Earlier this week, Ryan Van Bibber at our "mothership", SBNation, began ranking positions from NFL teams from 1-32. He generously placed the Bengals' offensive line unit at No.3 in the league. The foundation of his argument was defendable, as he pointed to an improved Andre Smith, an ever-solid Andrew Whitworth and good new additions in Travelle Wharton and Kevin Zeitler at the guard positions.
On Thursday, he continued his his rankings with the tight end position. With Jermaine Gresham coming off of a Pro Bowl appearance (as an alternate), and the team adding rookie Orson Charles and veteran Donald Lee by way of re-signing, Van Bibber was likely to continue in his generous ways, right?
Not necessarily. Though has the Bengals' trio in the top-half of the league, he still has them ranked at No.13. Instead of using his own verbiage to defend his ranking, he leans on our own write-up on the position, which we talked about in the Training Camp previews series that we posted over the past couple of weeks.
Bengals have the best tight ends in the history of football? A bit much?
A little young on experience, but rich in prospect and talent with Jermaine Gresham and rookie Orson Charles, forecasting effective double-tight formations that grants a little variety in the passing and running game.
Perhaps Van Bibber is of the mindset that Gresham is a bit overrated. Some Bengals fans would agree, while others claim that Gresham has been the victim of gross under-utilization. Maybe it's a little from column A and a little from column B. Nevertheless, the team is pretty stacked at the position, even if it includes an unproven player in Charles.
We haven't hidden our love for the rookie out of the University of Georgia, and neither have the Bengals coaches. They feel that Charles has "exceeded expectations" and anytime you can say that about a rookie, it's a good thing. Visions of the Bengals being a red zone defensive matchup nightmare dance in our heads while we foresee Charles and Gresham lined up together. It seems that the only thing holding the duo back would be more under-utilization and/or injury.
The team will likely keep only three tight ends on the final roster, so the final spot should come down to Lee and Colin Cochart. Both were on the roster last season and contributed in a limited fashion with Cochart being more of an in-line blocker and Lee being more of the receiver. In the old Bob Bratkowski system, the tight end was mostly used as a blocker with limited contributions in the passing game. That trend continued a bit last year, as Marvin Lewis and Jay Gruden likely felt that they needed to give a then-unproven Andre Smith and the unimpressive guards a crutch to lean on. We expect that to change this year.