Coming into the year, the Cincinnati Bengals were still in search of a true No. 2 option to take pressure off of A.J. Green, and give Andy Dalton another reliable target to keep him from locking-in on Green.
With just two years left on his rookie deal, Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham still has plenty of time to do so, but he also has a lot to prove if he wants to get a long-term extension in Cincinnati, but he know he’s done nothing to each such a reward.
He pointed to his shortcomings in the team’s playoff loss to the Houston Texans as one of his lowest points as a pro. On that day, Gresham dropped two key passes that would have went for first-downs. They added to his career-high total of seven for the season, and the Bengals ended up losing to the Texans, 19-13.
“I wouldn’t say career but it was definitely something that I learned from. Something that I will get better from,” Gresham said. “It was a rough game and it cost my team a chance to win the game. I let a lot of people down, the organization, fans, the people that still doubt me I gave them a reason to keep doubting me. It was tough. I’ve got no one to blame but myself. It was definitely eye-opening.”
That game saw Gresham catch just two balls on seven targets. Sunday vs the Chicago Bears, he was a perfect 5/5 on catches-per-target. Though he only accounted for 35 yards, most of those receptions resulted in first-downs and kept the ball moving and put the Bengals in positions to score more than the 21 points they mustered. He also blocked very-well yesterday, something he’s been very reluctant to do during his 4-year career. The Bears got very little pressure on Dalton from their outside pass-rush, and Gresham’s dedication to becoming a better blocker was big reason for that yesterday.
Dalton also noted how important Gresham was in moving the ball and getting those tough yards-after-contact:
Jermaine Gresham is really good at that. Once the ball is in his hands, he makes guys miss and finds ways to get first downs. I’m really happy with him.
Gresham has been one of the most enigmatic players in the NFL since coming out of Oklahoma in the 2012 NFL Draft. Joining him in that draft were some of the best TEs in the game today, including the New Orleans Saints‘ Jimmy Graham and the New England Patriots‘ Rob Gronkwoski.
Those have been the two best TEs in the league over the past two seasons, and while Gresham has at times shown the potential to be in the same class as them, he’s had too many games like the one vs the Texans in which he just didn’t play like he cared about winning the game.
Gresham hasn’t played with an edge like those two consistently do. Passiveness plagues him far too often for him to be considered an elite TE, even though he has all of the tools to be just that.