Morning Stripes: Bengals TEs block, too

December, 6, 2013
12/06/13
8:00
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Because of the way the Cincinnati Bengals started the season using tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert as integral pieces in their passing offense, it was easy to think of them as strictly being possession receivers.

As the season has continued, though, it has become clear that line of thinking couldn't be more wrong.

In the past four games in particular, the Bengals appear to be using them less in the passing game and more in the running game. Instead of focusing on catching passes, they've been focusing on opening holes for the Bengals' running backs by blowing up defensive ends, linebackers and safeties.

If last week's game at San Diego -- and to a degree, the previous game against Cleveland -- was a sign, their explosive blocking has made a difference. Against the Chargers, the Bengals rushed for 164 yards. Coaches and teammates were quick to credit Gresham, Eifert and fellow tight end Alex Smith for playing key roles in allowing certain holes to come open.

By the end of the season, the lack of pass-catching production could be glaring on the stats sheet, particularly for Gresham. After catching 64 passes for 737 yards and five touchdowns last season, it appeared he was setting himself up for an even more productive fourth NFL season. Of course, when Eifert was drafted in April that changed somewhat, but Gresham still figured to be just as big a part of the passing game as he was before. With 35 catches for 348 yards and two touchdowns so far, he won't come close to the production he had a year ago.

As long as he keeps blocking the way he has of late, the Bengals are OK with that.

To get our Friday Morning Stripes going, we begin with another look at the Bengals' usage of their tight ends:
  • The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Dehner Jr. quickly examined the Bengals' tight end production in this notebook. From a receiving standpoint, it certainly has gone down the past four games.
  • When the Bengals meet with the Indianapolis Colts inside Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, they will be facing a team that in many respects is their mirror opposite. Both teams have young quarterbacks they are trying to groom. Both are trying to get over the playoff appearance hump and stick in the postseason for several weeks this year. Both are current division leaders. Both have had their share of injuries to overcome and adjust to this season. They share a lot more than the short stretch of highway that separates them. FoxSportsOhio.com's Kevin Goheen takes a look at some of the other similarities.
  • Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson has this very interesting read on former Cincinnati cornerback Ken Riley, and his unique place in football history. Riley has been back in town this week to discuss playing college football with the 1967 Florida A&M Rattlers, and how it impacted his professional career. That season, which came in the middle of the civil rights movement, is the subject of Sam Freedman's book "Breaking the Line." Riley discussed the events the book was based around in Cincinnati on Thursday. On Sunday, the former Bengals captain will be an honorary captain for the game against the Colts.
  • The Colts will have a new face on their sideline this weekend after promoting linebacker Daniel Adongo off the practice squad this week. A former rugby player, Adongo starred for teams in Kenya and New Zealand before he decided to give American football a try this offseason. He showed up for the Colts' rookie camp and has stuck. He's progressed well enough that team officials believe he's ready to be part of the 53-man roster. Here's the read from the Associated Press.

Coley Harvey

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter

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