(From the Dayton Daily News)
For the first time in years, the Cincinnati Bengals head into training camp loaded with quality depth at the wide receiver position. A good thing, yes! However, it will be no easy task when it comes time to reduce their roster. This means some talented receivers could eventually hit the open market courtesy of the Bengals.
Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are the only two receivers guaranteed a spot, leaving veterans like Peter Warrick and Kelley Washington to fight for a place on the roster during training camp.
Although a number of receivers will be vying for a position, the one guy that may already have a leg up on the rest is Kevin Walter. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound receiver made it extremely difficult to be ignored with his performance during the team's recent minicamp.
Walter showed that he is steadily improving by being consistent and making plays. He was strong off the line, quick, ran good routes and demonstrated outstanding blocking skills. He also showed that he can stretch the field when he blew past CB Tory James and made a nice one-handed grab along the sideline before being pushed out of bounds. The sure-handed receiver was even more impressive during red zone drills when he put a move on CB Deltha O'Neal that left him caught like a deer in headlights, freeing Walter up to catch a touchdown pass in the back corner of the end zone.
To improve his game, Walter said over the off-season he worked on his flexibility and watched lots of film as well as studying teammate Chad Johnson in an effort to try and pick up some of his techniques to become a more well-rounded receiver.
Selected by the New York Giants in the seventh round of the 2003 draft, Walter was released by the team out of training camp and claimed off waivers by the Bengals. There are several NFL scouts who feel that the Giants may have given up too quickly on Walter, much like the organization did with Ed McCaffrey and Joe Jurevicius, who both went on to receive Super Bowl rings with other clubs.
The Bengals have been patiently waiting for Walter to develop, mainly because they love his upside. Some see him evolving into a possession-type receiver and a go-to-guy in clutch situations. Keep in mind that this kid was regarded as the premier receiver in the Mid-American Conference in 2002, so he's no slouch.
Not oblivious to the situation that surrounds him, Walter understands what it will take in order for him to make the squad.
"I just have to work hard," he said. "I just have to go out there each day and work harder, make plays, and show them that I deserve to be on this team.
"Whenever my name is called, go out there and catch the ball and contribute somehow. Whether it is on special-teams, I definitely can contribute right away on special teams, or do whatever it is they want me to do. That's my role."
Walter is very versatile and could be used in a number of ways, including the H-back position, where he spent some time playing in college. Not to mention he's a special-teams demon.
Many of the receivers on this team have their work cut out for them, but the one I think that could be in some real danger of being knifed is Kelley Washington. Although he performed well in minicamp, Washington — who feels the need to imitate Freddie "Rerun" Stubbs from the TV sitcom "What's Happening" by "pop-locking" and gyrating after every reception — could be an odd man out. Washington's underachieving and excessive celebrating is undoubtedly growing weary in Cincy and like What's Happening, he too may be canceled.
Man, part of me feels like it could be a bit premature to cut Kelly this early in his career. He's only going into his 3rd year and only completed 1 full season in college. The attitude issues definitely concern me though. I've read archived reports out of Tennessee where he was cited as being a complete ass. Still his upside has me still holding out hope that he can be a very good wr. I'd just hate to see him develop and be a star on someone else's team. There's no denying Walter's abilities on special teams though. He can flat out make tackles. Those abilities, along with his development at Wr could end up being his ticket onto making the roster over a more highly-touted player like Washinton or Pdub. Should be interesting to see how this unfolds.