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Big opportunity looms for C.J. Uzomah in Bengals’ first preseason game

The Bengals have experienced injuries at the tight end position and second-year man C.J. Uzomah has been asked to step up. In the first preseason game, Uzomah could instill confidence in the coaches, his teammates and fans.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

For fans of any NFL team, the dichotomy of training camp brings both euphoria and disappointment. The latter largely stems from injuries this time of year, and the Bengals have had their share of unfortunate ones so far. The two major dings the team has incurred to this point has been at the expense of their 2016 Draft class, so other youngsters from previous recent classes have been asked to step up.

Second-year tight end C.J. Uzomah has had an increased role with Tyler Eifert sidelined with a rehabbing of ankle surgery and Tyler Kroft experiencing his own injury in the early part of camp. And while he still exudes some of those “raw traits” from his Auburn University days, this summer has been marked by a big growth period for Uzomah with increased reps in camp.

Like Eifert though unlike the crop of tight ends employed in the Carson Palmer era, Uzomah is a pass-catcher by trade. It’s in that trait where he’ll have a big impact in 2016 and has already made positive impressions in this year’s camp.

He’ll have a prominent role in the team’s preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings and the results in the team’s first game of 2016 could have significant ramifications for the regular season. It’s why Uzomah is one of the players who will be under the spotlight on Friday night.

Why Friday Night Matters:

Usually, preseason games and the individual results of players in the contests are taken with a grain of salt. However, with injuries hitting various areas of the roster, the most important part of the Bengals’ preseason process is in their evaluation of back-end positional roster spots. With Eifert and Kroft both being dinged up, Uzomah will have a prominent role against the Vikings.

As the regular season ensues, Eifert and Kroft will still take a front seat once they’re ready and fully healthy, but Uzomah might be someone new offensive coordinator Ken Zampese uses in the early weeks of the season. The preseason opener is a great way for Uzomah to instill confidence in everyone with his abilities and show he can help out Dalton and the offense with sure hands.

Reasons For Optimism:

The good news is that Uzomah has been one of the better young players in this year’s training camp. The athletic tight end has caught a number of nice passes to bring smiles to the faces of both the coaches and the fan base.

As more days of camp go on, it seems as if Uzomah keeps improving, which is another reason for fans to breathe a sigh of relief, should the rumors of Eifert missing more time than originally expected ring true. With more snaps in both practice and game scenarios comes growth and an increased comfort level, so the learning curve could meet the raw athleticism sooner than most anticipated.

What To Look For:

Honestly, not many players, whether they are a starter or backup, get an extensive amount of touches in the preseason. Uzomah might be the exception though, as he’ll likely get needed work with both Andy Dalton and the backup quarterbacks.

If Uzomah only gets a couple of catches and stays out of the penalty column, I think that should be considered a good showing. Given what we have seen from him out of practice this year, it wouldn’t be overly-surprising to see Uzomah break a big play; but just a solid, mistake-free evening against Minnesota would point to the supposed growth in his second NFL season.