With their rookie seasons now done, let's take a day-by-day look at the Cincinnati Bengals' first-year players and examine what went right and what went wrong for them individually. Let's also examine the path ahead for the group that will comprise a key chunk of Cincinnati's foundation moving forward.
We'll start near the bottom of the depth and snap charts and work our way up, culminating with the first- and second-round rookies who had a major impact on the direction of the Bengals' offense in 2013. Tyler Eifert emerged as a quality blocker and pass-catcher at tight end, while Giovani Bernard was Cincinnati's most explosive playmaking threat, catching passes and piling up yards after the catch, and pulling off numerous highlight-show worthy runs.
Due to injuries predating the start of the 2013 season or time mostly spent on the practice squad, several first-year Bengals won't be discussed in this particular series. At a later date, we'll break down what their impact could be going forward. The names you shouldn't expect to see this week include: Cobi Hamilton, T.J. Johnson, David King, Onterio McCalebb, Quinn Sharp, Bruce Taylor, Larry Black, Brandon Joiner and Sean Porter.
After Shawn Williams on Wednesday, next up on the Bengals rookie review:
2013 stats: Played in one game. Received five snaps in the Week 16 win over Minnesota after injuries attacked the Bengals' offensive line.
How acquired: Fifth-round 2013 draft pick.
The good: There isn't a whole lot of good to highlight, mainly because the offensive lineman never really had a chance to get on the field and play last season. But as far as what he can do for the Bengals, he can provide them with an added measure of depth behind an otherwise veteran and cohesive unit that emerged as one of if not the best unit in the NFL last season. Pro Football Focus rated the Bengals as having the top pass-protecting unit in the league in 2013.
The bad: Because of his lack of opportunities, it was hard to say Hawkinson contributed to much "bad" during his rookie season. For him individually, though, the bad stems from not having many chances to get on the field simply because Kevin Zeitler, Mike Pollak (when healthy), Clint Boling and Andrew Whitworth were taking his playing time at guard. At tackle, a rotation that featured Whitworth, Andre Smith and Anthony Collins made it even more difficult to see action for the versatile lineman who can play both the inside and outside line positions.
Looking ahead: Hawkinson can expect more of the same in 2014 as the Bengals look to bring back most, if not all, of the players who factored into their primary offensive line rotations. Collins and fellow tackle Dennis Roland are question marks with free agency on the horizon, but everyone else will be back. Even Boling, who tore his ACL late in the season, is expected to return. Although it's not clear just yet if he'll be back to 100 percent in time for the start of training camp. Boling's status in the first few weeks of the season could impact what happens with Hawkinson. Whitworth, who moved from left tackle to left guard following Boling's injury might end up making the more permanent switch this offseason, particularly if the Bengals are able to retain Collins in free agency. If that happens, Collins will be a full-fledged starter at left tackle, and not the first man off the bench like he has been in recent seasons. As for Hawkinson, if Boling isn't fully healthy and Whitworth stays at left tackle, the starting left guard position could be his for the taking. It would depend on what the Bengals do about right guard with Zeitler and Pollak, but Hawkinson would certainly be more in play.