the Bengals are hoping Hamilton displays talent that goes beyond a practice squad/future special team player. Unfortunately, Hamilton has yet to prove he is worthy of a spot on the 53-man final roster.
The Bengals have a plethora of weapons in the passing game excluding their wide-receivers; Jermaine Gresham (TE), Giovani Bernard (RB), and Tyler Eifert (TE) all had more than 445 receiving yards last year. Additionally, the established presence of A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu, combined with their production, indicates it is unlikely for another receiver to break into the team on a consistent basis. As a result, Hamilton must prove that he can add value on special teams.
While the Bengals will likely carry six or more receivers, the reality of the situation suggests that only three of these guys will regularly be involved with the first-team offense due to the pass-catching abilities of the aforementioned Bernard, Eifert, and Gresham. Given the amount of snaps Hamilton has received, it is fair to assume his coaches believe he can become a viable threat in the passing game. However, he has failed to produce much early this season and others (Dane Sanzenbacher, Brandon Tate, etc) provide more value on special teams.
As it stands, Hamilton will most likely spend another year on the practice squad. However, if he can make an impact both on offense and in special teams against Arizona, he may be able to increase his stock from a practice-teamer to a member of the final roster.
To achieve this, he needs to prove he can be targeted frequently and come up with catches. Even more important is the fact that he must demonstrate he can be an effective player on special teams like fellow WR’s Tate and Sanzenbacher, who excel in such situations.
Hamilton has the talent and tools to be successful in this league – unfortunately for him, he is on a team that does not lack pass-catching options. As a result, he needs to show he can contribute positively as a special-teamer. Also, it would help if he provided better production catching the ball as he has been very lackluster through the first two preseason games
This week’s game against the Cardinals is crucial for Hamilton to show that he belongs on the 53-man roster. If he can perform on special teams and in the receiving game, there is a good chance he may supplant one of the other receivers on the final roster due to his upside and physicality, something Sanzenbacher and Tate lack.
However, if he fails to impress offensively and is only mediocre otherwise, it is highly unlikely he makes the final squad. While he certainly has talent, he is competing for a spot on a team that seeks players who can have a meaningful impact this season.
Given his situation, a good-to-great performance for Hamilton on Sunday is an absolute necessity for him to make the final roster.