On Wednesday, I examined how the Bengals defense needs to be fully prepared for the emerging beast that is Browns tight end, Jordan Cameron. As I mentioned in that piece, Cincinnati's defense has traditionally struggled against capable tight ends and this week's matchup is a doozy.
On the flip side, however, the Bengals offense presents a nice mismatch nightmare for the Browns defense at the same position. Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert have teamed up and formed a nice combination of pass-catchers for quarterback Andy Dalton. Though Eifert was quiet last week with only one catch, he has been a good target in the offense this year.
Gresham has 15 catches through the first three games, while Eifert has nine and they have combined for 248 yards on the season. They also have 12 first downs, with Gresham charging for eight and Eifert adding four. Perhaps the most significant number though is the giant goose egg that both sport in the touchdown column.
When the Bengals drafted Eifert in the first round this year, many had figured that the Bengals offense would be unstoppable in the red zone. While the team has been effective in that area through the first three contests, it hasn't been thanks to the big tight ends.That may very well need to change for success this Sunday.
Note to Bengals offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden: This does NOT mean that you need to abandon the idea of getting A.J. Green the football!
Last season in the second game against the Browns, Gresham had one of his better days as a pro with seven catches for 68 yards and a career-long 55-yard touchdown reception.This play was made available because of the attention that Green was receiving on the outside. In the first game versus Cleveland, wide receiver Andrew Hawkins made a 50-yard touchdown reception operating in the slot. Though he obviously isn't a tight end, the slot and the conventional lineup spot for a tight end could be where Cincinnati's offense does the majority of their damage.
For all of his praise of both the direction of the Bengals team and for his nemesis Green, Browns cornerback Joe Haden has had his tussles with the Pro Bowl wide receiver. Like it always is, the defensive attention will be bracketed to Green, so others will have to make plays. With the emergence of Giovani Bernard and the continued improvement of both Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, Dalton will be able to use play-action and pump fakes to hit his weapons. Those type of plays are ones where the middle of the field is left open and tight end do damage. Eifert exemplified this on Monday Night against the Steelers.
Yes, the Bengals need to get the ball to Green and yes, they will need to be able to run the ball. But these two talented tight ends are capable of doing more than being mere chain-movers. If used correctly, they could have a huge day in Cleveland.