The Cincinnati Bengals are no strangers to dealing with injuries.
While much of this season has been without the kind of onslaught we've seen in years past, there are still several key guys dinged up with the playoffs nearing. The good news is Cincinnati has one of, if not the deepest rosters in the NFL, and just about every position has a capable backup if the starter is injured.
However, that might not be true of the fullback/h-back position. After Ryan Hewitt went down Monday night with a knee injury and did not return, rookie tight end C.J. Uzomah was sent in to replace him, but he didn't hold up very well against a stout Broncos defense. That's a tough spot for a fifth-round rookie to be put in, especially a guy who played more like a wide receiver in college and not a true tight end.
That's where rookie offensive lineman Jake Fisher comes into play, who has been moved to h-back and will wear the No. 44 going forward this season. The good news is Geoff Hobson reports that Hewitt only suffered a sprained knee Monday, so he may eventually return in the playoffs, but will be out this Sunday vs the Baltimore Ravens.
A former standout tight end and defensive lineman for Traverse City West High School in Michigan, Fisher was named first-team all-state as a defensive lineman after making 68 tackles on defense while grabbing 11 catches for 232 yards. But Fisher moved to offensive guard at Oregon as a true freshman before playing tackle his final three years in Eugene.
Since being drafted by the Bengals in the second round of this year's NFL draft, Fisher has worked at both tackle spots and as a swing tackle, eligible to catch passes. He's been targeted several times this season, but has just one grab for 31 yards against the San Diego Chargers back in Week 2:
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That's actually more than the four yards on one catch Uzomah has, and isn't much less than Hewitt's 99 yards on eight grabs. Fisher, who's listed at 6'6" and 306 pounds, would also be a more capable blocker than Uzomah, even if it is coming out of the backfield.
You rarely see an NFL team using an offensive lineman in a fullback/-h-back role, but it's clear Fisher is no ordinary lineman. We probably shouldn't expect to see Fisher necessarily catching more passes now, but his blocks coming out of the backfield will hopefully help spring more big runs going forward.