Commentary: Chase Who?

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 1: Chase Coffman #80 of the Cincinnati Bengals jumps for a first down over Chris Rucker #36 of the Indianapolis Colts in the first half of an NFL preseason game at Paul Brown Stadium on September 1, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

In the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Missouri tight end Chase Coffman with the 98th overall pick. Fans were happy. Coffman had entered his senior season as the university's leader in touchdown receptions (20) and was third in receptions (156) and seventh in reception yards (1,664). At the end of his senior season, Coffman was named a consensus first-team All American and was awarded the John Mackey Tight End Award, given to the nation's top tight end.

Despite the fact that Coffman had never played as a traditional professional tight end, having played the majority of his college career in the spread offense, often lining up as a slot receiver, Bengals fans were happy and excited to get a tight end that could possibly stretch the field and help the Bengals offense move the ball down the field.

Fast forward three seasons. Coffman has played in six games and made only three receptions for 30 yards and no touchdowns.

What happened?

What happened was a lot of things. 

Being placed on injured reserve because of an ankle injury in early December in his rookie year certainly didn't help Coffman progress. He missed 12 games in his rookie campaign. Then, after a rookie season in which the promising tight end was injured, the Bengals decided to use the next year's first-round pick on another tight end, Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham.

Gresham was obviously going to be the future of the tight end position. He is bigger, stronger and faster than Coffman and he proved it by breaking the Bengals franchise record for receptions by a rookie tight end with 52.

Coffman was suddenly on the back burner in the Bengals offensive plans. Even when the team decided to not re-sign Reggie Kelly, they went out and signed veteran tight end Bo Scaife, showing that they didn't trust Coffman's ability to contribute to the offense.

And then came Colin Cochart. The Bengals signed Cochart as an undrafted free agent out of South Dakota State and the coaches have been singing his praises ever since. As the preseason progressed, Cochart began to cut into Coffman's playing time to the point that Cochart was running with the first and second-string offense when Gresham wasn't in the game and after Scaife injured his shoulder. Coffman found himself being thrown to by quarterbacks who were battling to make the team. 

Coming out of a system that never allowed him to get into a three-point stance, Coffman has likely had a hard time adjusting to a pro-style offense. It's also likely that he doesn't have what it takes to block effectively at the NFL level.

Tight end is a tough position to play. Not only do you need to be able to block 300-pound defensive linemen, but you need to be able to run routes and catch like a wide receiver. Gresham can do that, I'm thinking that Coffman can't.

Josh believes that, because of Scaife's injury, the three tight ends that are locks on the team are Gresham, Cochart and Coffman. He's probably right. However, if Scaife had not been injured, I would not have expected Coffman to make the team and even if he does make the team, I don't expect him to do much of anything for the Bengals in 2011. 

Coffman is entering his contract year. Once the 2011 season ends and the 2012 season begins to roll around, I don't expect the Bengals to toss any money at Coffman to keep him around. They could find somebody that could be more productive in the draft or in free agency.

Right now, Coffman is just a warm body that may make it on the field every once in a while, but nothing more. It would be nice if he proved me wrong by actually proving to anybody that he belongs on the same field with Gresham and Cochart, but I'm not expecting anything.

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