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Bengals need tight ends to step up in 2009

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TEs drafted in first two rounds
Tony McGee
Marco Battaglia
Dan Ross
Mike Cobb
Albert Chandler

Quickly, name the last tight end that recorded 50 receptions in a season. While you're at it, name the last end that recorded 500 yards receiving or more. Five touchdowns? Some of you can name him; especially those that suffered the insufferable 90s. He's one of five tight ends ever drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first two rounds.

Even though he had a career high six touchdowns in 1997, Tony McGee is the last tight end to record 50 receptions and 500 yards receiving or more when he hauled in 55 catches and 754 yards in 1995.

The Bengals have never drafted a tight end in the first round.

In the 13 years since, the Bengals have had limited production from that position; a far cry from the days of Dan Ross, Rodney Holman (73 touchdowns), and Bob Trumpy. However, one has to wonder; is it the system? Since 2001, when Bob Bratkowski was hired as the team's offensive coordinator, the Bengals have essentially eliminated tight ends from the passing game. Reggie Kelly has the most receptions (31) by a tight end in a single season (2008) and Matt Schobel's 332 yards receiving in 2003 caps the most yardage gained.

Year TDs TE
2001 1 McGee
2002 2 Schobel
2003 3 Schobel 2, Kelly
2004 5 Schobel 4, Stewart
2006 2 Kelly, Stewart
2007 0 --
2008 0 --

Since 2001, Bengals tight ends account for 15 touchdowns, or 1.875 touchdowns per season. Tony Stewart is still the last tight end that caught a touchdown pass, which dates back to December 31, 2006 against the Pittsburgh Steelers (yes, the game that eliminated us from the playoffs).

The lack of a passing tight end has long been one of many frustrations for us. Perhaps like the Big Red Machine, or the father of the Bengals being an NFL legend, we're spoiled. For several early seasons, the Bengals had tight ends that were well noted by opposing defenses, and honored in the league. Then Sam Wyche left, Holman followed the year after. Since then it's been Matt Schobel, Tony Stewart and Reggie Kelly.

It's clear that tight ends are used in the offense as H-Backs and blocking ends. When they are utilized as receivers, they are typically sitting in the flats, or primaries on 2-3 yard out routes. They are final options when the pass rush gets close, and Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are covered like stink on... anyway.

During the last off-season, the Bengals wanted to upgrade the position signing restricted free agent Ben Utecht to a three-year deal worth $9 million. The Indianapolis Colts didn't match the offer, and Utecht became a Bengal. Utecht suffered a chest injury and foot injury during the season and missed six games.

In 2008, if you combine Reggie Kelly and Ben Utecht, and splash a little Daniel Coats (a converted TE to FB):

  Rec. Yards TDs
Reggie Kelly 31 221 0
Ben Utecht 16 123 0
Daniel Coats 2 19 0
  49 363 0

We're well aware that the Bengals just don't utilize the tight end in the passing game, save for pass blocking defensive ends and blitzing linebackers; always a breathless mismatch. However, 2009 might demand the need for one to raise, with the likelihood that T.J. Houshmandzadeh will ditch town, Chad Johnson coming off his worst career season, and many unknown variables with Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson.