WR Hawkins could be Bengals’ X factor

The Bengals were ousted in the first round of the playoffs by the Houston Texans last season. Seeking revenge, look for them to get a little creative in Saturday’s wild-card rematch.

And count on slot receiver Andrew Hawkins being the X factor, posing matchup nightmares for Houston’s defense. The Bengals’ sputtering offense will look for him to spark the attack.

“We have some polishing to do, especially on offense,” Hawkins said. “But we’re on a little run right now and want to stay on top of that momentum into the playoffs. My job is to go out there and make plays when they count. The season has been practice for the playoffs. This is the real game time now and we have to do everything in our power to get this win.”

Hawkins has come into his own with Cincinnati, finishing third on the team in receiving with 51 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns.

The 5-foot-7, 180-pound Hawkins plays bigger than his size would indicate. He’s a playmaker with speed, quickness and ability to run after the catch. He is a good route-runner with good hands and shows heart catching passes over the middle. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in determination and toughness. He credits his position coach for his development from the Canadian Football League to NFL practice squad player to Bengals receiver.

“Coach [James] Urban always preaches to the receivers to do what you have to do to make plays,” Hawkins said. “Scratch, claw or do whatever, that’s been my goal. Urban has done an incredible job with us. He makes sure that our minds are right in teaching us the nuances of the game. That’s just a little bit of the things he does. He’s made me a much better receiver than I was when I came here.”

Urban has developed an elite corps of young receivers. Soon you will hear Urban’s name mentioned for offensive coordinator vacancies around the league. He has a creative mindset, he’s a motivator, and players love playing for him.

As for Hawkins, he’s ready to make the most of his opportunities.

“It’s a dream come true to be with this team,” he said. “I thank God every day for where I am now because it was a long road to get here. I have to pinch myself sometimes because I’m here with my childhood team, the Bengals. Now we’re in the playoffs two years in a row.

“We worked hard in practice every day and came to play on Sunday. We just have to keep the same mindset we have, believing we can win the Super Bowl. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

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