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If Jermaine Gresham Wants To Prove His Doubters Wrong, Now's The Time

Starting tight end Jermaine Gresham remarked yesterday that he 'accepts the villain role'. He essentially admitted that he is aware of his doubters. Now he has the chance to prove them all wrong.

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In the first quarter of last Sunday's game, Tyler Eifert had three catches for 37 yards. Of course, Eifert went down and won't be back for at least eight weeks.

Gresham, on the other hand, played 91% of the offense's snaps and finished with 2 catches for 16 yards. We saw the Gresham we've come to know and expect. A physical talent who fights the hardest for extra yards but seems to make at least one mental mistake per game.

Against the Ravens, he arguably made four - a false start and three incompletions were thrown his way. The first was when he didn't finish his route into the left flat for a wide open touchdown. Gresham took blame for the play in a rare interview with media yesterday.

"I'll take blame for that," Gresham said. "It was a concept that I read wrong. I should have kept going and it would have been a touchdown. I owe Andy one."

The second incompletion came when the Bengals ran the exact same play that Eifert got hurt on. It was a read option with Gio Bernard that Dalton pulled out and quickly threw to Gresham. The ball was moving in Gresham's hands as he took about 3 steps before hitting the turf. The ball popped out and the Ravens thought they might have a fumble recovery, but the referees ruled it incomplete. In any case, it was a continuation of Gresham's problems holding onto the ball.

Gresham needs to remember that securing the football is more important than fighting for an extra one or two yards, especially against a team like Atlanta with a leaky, opportunistic defense and a quarterback like Matt Ryan.

The last incompletion came on another play that looked like it was designed for Tyler Eifert. It was a back shoulder throw down the right sideline on 3rd and 4. Gresham and Dalton weren't on the same page, as the ball was thrown a few feet outside of Gresham's outstretched hands.

Gresham's day wasn't all bad, though. He earned the team's highest grade as a run blocker and blocked well in pass protection and on screens. He was simply dominant as a blocker. It can't be forgotten that he has improved massively in this area.

What the Bengals have now, is two blocking (in-line) tight ends, one fullback/h-back, and no healthy receiving (move) tight ends. This could mean more 3 wide receiver sets, more two running back sets with Gio Bernard at receiver, or more Alex Smith & Ryan Hewitt as the second tight end. It's likely a combination of the three.

Against the Ravens, the Bengals decided that they would rather use more three receiver sets with Brandon Tate than two tight end sets. Tate was on the field for 41 snaps and Dane Sanzenbacher had 8, while Alex Smith got 9 snaps as a second tight end and Ryan Hewitt got 11 snaps, mostly as a fullback.

Gresham will certainly be on the field for almost all of the offense's plays, as he always is. What remains to be seen is how often he is targeted by Dalton while Eifert is out. The two tight ends combined for eight targets in the Ravens game.

Let's say the Bengals average 70 offensive snaps per game. If the Bengals are perfectly balanced, then Dalton would throw 35 times per game.

Dalton's go-to receiver AJ Green should get about 10 targets per game. Then, there's a second tier of targets. Mohamed Sanu, Gio Bernard and Jermaine Gresham should all fall in this second tier, averaging about 6-8 targets per game, depending on the game flow. Throw in three targets for the third receiver (Tate/Sanzenbacher), and maybe another one per game to Alex Smith/Ryan Hewitt.

What Gresham does with those targets is up to him.

Hopefully, it involves obliterating Atlanta's small cornerbacks into the ground again.