Bengals TE Orson Charles embracing fullback experiment

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the best roster of tight ends in a long time. So much so that Cincinnati wants to keep a fourth by identifying versatility with Charles.

If we're devising a projected 53-man roster in early June, the three tight ends would probably be veteran starter Jermaine Gresham, first-round pick Tyler Eifert, and free agent acquisition Alex Smith.

And Orson Charles still makes the roster.

Selected in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft, Charles was the primary backup for Gresham, posting eight receptions for 101 yards receiving. Of the 304 snaps that Charles took part of on offense, 58.6 percent were during running downs. According to Pro Football Focus, Charles scored a -3.6 run blocking score, though no non-offensive linemen scored a higher pass blocking grade than Charles' 1.5 -- also higher than every center that started last year.

To find a place on the roster for Charles, the Bengals decided to move the second-year player to fullback during the offseason training program. Paul Dehner Jr. with the Cincinnati Enquirer writes, "Charles is good with that".

"I'm just embracing it," Charles told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "The more things I can do the more valuable I can be. At the end of the day, I just want to be on an NFL roster."

At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, Charles fits the same frame and athletic makeup of those two. He caught eight passes for 101 yards last season backing up Jermaine Gresham. If he can make the transition, Gruden sees the advantage of dressing three tight ends on gameday with Charles able to play both spots or jumping in at either spot should a player go down.

"It's a very versatile position," Gruden said. "If you are a one-dimensional team this day and age it's not going to last very long. We are hoping to do a lot of different things. We already know he can get outside and run routes and catch the ball."

"We'll see what happens when we get to training camp," Gruden said. "It's experimentation but it's good for Orson to understand defenses from a running back perspective as well as a tight end perspective. It will make him better in the long run."

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