April 19, 2014

Position Review: Tight End

Is it me, or do the Bengals just seem lost when it comes to the concept of the tight end? Every year the defense struggles to cover them. And despite producing one of the first great TEs of the modern era, Bob Trumpy, the offense struggles to properly use the TEs on the roster.

So what are the Bengals going to do with their current crop of tight ends?

Jermaine Gresham: 14 games. 56 recs for 596 yds, 6 TDs. 1 fumble.

When the Bengals took Gresham in the first round of the 2010 draft, we couldn’t wait to see what he would add to the offense. Two years later, we are still waiting on his perceived potential to turn into reality on the field.

JG was 13th in receptions with 56, or 4 per game. But his 596 yds puts him at 18th in total yds, and his 10.6 yds/rec is 21st among TEs with 32+ recs. He was also 17th in first downs generated with 31.

It should be noted that JG has played under two different OCs in two years. Changing systems after one year did little to help his development. Did you hear what Jay Gruden said last week about Gresham on local sports talk radio?

“He’s very raw. He’s never done this type of thing before where option routes, reading the safeties, two deep, three deep or whatever it might be. The more he sees, the better he’s going to be and once he gets it, he will be a dominate force.”

Interesting. After two years, including one under Gruden, he is still raw. Wait, “very raw”. So tell us, Jay, what are you going to do this offseason to turn “will be” into “is”? Because developing Gresham into a top-tier TE is the single biggest addition that the Bengals can make on offense this offseason.

Donald Lee: 9 games. 11 recs for 115 yds, 0 TDs.

A few weeks after losing Bo Scaife to IR, the Bengals brought Donald Lee onto the roster. Lee proved to be an OK addition. He missed a few games with a foot injury, but he did contribute a few lengthy receptions. He is currently a free agent.

Colin Cochart: 10 games. 5 recs for 44 yds, 0 TDs.

I heard Cochart interviewed on local sports radio, and he is an incredibly likable guy. But being likable won’t keep you employed in the NFL. This undrafted CFA impressed coaches enough with his solid blocking that he will be back next year. Adding some catch to his game would be a nice improvement.

Bo Scaife: 0 games. (On IR all season.)

Bo’s numbers are not better than Gresham’s, but I liked the signing when the Bengals brought him in. He was a tough contributor in Tennessee, and he would have made a good mentor for JG had he not gone down with a shoulder injury in the preseason. Like Lee, he is a free agent after signing a one year deal.

Chase Coffman: 0 games.

I feel kinda bad for the guy. The Bengals drafted him out of Missouri knowing that he was an overgrown WR who was rarely asked to block in college. And he has spent 3 years buried on the depth chart because he can’t block. Uhh… hello Marvin! I have wondered many times why the Bengals have not tried him as a slot receiver, because that is really what he is if we are honest with ourselves. Yet the front office insists on living with the misnomer.

Looking to 2012.

The Bengals keep three TEs. Gresham is guaranteed one of those spots, and I have to think that Cochart will get another. That leaves the Bengals to decide between Scaife and Lee, and Coffman lingers on the practice squad for the final year of his rookie deal. I’m guessing they go with Scaife.

There are not a lot of good free agent tight ends available this season. Of the 29 available, only 8 received a rating above 0 by ProFootballFocus, and only 4 rated above +2.0: Joel Dreessen (+10.0) of Houston, Martellus Bennett (+7.8) of Dallas, Jim Kleinsasser (+6.5) of Minnesota, and Jeremy Shockey (+3.6) of Carolina. After that, your next best guy is our old friend Reggie Kelly.

The draft is not deep in TEs either. There are a half dozen or so projected to be gone by the end of round 4.

Fortunately, the Bengals do not need to add a tight end this year. Short of taking a run at Dreessen or Bennett, which are long shots, this is one position group that can be left as-is. Development of Gresham is the key to improving the group, and taking another shot at putting Scaife on the field won’t hurt either.