Injuries and hamburgers have depleted the Bengals depth chart at the fullback position all the way down to zero. The injuries bug bit down on Fui Vakapuna's shoulder and on Brian Leonard's foot. The hamburgers... well Jeremi Johnson bit down on the hamburgers in the off season. Maybe that's one of the many reasons that he's not in stripes anymore (the Bengals don't have the money or the time to kill an actual tiger to make Johnson's jersey).
We have nothing to fear (except spiders and sharks and spider-sharks), though, Bengals fans. There's still hope. King Lewis has taken his broad sword, touched the shoulders of the tight ends, dubbing them full backs. Now, not only will they have to block and catch, they'll have to block and catch... just from another spot on the field.
The NFL has become a passing league. Without an adequate vertical passing game, a team usually doesn't have a shot at going deep into the post season. Because of this, the full back position has become less and less important. Teams are running shot gun, single back and wildcat formations more and more often. While full backs may be on the endangers position list, they are not extinct. Teams that still rely on a running game, like the Bengals, still need a good full back. This year, that job will belong to Reggie Kelly, Dan Coats, Jermaine Gresham and linebacker Dan Skuta.
"I think that whatever the coaches hand our way we can handle," said Kelly. "I think we do a great job of accepting whatever challenge we have."
I know a good number of people were surprised when they learned that Chase Coffman didn't make the Bengals 53 man roster (I know I was), but now it makes a little more sense. Dan Coats has some experience at the full back position already and that experience may have been the deciding factor to keep him over Coffman.
So what about the height of the tight ends compared to the height of a typical full back? Full backs aren't usually as tall as tight ends who are usually around six and a half feet tall. Full backs are more like a jacked up Oompa-Loompa on steroids. That lack of leverage could prove to be a problem because a 6'5" tight end could have a problem getting really low like the oompa loompa doompadee do (doompadee do).
"You definitely lose a lot of leverage to guys and that’s why they want everybody to be small," said Coats. "It’s a lot easier to move people when you have that leverage."
"Cedric is a hard runner that I truly feel that if nobody blocked he’d still get five yards," he said. "With the other backs that we have they can all make people miss in space. I feel like we’re kind of just like the whip cream topping to them rather than a need."
Carson Palmer got a lot of early Christmas presents this year in the form of Terrel Owens, Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham but the Bengals aren't going to stray far from the 2009 power running team that they were. That is why having a good full back could be essential to the offense. Here's hoping that the Bengals backup plan works.