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Film Room: The C.J. Uzomah Show

When the Bengals needed a big play on Thursday night, Uzomah was the guy who stepped up

NFL: SEP 30 Jaguars at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With 95 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions, C.J Uzomah was one of the biggest stars of the Cincinnati Bengals’ comeback win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tight end is one of the most versatile positions on the offense. Being able to catch the ball and make players in the passing game is a big, but it is only part of it. Uzomah was impressive whether he was getting the ball on the play or not.

Let’s take a look at the impact Uzomah had on Thursday night.

Drew Sample is often seen as the blocker of the Bengals’ tight end room, but Uzomah has done a great job of run-blocking this season.

In this clip he is the wing on the near side of the formation. On this outside zone play, he is responsible for the force player. He gets a shot on the end man of the line of scrimmage before working up to the second level. This slows down the defender and gives Isaiah Prince (who is lined up at tight end on this play) time to get to the block. Uzomah gets to where he needs to be and makes the block on Tyson Campbell.

This was an excellent play that helped to open up a seam for the Joe Mixon run.

On this play, Uzomah lines up in the backfield and is the lead blocker on the toss. He leads the way with a kick-out block that opens up a lane for Mixon.

Uzomah made some nice blocks that helped the Bengals’ get the run game going in the second half. This also helped to set up the pass, which Uzomah took advantage of in the next clip.

With Frank Pollack coming in as offensive line coach, everyone knew that the Bengals would be emphasizing the outside zone play.

Pollack got his start in the league working for the Houston Texans under head coach Gary Kubiak, who is well-known for running zone schemes dating back to his time with the Denver Broncos.

Legendary offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, the godfather of the outside zone scheme, was also on staff with the Texans. Kyle Shanahan was there too. All of these coaches are known for running the outside zone, but they’re also known for complimenting it with bootlegs.

Bootlegs are likely to be a much bigger part of the Bengals’ scheme than we have seen so far this season.

We got a taste on the first play of the game, and on this touchdown pass to Uzomah.

The pre-snap motion reveals man coverage, which is perfect. Uzomah is lined up as the wing at the top of the screen and crosses behind the line of scrimmage. This resembles a common tight end block in zone schemes and is a route that’s impossible to cover man-to-man.

Not surprisingly, Uzomah is wide open.

After securing the catch, he turns up field and makes the first defender miss before plowing into the end zone.

This was a huge play!

His second touchdown was even more impressive.

Two defenders ran with Tyler Boyd’s route, which should have left Uzomah open, but Josh Allen dropped under the route, closing Burrow’s window to get the ball to the tight end. In an effort to get open, Uzomah ran across the formation. Burrow scrambled in the same direction, finding Uzomah behind the defenders with an open path to the end zone.

This was a great example of Burrow and his pass catchers being on the same page and making things happen when the play breaks down. It also shows that when a defense decides to double-team a player like Boyd, someone else will step up.

Of course, the most important catch Uzomah made may not have been a touchdown. It may have been this screen on the final drive.

Facing second and very long after a penalty, the Bengals came out in Burrow’s favorite formation: empty. Recognizing the “zero” blitz, Burrow audibled to a receiver screen. There was only one problem: It was not a receiver lined up in the position the screen was designed to go to, it was Uzomah.

I referred to “empty” as a formation, but it’s really many different formations in the Bengals’ offense. The Bengals often run it with a tight end and a running back on the field, and they can be lined up anywhere.

If they called a screen for the sideline, they would usually set up the formation so the ball went to a receiver, but this was an audible based on the look the defense gave them. Fortunately, Uzomah understands the offense enough to know what his role is regardless of where he is aligned or whether or not it is in the game plan.

He made the catch and, picking up a few blocks from his teammates, cut it up field for a big gain. This set up Evan McPherson’s game-winning field goal.

The Bengals have a ton of playmakers on their offense. With Boyd, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins all catching passes, Uzomah does not always get an opportunity to shine the way he did on Thursday night.

This week, the Jaguars were threatened by Chase’s deep routes, which opened up a lot of opportunities for Boyd and Uzomah. This is a passing game that can beat you in a lot of different ways.