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Bengals Exit Interview: Running Back Rex Burkhead

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Rex Burkhead came to the Bengals as a running back, but wide receiver may be where he makes his biggest impact.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

It's very rare you see an NFL player make a successful position switch and go on to last in the league playing that same spot.

Running back may be his position, but wide receiver is where Rex Burkhead has slowly worked to find a role in the Bengals offense. A former sixth-round pick out of Nebraska via the 2013 NFL Draft, Burkhead was the second back Cincinnati drafted that year after grabbing Giovani Bernard in Round 2.

Like Bernard, Burkhead is a versatile back who can do damage between and outside the tackles, as well as the passing game. That said, Burkhead appeared in just 10 games over his first two seasons, most of which coming as a special teams guy who on rare occasions would get snaps at running back.

Those were hard to come by though with Jeremy Hill and Bernard occupying the bulk of those snaps. Burkhead finished 2014 with just seven grabs for 79 yards and nine rushes for 27 yards and one score. After the season, the Bengals decided to work Burkhead more at wide receiver during OTAs and training camp practices.

That may have been a well-calculated move with how many receivers the Bengals may lose this offseason. Burkhead went on to get more playing time at receiver this past season. Though he caught just 10 passes on 15 targets for 94 yards and one score, he made several impressive grabs that showed just how good a pass-catcher he was becoming.

His lone touchdown came against the Steelers in Week 14 as he made a quick adjustment to a hard throw by AJ McCarron in a tight area to secure his first score of 2015.

Back in Week 1, Burkhead made a great catch between two defenders as a scrambling Andy Dalton found him streaking down the sideline.

The same thing happened in Week 4 against the Chiefs, as Burkhead found himself open on the sideline and hauled in the pass before stepping out of bounds.

Say what you will about Burkhead's lack of production, but he was rarely targeted this season with A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones getting almost all of the attention, leaving Burkhead to battle with Mohamed Sanu for targets.

Speaking of, both Sanu and Jones may be gone this offseason, meaning Burkhead could jump from being way down on the pecking order to suddenly being the fourth or fifth option in this passing game. Had Burkhead actually been listed as a receiver this past season, he would have been the fourth receiver as he caught more passes than Brandon Tate (2) and Mario Alford (1) combined.

Even Tate is set to hit free agency this offseason, so it's very possible Burkhead earns a more prominent role in this offense next season. He'll need to with 2016 being the final year of his rookie contract, but I'd expect him to be re-signed next year.

Between his work on special teams and now as a pass-catcher, he's a great fit for this team and should be in Cincinnati for several more years.