Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah is entering his fourth NFL season, and it’s also his contract year.
This is his last season to make an impression on the Bengals or impress another team, and he is coming off a surprisingly bad season. In 2016, Uzomah recorded 25 catches for 234 yards and a touchdown in six games before getting injured.
A lot of that came when fellow tight end Tyler Eifert was recovering from an injury, so it was surprising that last season with Uzomah only ended up with 10 catches for 92 yards and a touchdown when Eifert missed 14 games.
Now, Uzomah needs to prove he can take that next step from his 2016 totals.
“It’s a big year for me,” Uzomah told Jim Owczarski and Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “And I’m going to do everything in power to propel myself the best I can.”
Uzomah finds himself in a familiar position of being in the right place at the right time. Both Eifert and Tyler Kroft have been held out of practice due to medical concerns. This has given Uzomah every chance to show he is that same tight end we saw in 2016.
“I feel like I’ve been putting myself in great position for the coach’s eyes,” Uzomah said. “I’ve done a good bit of the reps with the first team and still doing stuff on special teams, so kind of just like a utility player is what I’m hoping they see, like oh, we can use him in this situation or play him on special teams – again a vital part of the team is what I’m hoping they can see.”
The old saying is the more you can do for a team the more you are likely to be on the team. For fringe roster players that usually means having the ability to play multiple positions as well as special teams. Uzomah is clearly taking that to heart.
The coaches have also taken it to heart. In an effort to get Uzomah on the field more last season after Kroft was in the middle of catching seven touchdowns, the Bengals played Uzomah as a lead blocker in certain situations.
“That’s the one thing we’ve always loved about C.J. – he had the versatility,” tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes said. “They had done so much with him at Auburn (but) part that you didn’t get to see a lot of was the in-line blocking; he didn’t run a lot of deep routes.”
That is very interesting, as Bill Lazor has also spoken about how he likes Ryan Hewitt in a similar h-back/tight end role. Ironically enough, both Uzomah and Hewitt have been seizing the opportunity of Eifert and Kroft not being on the field to show what they have at tight end.
There will most likely be room for both players on the 53-man roster, but this may be the start of a competition between the two players who are hoping to bounce back after disappointing seasons.
Uzomah is in an interesting position as he, Kroft and Eifert will be set to hit free agency after the season. The Bengals will have Mason Schreck under contract, and that is it.
That is unless they start viewing Hewitt as a tight end as well. The point being is Uzomah has a lot of ground to make up to prove he is worth a second contract to the Bengals, considering they may be trying to keep and/or Kroft as well.
Uzomah is ready for the challenge of making the Bengals’ decision after the season as tough as possible.