Have you ever had "that guy" on your team? You know who I mean--the stud with all of the physical tools, but a couple of things always seem to get in his way from being absolutely dominant. Whether it was an attitude problem, a desire thing and/or a lack of concentration with the little things, "that guy" was both the most outstanding and frustrating player you have seen.
That comparison could ring true for many Bengals fans and tight end Jermaine Gresham. At 6'5" and 260 pounds with solid hands, Gresham is built as a prototypical tight end in the NFL. In the 2010 NFL Draft, Gresham was touted as the best prospect at his position, ranking ahead of Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta and Jimmy Graham in that same class. We know the deal with Hernandez, "Gronk" and Graham have gone on to super-stardom and Pitta was a key player in the Ravens Super Bowl win last year.
And then there is Gresham. He has been elected to two Pro Bowls, though both berths have been as an alternate to some of the above-mentioned names. If you look at the first four years of some of the franchise's best tight ends, Gresham is right there, particularly since he hasn't completed his fourth year, yet. Have a look:
Again, keeping into account that Gresham has nine more regular season games to play to complete four seasons, he could be topping most of these major statistical categories for Bengals tight ends, all-time. In this respect, the use of a No.21 overall pick four years ago on Gresham shows his worth.
Unfortunately with Gresham, there is also a Jekyll and Hyde kind of instance occurring in the form of penalties and drops. Last week's matchup against the Lions showed two of the more egregious penalties in Gresham's short career. Here is a breakdown of some of the bad plays by Gresham in his young career:
|Year||Penalties Accepted||Penalty Yards||Fumbles Lost|
If you want to know how those 25 accepted penalties broke down by category, there were 13 false starts, nine offensive holding calls, one offensive pass interference and two after-the-whistle/personal foul penalties. While these may or may not jump off of your screen, the amount of false start penalties point to a lack of focus. The same goes with the critical drops we have seen from Gresham in his first four seasons.
Case in point Sunday against the Lions. Cincinnati was driving to potentially take a late lead with about two and a half minutes to play. On a critical third and one, on a drive where the Bengals had run six plays and almost four minutes off of the clock, Gresham moved before the snap and put the team in a difficult third and six. Had the Bengals not stepped up on defense and received the ball back, that could have been a critical moment in a frustrating loss.
Here is where Sunday became a microcosm of Gresham's NFL career, though. Even with the two penalties, Gresham was the team's second-leading receiver at 64 yards (on four catches) and worked the middle of the field masterfully. He was basically carving the Lions defense in the second half with catches for 30 and 22 yards and showed the flashes of dominance. To complete the picture, Gresham is second on the team in receptions (28) and yards (274).
So what is the solution to some of these problems with Gresham? If I had one, I'd likely have a coaching career in the NFL. The best that I can give at this time is to tell fans that they just have to take the good with the bad.
Why? For starters, Gresham is only 25 years old and has plenty of growing opportunities ahead of him--be it with re-signing with the Bengals after his contract expires this year or somewhere else. Secondly, the good that you take with Gresham can be extremely good. As I said earlier, 6'5", 260-pound tight ends with catching ability don't grow on trees.
Lastly, a reason to accept what Gresham gives you is because the Bengals are only seven games into their two tight end offense with Gresham and Tyler Eifert. There is a strong possibility that this offense can become a juggernaut once those two find their groove and take heat off of A.J. Green. So, though there are ugly moments with Gresham, there are also quite a few beautiful ones. Roll with him, Bengaldom...for now.