Orson Charles is an enigma on the Bengals roster. A fourth round pick out of Georgia who has good size at 6’3" and somewhere in the range of 245 pounds. His strength was displayed with his performance at the combine with 35 reps on the bench press. Most importantly he did well in limited time during his rookie year converting 8 catches for 125 yards and all of his receptions were for 10 yards or more. So what is it about Orson that has held him back in the eyes of the Bengals, so much so that they went ahead and drafted Tyler Eifert (which I don’t regret) in the first round last year? They even went ahead and signed Alex Smith to a one year deal essentially forcing themselves to either choose between Orson and Smith at tight end or Orson and John Connor at fullback.
Orson comes from a program that the Bengals have enjoyed much success with in recent years with the likes of Dennis Roland, Shawn Williams, starting left guard Clint Boling, and our two biggest stars on offense and defense AJ Green and Geno Atkins respectively. His football pedigree is clearly something that works for the Bengals leaving fans with a serious sense of potential for his development.
This development could reap benefits both in the short and long terms. Orson had a solid year as a rookie last year and could capitalize on that this year with more exposure, but the long term may be the key for the Bengals. They have several upcoming extensions to work out with players including AJ Green, Andy Dalton, Jermaine Gresham, Anthony Collins, Vontaze Burfict, Michael Johnson and Clint Boling. Increasing the options as to whom they can potentially let go via free agency is only a plus for the Bengals.
This same development also insures the Bengals against the dreaded injury bug. The team has prioritized the two tight end set in order to complement Andy Dalton’s skills while enhancing his development and because of this it’s extremely important to have several talented receiving tight ends on the roster. Orson has shown promise as a tight end and his blocking woes seem to lie in his ability to block in space as a fullback more than on the line. His continued development can only take place with more exposure. According to Josh Kirkendall of cincyjungle.com, Orson has received only 7 out of a possible 182 offensive snaps (3.8%) in three games while receiving a DNP in the game vs. the Steelers. Orson’s playing time seemed to stop initially due to a holding penalty on a first down when trying to respond to a Bears score that made it 21-17 Bengals. No doubt the Bengals cannot afford these kind of penalties but after what we’ve seen the first few games this penalty is hardly their only issue. Andy Dalton seems to need all the help he can get and an option out of the backfield while also threatening the Bernard runs could only help the offense.
Orson’s continued development both as a tight end and H-back can be a great asset to this team both in the immediate and long term (like James Casey when he enjoyed success with the Texans). I get excited thinking about an offensive set with AJ Green out wide, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert bookending the line, and Orson along with Giovani Bernard in the backfield. The motion on this upcoming play could be confounding. And how does a defense deal with this: potentially eight blockers on the field or five talented receivers on the field. Do they line up in a base set with linebackers to cover these guys; all big, strong and fast receivers? Safeties more likely, but what if it’s a run? Corners for speed but then Andy Dalton is smart enough to audible to a blast up the middle. I’m not sure what the answer is but I know it would leave a decision maker between a rock and a hard place: to free Orson or not?