Aug 23, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham (84) stands on the sidelines before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE
It's not the first time that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was asked about his starting tight end. In early January during Bengals line on 700 WLW, Dave Lapham asked Gruden about Jermaine Gresham's progress.
"He's just got to continue studying, learn and rep, rep, rep, rep and rep. He's just got to mentally get into it and see the looks. 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."
Gresham, who has only been targeted on 18 "deep passes" in his NFL career, had a Pro Bowl epiphany according to head coach Marvin Lewis, saying that the experience was the best "teaching, coaching experience we could ever have with him for him to mature. He's a different man -- very, very confident in himself."
At the same time, Gresham, who repaid a homeless man $100 for spending 50 cents when his parking meter expired, remained humble enough from the experience that he still refers to himself as average.
"I'm just very, very average; below average," Gresham said. "I need to excel in things so I can be in the top level tier (with) those guys at some point. I'm just not good enough right now. I need to pick up my level of game. I need to perfect everything in the craft of the tight end position. You want to be the best. I believe I can be that guy. It's more pride than anything. You just have to keep up with your peers."
One point during the offseason Gresham spoke about New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham, expressing a natural desire to emulate their respective games. Gruden again reflected on his Pro Bowl tight end:
"Jermaine has got to work at it every day, no question about it," Gruden said. "He's come a long way with his route discipline and knowledge of the offense with the run game, especially. Just have to keep repping him. Some of the concepts where he has to read coverages on the move he has to get better at."
"When he's right, he can be an awesome target for Andy," Gruden said. "And it's our job to get him right more often than not and it's his job to keep working."
"We've got to do a good job getting him more involved downfield and he's got to make sure he's more accountable for the quarterback," Gruden said. "The quarterback has to feel the confidence he can go to Jermaine when Jermaine is ready and in the right spot. When he gets to that point I would expect him to put up some strong numbers."
Gruden said that Gresham is athletically and talent-wise comparable to Rob Gronkowski, but argues that Cincinnati doesn't need a tight end that puts up those type of numbers:
"Jermaine wants to be mentioned with" Gronkowski and Graham. "His goal in his mind is to put up those kinds of numbers. He doesn’t understand blocking is important, too. We need to stay with what we do. Don’t get caught up in statistics. If we win, who cares?"
"I watch what the Giants do, too," Gruden said. "They won the Super Bowl" without a tight end reminiscent of Winslow."
Gresham is currently rehabilitating from a knee sprain, working on the side during practices though projected to play against the Baltimore Ravens during the regular season opener.