When the Bengals drafted tight end Jermaine Gresham in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft, the selection was met with mixed emotions amongst fans. All of us knew that the team was getting an extremely talented player, even though he was coming off of reconstructive knee surgery. However, none of us knew how effective a player would be in then-coordinator Bob Bratkowski's offense.
Gresham had a solid rookie campaign even though most fans observed that he wasn't used in the most effective ways. Instead of being a "chain mover" and a "downfield threat" as was expected of a first round tight end, he was relegated to screens and short passes, for the most part.
Fast forward a year. Bratkowski was fired and new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden worked with head coach Marvin Lewis to create a new offense rooted in the West Coast scheme. This new offense was going to be geared to their players' strengths and be much more efficient. Five games in, it's safe to say that the new offense has had it's fair share of ups and downs. There are frustrating dry spells followed flurries of points with amazing comebacks. Along with the surprisingly rapid developments of rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, Gresham is integrating himself into the offense nicely.
According to ProFootballWeekly, Gresham ranks second on the club in both targets and receptions, and is tied for the team lead in touchdown catches with A.J. Green. With three touchdowns this season, he's only one off from his 2010 total--and did I mention he's only five games into the season?
Tight ends coach Jay Hayes weighed in on Gresham and the offense:
"That's the thing we want to do, is create mismatches whenever we can," Hayes said. Gresham's size, explosiveness, body control and strength are among his top attributes. "The thing that he gives you obviously is the big-play (ability) that he has in him," Hayes said. "He was a multisport athlete, and you can see some of the basketball come out in him." He referred to Gresham's 17-yard TD vs. Buffalo, in which the tight end shielded Bills S George Wilson, leaped, tipped the ball with his right hand and secured it with his left hand for a TD, as a "low-post move."
The best part? Hayes goes on to say that Gresham isn't "a finished product yet". What will the "finished product" look like? We'll have to wait and see until this offense and the young players begin to gel even more and hit their collective stride. But, if Gresham continues his pace, he'd be set to finish with roughly 67 catches and 10 touchdowns.