The Bengals have heard your criticisms of Drew Sample, that much is obvious at this point.
Fans and analysts alike were taken back Sample was selected by Cincinnati with the 52nd overall pick in the NFL Draft. The perceived consensus regarding when Sample would be off the board apparently didn’t match what the NFL had in mind, but still, the pick didn’t sit well with most.
Since then, there seems to be no better football player in Cincinnati than Sample. From Zac Taylor to A.J. Green, it’s been nothing but good vibes for the rookie tight end. One of his newest supporters just happens to be the guy who will be responsible for getting him the ball, Andy Dalton.
“He’s picked up on things quickly,” Dalton told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “He’s what you want in a tight end. ‘Polished,’ is a good word for him. Some of these guys, you wonder if it’s going to be too big for them and all that stuff. But he comes in and he fits right in. It’s good to see. When you get a guy like that in the second, you want him to be what he is. So it’s good to see him out there with everybody and see how he fits.”
Sample has been given ample opportunity to show he was worth that pick to Bengals’ players as Tyler Eifert and Mason Schreck are still rehabbing. These are pretty invaluable reps for a rookie to get, and to hear such an incredibly positive review from Dalton is pretty reassuring.
No one would blame Sample for struggling this early in practices with the Bengals. He has to learn a whole new offense while also adjusting to the NFL game. It isn’t uncommon to hear that guys are just learning the playbook or feeling out where they belong. Sample has just fit right in. It is something that isn’t lost on his new tight ends coach.
“[Sample is] more advanced than what I’m typically used to seeing (come into the NFL), but that doesn’t mean he’s going to jump out and be ready to go,” Former NFL tight end and new Bengals coach James Casey said. “I’ve been very impressed how even keel he is. The moment’s not too big. …I was more on edge than him. He’s a well-rounded guy out there and that’s going to help him out in Seattle week one in a very loud environment.”
Casey even went as far as saying, “he’s way better than I was coming out [of college].” Still he does hint at the fact that we shouldn’t run away with our excitement over these comments about Sample. He recognizes there is still room to grow in the little things. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in the NFL the little things could end up being the difference in a touchdown or a turnover. Of course, Sample’s experience in Washington’s offense seems to have paid off with the Bengals so far.
“Just the way we move around tight ends. We did that a lot in Washington. Going in motion and different stuff like that,” Sample said. “There are some concept carry over, it’s just called differently. There are different details and little adjustments on the routes.”
Sample never put up incredible numbers at Washington, but a huge reason for that was his quarterback not finding him when he was open. It still seems like running the system has really helped Sample be a step ahead as he learns the Bengals’ offense.
Throughout all of this hype, Sample has been able to remain humble. He has been able to show his true self in this moment as this would be a time where some young players would become complacent. It could be that Casey being in Sample’s ear is helping with that, but Sample isn’t satisfied with where he is right now.
“(Casey) knows the ins and outs of playing tight end in the NFL,” Sample said. “He’s seen different guys do it. He says the biggest thing is in the details. What can you do to separate (yourself)? Extra film study. Details of the playbook. Taking care of your body. The guys who are professionals outside when they leave the stadium, those are the guys that have a lot of success. He’s seen that and he was able to do that and that’s something I can take from him.”
We won’t know how well the Sample pick will pay off for the Bengals for probably a couple of seasons, but one thing for sure is that they selected a player who is determined to make it look like a great pick.