The one position many fans felt the Cincinnati Bengals didn’t address well enough this offseason was the tight end. Cincinnati has now lost its starter at the position in free agency two years in a row.
The newest face is Irv Smith Jr., who is a former Minnesota Viking the Bengals signed to a one-year contract prior to the draft. So far, he has impressed his teammates.
Most importantly, he has impressed quarterback Joe Burrow.
Joey B Irv Smith Jr.— Olivia Ray (@OliviaRayTV) May 16, 2023
Burrow on his new tight end, @swervinirvin_: "He's upstairs all day every day learning the offense. He looks smooth, big, strong, and athletic." #Bengals | @WLWT pic.twitter.com/bAB0Gj8N2t
One thing that has become a common theme when teammates talk about Burrow is how much time he puts into learning the game and studying tape. If he is complimenting someone else on that. It seems to be a pretty good sign.
The two haven’t had too much time to work on their connection in a meaningful way as everyone is still in shorts practicing, but understanding the playbook enough to know what Burrow is looking for is a great way to start out.
The praise didn’t stop there, though. Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and Smith actually have history dating back to high school, but he is even more impressed with what he has seen on the field.
“Me and Irv used to work out in high school together, same trainer,” Chase told Mike Petraglia host of the Jungle Roar Podcast. “We go way back. So it was pretty cool seeing Irv again, seeing him out on the field. It feels good to see another person from New Orleans.”
“I know exactly what he’s capable of. We played against each other in high school and in college, so we’ve been following each other the whole journey, but I feel like he is good with the ball in his hands and he can make a play. He has YAC. He can definitely make a guy miss. He’s not the average speed tight end. He’s a smart player, too. And all that plays a part in his game.”
It sounds like Smith has been fitting in just fine. He is in a very advantageous position. Burrow has helped two tight ends in a row get paid in free agency, and Smith is very comparable to what we saw from Hayden Hurst when he arrived in Cincinnati.
Hurst had 52 catches for 414 yards in only 13 games last year. It wasn’t a career year, but it showed the type of player he still was after being replaced by Kyle Pitts with the Atlanta Falcons.
Smith comes to the Bengals after the Vikings traded for T.J. Hockenson at the trade deadline last season. We have seen seasons where Smith topped over 300 yards. That isn’t ideal for the expectations Smith had attached to him as a second-round selection.
However, hitting that 400-500 mark in this offense is exactly what this offense needs. They need a guy who can beat defenders in one-on-ones, and it seems he has that ability.