Few players are as divisive amongst Bengals fans as tight end Jermaine Gresham. There have been high hopes for the big man out of Oklahoma since he arrived via the first round of the draft in 2010. He has put up some solid numbers in his time in Cincinnati and received Pro Bowl alternate recognition, but we've all wanted to see more out of him.
Unfortunately for Gresham, the lasting impression he has left with the fan base is the sour taste of his terrible performance as the team's offensive game plan in their playoff game against the Houston Texans. It also doesn't help that he came out of the same draft class as New England Patriots star tight end, Rob Gronkowski, who was drafted after him. The expectations have been there for Gresham, and though he has progressed in catches, yards and first downs every year, he still has managed to disappoint to some degree.
Gresham is now entering his fourth season as an NFL tight end and he has a young gun breathing down his neck in fellow first round tight end, Tyler Eifert. The initial plan might not be to have Eifert take snaps from Gresham, but some are wondering if Gresham's production and numbers will be dropping because of the impact of Eifert in the offense. The hope though is that the two will combine for a formidable offensive duo and contribute heavily.
Count Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports as one of those who feel that Gresham is poised for a breakout year.
Much of the buzz with the Bengals is surrounding rookie tight end Tyler Eifert, their first-round pick. And to this point, Gresham certainly has not progressed as many had planned since he was drafted 21st overall in 2010.
You cannot deny Gresham's athleticism and ability, and sometimes it takes a little time for it to come together, and perhaps Eifert's arrival will be a kick in the pants as well. Coordinator Jay Gruden is already falling in love with his two-tight end sets, and I believe Gresham actually will benefit from Eifert's arrival.
A.J. Green already scares the hell out of every opponent on the outside and quarterback Andy Dalton knows he needs to take a step up this season. Gresham has two years left on his rookie deal and must realize if he's going to be primed for a possible exit in free agency, or through trade, the time to improve his stock is now.
He has shown enough flashes to merit further consideration and he was targeted nearly 100 times already in this offense a year ago. He has more experience in Gruden's system and years of practicing with Dalton, all of which should serve him well, and I believe the drafting of another player at his position so high, and so soon, will ultimately expedite Gresham's blossoming.
It's an interesting angle taken by La Canfora. Instead of solely harping on the more positive approach of Gresham blossoming with the arrival of Eifert, he believes in the "light a fire under him" belief. It's possible that what La Canfora believes will come to pass, as Gresham has always been "the guy" and Eifert might be challenging that now.
There are two areas where Gresham will need to improve in 2013. The first is in the area of consistency. He will need to show more regularity in catching the football and not have so many dry spells in games. The other area is increasing his touchdown catches--particularly in the red zone. Gresham has never had more than six receiving touchdowns in a season. Given Gresham's size, athleticism and where he was drafted, he should be sniffing double-digit touchdown receptions each year.
Perhaps the addition of Eifert and other weapons, as well as the continuing development of Andy Dalton will make La Canfora's prediction become a reality.