BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals moved closer to starting two rookie receivers Opening Day when they waived their most experienced wideout in James Hundon today in order to take Steelers rookie Danny Farmer off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Run Dugans, a third-round pick, had been battling with Hundon to start opposite fellow Florida State rookie Peter Warrick at the split end position. Farmer, a fourth-round pick out of UCLA, has been nagged by an ankle injury the past three weeks and still has to pass the Bengals' physical Tuesday to make the club. If he does pass the physical, and with the Bengals usually keeping four receivers active for games, Farmer would most likely be inactive early in the season.
Hundon's agent told his client to sit tight because the Bengals told him they may very well re-sign him if Farmer's physical doesn't pan out.
The second option may not work out. The club is trying to set up a workout this week with fifth-year receiver Charlie Jones, cut by the Chargers after catching 123 balls for nine touchdowns before missing eight games last season with a dislocated hip. But Jones is headed to Carolina for a workout and could sign as soon as Tuesday.
The Bengals also went to the waiver wire to pick up Patriots safety Chris Carter, a third-round pick from 1997 who made 15 starts in New England. They waived safety Lawrence Wright to keep the roster at the 53-man limit, but they may not be done there yet. They plan to work out Je'Rod Cherry, a safety who didn't start in 59 games during four seasons with the Saints.
The Bengals also formed their practice squad today with Miami of Ohio safety JoJuan Armour, Louisville receiver LaVell Boyd, Notre Dame tackle Mike Doughty, Texas guard Roger Roesler, and Texas A&M CB/WR/RB Sirr Parker.
With Hundon gone, the Bengals now have five receivers with a total of 15 NFL catches on the roster with the rookie trio of Warrick, Dugans and Farmer, and second-year players Craig Yeast and Damon Griffin.
"Farmer's a big receiver, of which we don't have," said coach Bruce Coslet. "But sometimes you have to take chances like these. They have to start somewhere. Warrick has no catches, but do you want me to sit him?"
The move shows confidence in Dugans, a player slowed by a holdout and tender hamstring in finishing with six catches for 40 yards and a touchdown during the preseason. Coslet won't give the starting job outright to Dugans, but he's pretty pleased with him: "He's got a wonderful future in front of him."
"I am happier right now with Dugans than I was last year at this time when (Carl) Pickens reported the week before the season began and what Willie Jackson gave us," said receivers coach Steve Mooshagian. "There's more upside. Dugans has the ability, the knowledge and the confidence. He just has to be more consistent." . . .
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Mooshagian, who has a California background, is familiar with both Farmer, out of UCLA, and Jones, a player he coached at Fresno State. The 217-pound Farmer had a monster junior year with quarterback Cade McNown, but tailed off last season because of foot problems. Still, with the Bengals lacking in big, possessiopn receiver types, Bengals President Mike Brown took a look at Farmer in the fourth round even though they had already picked Warrick and Dugans. The Bengals took running back Curtis Keaton and the Steelers selected Farmer six spots later.
Farmer had three catches this season for 18 yards and those close to the Steelers said the club wasn't impressed by his hands or his speed.
"He and Cade McNown had a highlight flim his junior year," Mooshagian said. "Danny's a class kid. He's very smart, he's a good route runner, and he's got good but not great speed. Average to good speed. He can make plays, but I think it's a case where he just hasn't been healthy enough and never got a chance to show what he can do."
Mooshagian likes Jones' pro production, but here's a guy who's 5-8, 175 pounds. That would leave the 6-2, 215-pound Dugans as the only 6-foot receiver if Farmer doesn't pan out.
Quarterback Akili Smtih doesn't mind small, because, "Anytime you're a defensive back and you try to put your hands on small, quick guys and you miss, it's trouble."
But Dugans knows he can help in that area."
"I bring size to the table," Dugans said. "These other guys we have are short and small, but they're quick and shifty. I'm a bigger guy. I like to be physical. The (hamstring) is fine, I'm just treating it like it's still hurt. I want to be 110 percent instead of only 100 percent."
Working against Dugans is he's lacking in snaps compared to Warrick. Warrick has worked 42 practices compared to Dugans' 17, but Coslet likes where he is despite missing all the time.
"We're going to speed that up for him," Mooshagian said. "His learning curve is where Peter's was a few weeks ago."
The 6-1, 173-pound Hundon, heading into his fourth season, wasn't all that surprised the call came. He began to see them pushing Dugans even though he finished the preseason as the third-leading receiver behind Warrick and Yeast with nine catches for 117 yards. He knows his knock has been being physical enough to get off the line of scrimmage.
"In the second preseason game, I had one incident with bump-and-run," Hundon said. "I tripped into my man. Other than that I felt like I'd been productive. I had been more consistent with my blocking and making plays for the team.
"I kind of figured when they said I would start the game and I'd play a quarter or split time in the quarter I was supposed to start and that set the stage for what happened today."
Hundon said he enjoyed being a tutor to the young players and observed he was the only receiver who could play all the spots. In Pittsburgh, one of the reasons the Steelers cut Farmer in favor of Courtney Hawkins is because they felt they already had too many rookie and second-year receivers.
But Hundon said if he's not claimed, he'd be glad to come back, "because you don't turn your back on the people that gave you a chance."
Mooshagian knows the heat's on him as much as it is the players.
"You can look at it like I'm coaching the youngest wide receiver group in the NFL," Mooshagian said. "Or look at it as a great challenge to develop them and play them ahead of their time."
The 6-2, 209-pound Carter had eight tackles, seven solos in preseason. Carter, out of Texas, couldn't win a starting job back when the Pats cut Willie Clay.