Cincinnati Bengals receiver Andrew Hawkins had his breakout year in 2012.
The diminutive slot receiver caught 51 passes for 533 and four touchdowns. A former undrafted free agent, Hawkins spent two years in the CFL before finally finding an NFL home in Cincinnati. And now he’s going to look to build on his success from last year.
The Bengals offense as a whole is going to be one of the more intriguing units in the league this year. They added rookies Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert to a squad that already had capable quarterback Andy Dalton and one of the best receivers in the game in A.J. Green.
All the team needs now is a second receiver to go alongside Green, and Hawkins is sitting in the pole position for the race to be that guy this year.
Speedy and quick, Hawkins excels in the slot, a place where more and more NFL receivers are finding a way to make a living. Receivers like Hawkins are able to take advantage of the mismatches, lining up against interior defenders like linebackers and safeties.
Adept at getting yards after the catch, Hawkins was able to sneak up on defenses last year. This year he isn’t going to be a mystery to defensive coordinators; this year they will be ready for him.
We’ve seen plenty of unheralded players have short bursts of success, but the trick is repeating that success year after year. That will be Hawkins’ challenge this year. He needs to prove that his 2012 wasn’t just a random fluke, but that he belongs in the NFL.
With the other weapons the Bengals will be putting on the field around him, he will have every opportunity to shine in 2013.