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On Bengals Tight End Donald Lee: Is He A Blocker Or Receiver

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+ The Cincinnati Bengals signed tight end Donald Lee on Wednesday, releasing defensive back Rico Murray (again) during the process to make room on the 53-man roster. It's unknown what role Lee will have, considering that backup tight end Colin Cochart had an impressive outing against the Cleveland Browns, scoring a team-high 1.3 run blocking score according to Pro Football Focus.

Hum. While we're at the site, pandering to our statistical cravings, let's see how Lee's performances grade out? You know the more accessible numbers, such as 198 receptions for 1,875 yards receiving and 19 touchdowns during his relatively healthy eight-year career.

Pro Football Focus scored Lee with an overall grade of -11, with the biggest detriment being his -9.4 score during run blocks last season with the Green Bay Packers. Lee posted a -20.7 in 2009 (-11.2 during routes, -6 on run blocks) and a score of -9.8 in 2008 (-5 in routes, -8.7 in run blocking). Comparatively speaking, Reggie Kelly posted his worst grades with the Bengals in 2010, scoring -3.7 with the detriment being a -3.1 during routes.

Here's a blurb from the Football Outsiders Almanac 2011 on Lee:

The Packers released Lee in March. He was scheduled to make $2 million in 2011, which is a lot of money for a 31-year-old tight end expected to battle for the No. 3 job. Lee has averaged 7.3 yards per catch over the last three years, and it’s hard to see him doing much better than that in the limited playing time he’ll have in Philadelphia. (2010 stats; 11-for-12, 73 yards, 3 touchdowns, 11.7% DVOA, 17 DYAR)

For those of you newer to the site, here's a quick explanation on how PFF grades players:

The goal of our detailed grading process is to gauge how players execute their roles over the course of a game by looking at the performance of each individual on each play. We look beyond the stat sheet at game footage to try to gain an understanding of how well a lineman is blocking on a given play, how much space and help a runner is being given on a play, how effectively a pass rusher brings pressure or how well a defender covers a receiver.

We collect lots of extra statistics such as yards after catch, yards after contact, missed tackles, dropped passes etc., but our real focus is on grading individual performance on each play. Did an offensive lineman seal his block to spring the runner through a hole? Did a defensive lineman beat his block to force a runner to change the play direction in the backfield? Was the crucial third-down completion due to the quarterback beating the coverage or a breakdown in coverage?

We examine not just the statistical result of a play, but the context of that statistic. The defensive tackle may have made a tackle on a play, but if it was 3rd-and-5 and he got blown 4 yards off of the ball to make the tackle after a 6-yard gain, that’s not a good play.

A couple of things could be taken from this move.

Chase Coffman has virtually no chance to make the 53-man roster... ever. And Lee would be your prototypical third-string tight end while Colin Cochart continues to blossom as a rage of blocking awesome while developing into a receiver as well behind one of the league's more promising young tight ends.