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Hamilton-Wilson reunion surfaces as WRs scramble


New Bengals quarterback Tyler Wilson may end up playing against the Jets Saturday night even though he just got here.

Two old college buddies have a chance to hook up for a reunion Saturday 7 p.m. at Paul Brown Stadium because it looks like the newest Bengal is going to get a chance to quarterback against the Jets.

And if Tyler Wilson gets that shot, he'll be looking for Cobi Hamilton. When Hamilton caught a school-record 90 balls and 1,355 yards at Arkansas, Wilson admitted Tuesday, "I think senior year he was the only person I threw it to. "

"That's my guy. He's a great quarterback, great kid," Hamilton said before Tuesday's practice. "I played my last two seasons with him. He's capable of doing everything in this league. He belongs in this league. I hope the opportunity comes for him where he can show people he belongs in this league. I'm excited for him. I'm excited to be in the same locker room with again."

As can be expected, both are in each other's corner and after having that huge wave of success at Arkansas, both are searching for it here. Hamilton, a sixth-round pick a year ago, is grappling for a roster spot at one of the deepest positions in the NFL after serving on the practice squad in 2013 and has just been handed a huge opportunity with Marvin Jones' broken foot.

Wilson, a fourth-round pick of the Raiders in 2013, is just looking for a shot, never mind a spot. After getting lost in a sauce already bubbling with young quarterbacks like Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor, Wilson got plucked by Tennessee from the Raiders' practice squad in December. But when the guys that did the plucking were fired two weeks later, last Tuesday's release was virtually sealed.

He thinks that Hamilton is about to break out.

"One, his size. He's a tall, physical receiver," Wilson said. "I think in college everyone talked about his 200 ability. He was a 200 track guy in college. His initial speed might not catch you by the eye, but once he gets down the field is when his wheels start rolling. The deep balls, the balls down the field; I think he's a threat because the guys can't keep up with him for that long."

Wilson must have a good eye because that's what Bengals wide receivers coach James Urban is talking about as they scramble to replace Jones for what looks to be at least the first three games of the regular season. What makes Jones so valuable opposite three-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green is his speed. The closest guy now with that kind of straight-ahead speed, Urban says, is rookie James Wright, the seventh-rounder from LSU. Wright's speed has put him into the mix even though he played so little receiver in college that he can't remember the last touchdown he scored before he caught one in Kansas City in the pre-season opener.

It was in high school and, "I've got a bad memory," Wright said.

 Urban calls Hamilton "a long strider,' a guy that picks up speed the longer he goes. Hamilton has a knack for getting open in practice, but he doesn't consistently put the ball away.

"He'd be the first to tell you that you've just got to make plays, finish plays. He's close. He's close," Urban said. "I always talk about the 50/50 ball where the defense makes the play or we make the play. We want to make those plays 90 percent of the time. That's our mentality: 90 percent on the 50/50. And we're not quite there yet with Cobi. That would be the next step. He can do it; it's just a matter of doing it."

At 6-2, 205 pounds, it's easy to say Hamilton is the closest resemblance to the 6-2, 195-pound Jones. He doesn't think the speed is that far off.

"I would say so. He has wheels. I can't deny that," said Hamilton, asked if Jones is the fastest wide receiver. "I'm right there. A.J.'s fast, too, and Mo's (Sanu) fast. Everybody can run. If you can't run, you can't play in this league."

And Hamilton never has to worry about his confidence.

"I feel like I belong in this league. I don't really count the numbers," Hamilton said. "I'm going to be playing somewhere this year. I know it's a numbers game, but if I keep working every day and doing what I'm supposed to do, I feel like I'll be playing somewhere."

 When they talk about replacing Jones behind Green and Sanu, Urban says they could end up doing it by committee. For instance, if they decide Dane Sanzenbacher is at his best in the slot, they can put him in there and keep Sanu outside. Or with Brandon Tate's speed, they could put him outside and leave Sanu in the slot. Hamilton could be deemed an outside guy at the moment even though they train all the receivers to play the slot.

"Cobi mostly has worked outside," Urban said. "When we go slot, Cobi ends up in the slot when we have two-back slot. He gets moved around some, but he has mostly played outside."

The one knock on Hamilton has been his special teams experience. He didn't do it at Arkansas and special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons needs him to be productive as a gunner on the punt team and safety on punt return.

"It was my rookie year, because it was brand new and I didn't play a lick of teams," Hamilton said of last season on the practice squad.  "This year I've got the mindset of how important special teams is and how it ties in to your playing at receiver. This year is day and night compared to last year. I'm really excited to play."

Wilson is, too. And has been.

"I'm looking for place where I can be awhile and I can learn and develop and become the kind of player that I think I can become," Wilson said before Tuesday's practice. "You always have to think the spot is right for you. This is a great spot. Andy's (Dalton) done some really good things and shown a lot of promise here and done well the last few years. It's a good spot for a quarterback. I'm excited to be here."

It's still a bit hazy if Wilson gets the call Saturday. He said that's what he's been told but it will have to play out. Even if he doesn't play, it could be a one-shot deal because the injury that brought Campbell here (a deep throwing arm bruise) figures to be cleared up so he can practice next week.

Wilson knows the game plan is "going to be dialed down severely," for him.

"I'm going to be ready to go and be ready to play. You have to be mentally prepared to play, as tough as it is," Wilson said. "You have to cram as much information into a short period of time as you can and then let them know what you're able to do. Don't assume that they know what you know. That's going to be my biggest effort, to give them the information that I'm familiar with so they can make the calls and help us win the game."

The Bengals had Wilson enough on their radar that they scheduled him for a 15-minute interview at the 2013 NFL scouting combine and that's no small thing. Of the 10 players they drafted that year, six had their 15 minutes of fame with the Bengals.

 "I know they were very inquisitive at that time. I think they had done quite a bit of research on me," Wilson said.

But it has been rocky ever since the draft. There were too many kids in Oakland and not enough coaches in Tennessee.

"It was kind of a deal where they had to have a guy who could play right away," said Wilson of his Raiders experience. "I got there and they had Matt Flynn and they were trying to teach Matt the offense. And they wanted to teach Terrelle the offense, and I was kind of at a point where learning with those guys, there was more priority with them than there was with me.

"Tennessee grabbed me. Coach (Dowell) Loggains, who was at Tennessee at the time, and (head) coach (Mike) Munchak brought me over and I spent the last three weeks at Tennessee and then those guys got let go at the end of the year and they brought in a new staff,"  Wilson said. "I was with them all during the offseason and felt like I was playing really good in Tennessee. I felt like I was turning the corner and making some strides. Unfortunately I was let go, and now I'm here."

"Here," may  be one week or who knows? He just wants a shot somewhere.

"I think my ability to throw the ball is really good. I don't think throwing the ball is an issue. I think I can make a lot of the throws," Wilson said. "But in this day and age you have to be able to dissect an offense and become familiar with it and make it your own. The issue when you bounce around is you're never able to have that continuity and that structure to be able to develop. That's the tough part of this business, but I'm excited to be here and have a chance to learn."

The Arkansas '12 reunion is on.

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