It wasn't long ago that Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis was sharing the field with New England's tight end tandem of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Green-Ellis not only experienced both players' rookie seasons in 2010, but also a 2011 season in which both tight ends combined for a record setting 169 receptions and 24 touchdowns, 17 of which were held by Gronkowski. The two tight ends commanded the attention of the league and the media, and their terror on opposing defenses resulted in New England being credited with revolutionizing the tight end position. While still productive on the field in 2012, each tight end dealt with injuries that kept them from sharing more than a handful of games in pads.
Green-Ellis spent the 2012 season with the Cincinnati Bengals, a team which selected Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert as their first pick in their 2013 NFL Draft to compliment their 2010 first round pick, tight end Jermaine Gresham. Green-Ellis commented on what he experienced in New England and how two tight ends can create mismatches in today's NFL.
"Long story short, if you have two tight ends and they are both big guys and you don't feel like you have to cover them with DBs, it actually brings more people in to the box," BJGE offered Monday. "If you have two guys and you feel like one of them is really a receiver then you approach it differently."
Having Eifert on the Bengals roster adds a tight end known as a skilled receiver. As resident draft expert Joe Goodberry points out, his "ball-skills are in an elite category for not only tight ends, but wide receivers." Goodberry's observation of Eifert's athleticism and ball-handling skills are similar to what many consider Aaron Hernandez to be: A receiving tight end with the emphasis on "receiving." Combine Eifert with Gresham, and Green-Ellis may find less pressure in the backfield along with second-round draft pick Giovani Bernard at running back. Of course, it all depends on how opposing defenses decide to handle the Bengals in 2013.
"You give and take a little bit, because they are on opposite sides of the ball then you balance off the defense automatically," BJGE said. "They are on the same side, you can overload one side and run the other side or whatever. It's all about what the guys' skill sets may be when they come in and if they are able to block and things like that. Obviously, we will learn that real fast because once we get out there on the field we will be able to see what guys can do and other teams will be able to see what guys can do as well. We'll just have to adjust how defenses play us."
One could argue that the NFL may begin adapting to two tights attacking the middle of the field in 2013, but there's no doubt that the Bengals have more options offensively this season than they did before the draft.