Sunday, May 28, 2000

BENGALS INSIDER


Competition stiff for wide receivers

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Steve Mooshagian has a problem: 10 talented receivers and only seven spots. But it's a good problem.

        “That's what I like best, when you have an extremely competitive situation, and you get the best out of your players,” the Bengals wide receivers coach said. “There's a sense of urgency at this position we haven't had for a few years.”

        It's a young and varied group. Eight of the 10 have one or no years of NFL experience.

        “We go from the most well-known college receiver in the country (Peter Warrick) to one of the most unknown receivers in the country (Eddie Hardaway of Division II C.W. Post),” Mooshagian said. “And we've got them all in between.”

        In all likelihood, five will make the active roster and two rookies will make the practice squad. With Darnay Scott, Warrick and third-round pick Ron Dugans sure bets for the active roster, that likely means three veterans will contend for two roster spots and the four rookie free agents will battle for the practice squad positions.

        The three veterans:

        • James Hundon. The team's fastest player; ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at minicamp. Played well with 16 catches in 1997 but has since been slowed by injuries; caught only one pass in '99.

        “Durability is a question,” Mooshagian said. “But as far as speed and knowing what he's doing, he's at the top of the list.”

        • Craig Yeast. Missed much of his rookie season with a high ankle sprain. Excelled as a punt returner, returning two for touchdowns. Caught three passes. Small (5-foot-7) but fast.

        • Damon Griffin. A possession receiver. Caught 12 passes last year and did well returning punts with an 8.5-yard average in 23 returns.

        Yeast's and Griffin's special-teams successes seemingly boost their odds.

        There are four rookie free agents. Free agents often don't measure up, but the coaches have lauded this as an especially adept group. Each has an interesting story:

        • LaVell Boyd, Louisville. Grew up a Bengals fan in Long Island, N.Y. — “I loved them with Ickey Woods, James Brooks, Boomer Esiason and (Tim) McGee,” he said — and later played at Doss High in Louisville.

        At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, he's a possession receiver.

        • Tariq McDonald, Arizona State. Left school a year early to provide for his 21/2-year old daughter. Wasn't picked up until minicamp, when another receiver failed his physical; flew through the night from Phoenix to join the team for second day of minicamp. He's smooth and runs good routes.

        • Hardaway. Grew up in Amityville, N.Y. — “Yes, the one with the house (in The Amityville Horror),” he said. “People are actually living in that house.” He has never attended an NFL game.

        Bengals defensive staff assistant Louie Cioffi was Hardaway's receivers coach at C.W. Post, which is located on Long Island. Hardaway, a versatile receiver, is the first player from his school to get this far in six years.

        • Marvin Chalmers, Wake Forest. Caught just 11 passes last year for the run-minded Demon Deacons, but with 4.5 speed and a 43-inch vertical leap, he could develop well here.

        The rookies have bonded here, car pooling to work and hanging out together each evening. They stage daily contests in which the one who drops the most passes buys the rest lunch.

        “It's unfortunate that everybody can't make the team, but the guys who do are definitely going to be a close-knit group,” Boyd said.

        HOSPITAL VISIT: Ten Bengals visited the oncology and hematology wards at Children's Hospital last week. They spent time with 25 children, bringing them gifts and posing for pictures. The visit concluded with a prayer by placekicker Doug Pelfrey, who is active in Christian ministry work.

        The players plan to return.

       



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