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Top-20 Bengals Of 2012: No. 8 Tight End Jermaine Gresham

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CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 13:  William Gay #22 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackles Jermaine Gresham #84 of the Cincinnati Bengals during play at Paul Brown Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 13: William Gay #22 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackles Jermaine Gresham #84 of the Cincinnati Bengals during play at Paul Brown Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Now entering his third season after being selected 21st overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, Jermaine Gresham is meeting the 2012 season with more opportunity than ever. Gresham had a solid rookie campaign followed by a Pro Bowl second season with a new offensive coordinator in 2011. At the start of the 2012 season, Gresham is expected to find himself on a team pressed for supporting contributors in the receiving game as well as the usual expectations on blocking for the Bengals newly refurbished backfield.

In terms of receiving production, Gresham finished the 2011 season with 596 yards, 56 receptions, and six touchdowns in 14 games played. In contrast, it may not help the overall perception of Gresham when he’s playing in a league with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowksi, who collectively set the NFL record for most receptions and receiving yards by any tight end duo in 2011, or the freak anomaly that is Jimmy Graham. Regardless of the select few tight ends offering unprecedented numbers in today’s NFL, the fact remains that Gresham’s receiving numbers indicate he is on the fast track toward meeting and conceivably exceeding production by some of the great tight ends in Bengals history.

Let’s quickly consider a few other reasons for giddy optimism over Mr. Gresham:

- For the first time in his NFL career, Gresham is entering his first season without a new offensive coordinator to adapt to. Jay Gruden has an opportunity to further develop Gresham’s offensive contributions in the receiving game as well as tighten up his blocking.

- Gresham has benefitted greatly from his Pro Bowl experience according to his head coach.

- Once again, Gresham has a fantastic opportunity to contribute to the receiving game as the Bengals look to solidify support for AJ Green.

With some continuity in his offensive personnel after 2011 and the promise of experience now seemingly established at his position, all eyes will be on Jermaine Gresham in Cincinnati. He has the talent and physicality of the prototypical tight end; the very reason the Bengals drafted him in the first round. 2012 may very well be the year the Bengals see Jermaine Gresham take a big step in his already impressive young career.