Ryan Hewitt might be the most dangerous player in the league who most non-Bengals fans have never heard of. Since being signed by the Bengals as a college free agent in the 2014 offseason, he has taken the Bengals’ fullback/H-back spot from being a revolving door to one of the strongest points on the team. In his rookie season he proved himself as a stellar blocker, helping Jeremy Hill to an incredible rookie season, and even added 10 receptions for 86 yards into the equation.
Heading into the 2015 season, the Bengals thought that they very well might have the NFL’s best fullback on their roster. Whether that’s true or not, he definitely played up to most people’s expectations by continuing to block well and improving as a pass catcher. He was targeted less times, so his total receptions slipped from 10 to eight. But, he got 99 yards out of those eight receptions. Unfortunately, he was hurt at the end of the season and missed the Week 17 home game against the Baltimore Ravens as well as the Wild Card matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But, he still had a pretty good year, making Pro Football Focus’ Pro Bowl roster.
Heading into 2016, the expectation for Hewitt is to refine his play and find more consistency. If he can do that, there should be no question who the best fullback in the NFL is. And, the Bengals clearly believe in him as they rewarded Hewitt with a three-year contract extension on Tuesday, keeping him in Cincinnati through the 2019 season.
Experience: Entering his third year
Weight: 254 pounds
Why he might improve in 2016
Hewitt is an athletic, converted tight end who has always been known as a good blocker. His versatility, ability to block on the move, and football IQ made him the perfect convert from tight end to H-back in 2014. The Bengals have been comfortable at the position since.
If there was one thing he could improve on in 2016, it’s staying healthier. It wasn’t really a bad season for him in terms of injuries, but he did miss Week 17 against the Baltimore Ravens and the Wild Card round against the Pittsburgh Steelers due to a knee injury. You can’t really fault a player for an injury, though. In the offseason, he had a minor, non-football procedure. There doesn’t seem to be any lingering effects from the surgery or the knee injury at this point, so let’s just hope that he stays healthy this season.
With another year of experience under his belt and more time working with the offensive line, running backs and tight ends, it only seems natural Hewitt would continue to improve in 2016.
Why he might regress in 2016
Overall, Hewitt played very well in 2015, although he did have a few poor games that stood out. One bad performance, in particular, came in a blowout win over the Browns in which the team really didn’t need him to perform all that well anyway, given how bad their competition was that day.
Still, it wasn’t the only poor performance Hewitt had on the season. Overall, his sophomore season was just as good as his rookie season. But, he could stand to develop more consistency given the lack of it in 2015. Regardless, the Bengals are very lucky to have such a talented, yet typically overlooked, talent in the backfield.
Odds of making the roster
After two successful years for Hewitt, you can just go ahead and assume that he will not only make the roster, but he will be the starting if not only fullback/H-back on the final roster. That situation only further solidified itself with the contract extension Hewitt signed on Tuesday.
Hewitt is extremely talented and doesn’t have a lot of competition at his position. I don’t see any realistic scenario in which Hewitt is not with the team in 2016.