When the Cincinnati Bengals weren’t winning during the Zac Taylor era, one of the big topics of criticism was using a second round pick on tight end Drew Sample in the 2019 NFL draft. We could argue about who they could have drafted instead or whether Sample has lived up to that pick. However, it is going to be more fun to talk about how we could see the best of Sample yet in 2022.
- Height: 6’ 4”
- Weight: 258 lbs
- Age: 26
- College: Washington
- Hometown: Bellevue, WA
- Experience: 4 years
Sample is entering the final year of his rookie contract. It will be interesting to see if he receives some sort of extension or a new contract after the season following the departure of C.J. Uzomah this offseason to the New York Jets. The Bengals also added veteran tight end Hayden Hurst on a one-year contract. However, Cincinnati didn’t go out and get a long-term solution at the position via this past draft either.
You really do a disservice to Sample by trying to measure his box score. It is pretty obvious that last season he wasn’t very high among receiving threats on a team with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon and Uzomah. He really just is not a dynamic pass catcher, which catches the ire of many fans.
However, since being drafted he has been one of the best blockers this team has fielded (including offensive lineman). He has proven to be an impact blocker when lined up next to tackles, as an extra back behind the line of scrimmage or even split out wide for screens. He has made a habit of taking talented linebackers and defensive linemen out of plays entirely. The only issue is when the team trusts him a but too much in pass protection relying on him to solo block some of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
Fit with the Bengals in 2022
No one should be predicting Sample to suddenly make this huge impact catching passes. He will periodically make a few plays via tight end screens and various other misdirection where the defense fails to account for him catching passes, but he isn’t about to steal any targets from bigger names. In fact, Hurst should be seeing most of the production left by Uzomah.
Where we may start to notice Sample more is in a running game that most people aren’t taking into account should be much better due to the upgraded offensive line Cincinnati has provided. There were plays where Sample would set a beautiful edge or come back inside to open up a lane for a running back that was never able to get there because of other defenders making it behind the line of scrimmage. While it is impressive to see Mixon make defenders miss as soon as he gets the handoff, it really limited how many times he was able to find a hole the blocking scheme was intended to make.
Sample’s future with the team is very much up in the air, but we should be able to notice his intended impact more in 2022 as Mixon and Cincinnati’s other running backs should be able to actually follow his blocks more consistently than ever during the Taylor era.