POSITION(3): Chris Pressley, John Conner, Orson Charles (H/B)
Jourdan Brooks (practice squad)
James Develin (final cuts 2012)
For the first 14 games last season, Bengals running backs enjoyed a lead-back that squats over 700lbs. Chris Pressley was part of a solid ground game that led the league in 3rd and one conversions. The fullback is another one of those positions that is rarely the star, rarely gets the credit but is vital if the team hopes to move the ball on the ground. Pressley played well last season and when he was hurt in week 14 with a knee injury, John Conner filled in.
Chris Pressley is the Bengals starting fullback. However there are a couple things working against him as he tries to keep his place at the table. The first is the knee injury that ended his season last year, which could hold him out of training camp. Another issue is that the Bengals are experimenting with tight end Orson Charles moving into the H-Back role, much like Reggie Kelly played for the Bengals.
John Conner is the other true fullback in the mix. Filling in for Pressley last season, Conner was unable to put any stat in the record books. No catches, carries or yards. The fan attraction for Conner is that he is a Cincinnati native and played his high school football at Lakota West High School. He also has the nickname of "The Terminator" (obviously because of his name).
As mentioned, Orson Charles is the other man in the mix. A 4th round draft pick that played in every game last season, Charles made a couple key plays for the Bengals. Most notably his plays in the Cowboys and Redskins games. A tight end in the past, the move to H-Back may mean that the fullback position could be filled by him.
The Bengals are probably going to carry only one player that fills the tight end position. My gut tells me that Pressley will be the fullback for the Bengals in the 2013 season. The problem is that because Pressley is hurt, the opportunity arises for Conner or Charles to catch the eye of the coaches. There is a real possibility that Bengals fans get to see Pressley being cut again on Hard Knocks.
Charles is the wild card for the role. While his experience in games is nice, there is a lot different responsibility in the H-Back role than that of a true tight end. The preseason will be the stage to which Charles has the opportunity to earn his spot on the roster. I have faith that whoever the Bengals chose for the role, will be done knowing that the running game needs to be stronger than it was in 2012, and that can be aided largely by a strong fullback.