Wide receiver Jake Kumerow spent all of last season on the Bengals' practice squad. So what was his reaction when Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu left the team as free agents, creating openings at his position on the 53-man roster?
"My reaction was that it was going to be a bummer to miss a couple of good friends," said Kumerow. "The fact that there is opportunity doesn't change the way that I am going to prepare to play. I'm not going to come in like the job is mine or that it's taken by somebody else. I'm going to come in every day ready to work."
Kumerow signed with the Bengals last year as a college free agent after averaging 71.5 receptions and 16.5 TD catches in his final two seasons at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater. The 24-year-old flashed enough potential during training camp and practice last year to give the Bengals hope that he can make the jump from D-III to the NFL.
"I feel that everybody has to prove themselves, so I didn't feel like it was much different for me," said Kumerow. "Everyone has a jump to make. Maybe my jump was a little bigger going against guys that were bigger and more athletic than I was used to, but I had to prove myself just like everybody else."
Kumerow has good size at 6'4", 206 pounds and says he's much improved after spending a season on the practice squad.
"I learned how to practice a lot better than I had before," Jake told me. "Watching the veterans practice, I really tried to create some good habits and do what they do.
"I think that I got better at running routes. I'm about the same height and weight, but I think my agility and speed have gotten better. And mentally I've gotten better by having a year under my belt."
The former D-III All-American says he's also improving his chemistry with quarterback Andy Dalton.
"It's good and it's growing," said Kumerow. "At the beginning of last year I got to catch a few balls from him and everything was good and then being on the practice squad I got limited reps with Andy. But now I've been catching a lot more passes from him and I'm in there with him for a decent amount of the plays. I hope he likes throwing to me because I try to be an easy target for him."
Kumerow hauled in several passes during the Bengals' June minicamp, but receivers' coach James Urban cautions that it will get tougher when the pads go on at training camp.
"Kumes has been very, very consistent," said Urban. "I did tell the receivers that you all have a good feeling, but per NFL rules we haven't played any bump-and-run. The last time I checked, that's probably what you get 70, 80, or 90 percent of the time depending on the team that you're playing. So we haven't played real defense yet. Forget about the pads – we haven't played bump-and-run. That's the big hurdle coming. Once we go into real training camp and face bump-and-run, how do we get off the line?"
"I'm eager to get out there and make some plays in real game situations," said Kumerow. "I want to show the coaches that they can trust me and show the quarterbacks that they can trust me and get me the ball.
Jake comes from a football family. His father Eric was an All-Big 10 linebacker at Ohio State and a first round NFL draft pick by the Miami Dolphins. His first cousin Joey Bosa also starred for the Buckeyes at defensive end, before being selected third overall in this year's draft by the San Diego Chargers.
"That was very cool," said Kumerow. "It's not easy to be picked in the first round, let alone the top three. That's impressive. I ended up going home the weekend of the draft to hang out with him so I got to see him right after. The whole family was there and everybody was really happy."
Jake wasn't an NFL draft pick like his father or cousin, but has a legitimate chance of being on an NFL roster this fall.
"I've been playing since I was six years old," he said. (Playing in the NFL) has been in the back of my mind my whole life."
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