Here’s hoping Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham takes heart watching San Francisco’s winning drive Saturday. The one where 49ers tight end Vernon Davis took over the last 97 seconds and personally willed his team into next week’s NFC title game.
Davis accounted for 61 of the final 85 yards, giving him a monster 180 in a playoff masterpiece that has to conjure up memories of the Kellen Winslow Game 30 years ago without the Miami dehydration but with the Dwight Clark-like heroics.
Gresham can be that guy for the Bengals. He’s been frustrated in his first two seasons with promising yet sporadic production. But he is a Davis in the making. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden wants him to be that guy and the fact Gresham is going to be in his offense for a second straight year should really help him.
Like the 6-3, 250-pound Davis, the sixth pick in the 2006 draft, the 6-5, 260-pound Gresham, the 21st pick in 2010, had to deal with a change in quarterbacks and systems early in his career. Truth be told, Gresham’s first two seasons have been more prolific than what Davis did in ’06 and ’07. Gresham has caught 108 balls for 1,016 yards and 10 TDs compared to Davis’s 72-774-7.
And Davis didn’t pass what Gresham did this past season (56 catches for 596 yards and six TDs) until his fourth season when he broke out with 78-965-13.
Gruden believes that not only will another year in the system benefit Gresham, but his first offseason with it is going to make a difference.
“We’ve started to get more out of Jermaine. The more he practices and the more he hears about the game and the concepts, he’s going to get better and better,” Gruden said last week. ”Because he’s as athletically talented, gifted tight end as there is in the league. From the standpoint of experience running these route concepts, he’s a little bit behind.
“But he can get up to speed in the offseason and next year we have huge, high hopes for him. That will take a lot of pressure off A.J. (Green) when they start doubling him with a safety on the outside, that will open up the field for a big guy like that. It will be huge.”
All Gresham has to do is take a deep breath and look at Davis on Saturday and realize he’s got better numbers than he did at this age.
And he won’t turn 24 until after the second set of OTAs in June.
Tags: Jay Gruden, Jermaine Gresham, Vernon Davis
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 16 Comments »
Again in honor of Listen to Lance A Lot and Peter The King, here are some things I Think I Believe:
I THINK I BELIEVE the Bengals must be having a very good year. It is not even December and already the name of a Bengals assistant coach has surfaced as a candidate for a head coaching job. In the wake of Jack Del Rio’s firing in Jacksonville on Tuesday, Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com tweeted the names of Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher.
It’s not just an idle report because Prisco lives in Jacksonville, covered the Jags forever at the Florida Times-Union, and still has good ties to the club. Plus, connect the dots. Jags general manager Gene Smith and Gruden’s father are both Heidelberg College football guys.
And it makes sense. Gruden and his staff have done a remarkable job with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, while in Jacksonville franchise QB Blaine Gabbert, the guy the Bengals thankfully passed at No. 4 for A.J. Green, is backsliding.
Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer figures to get some interest, too, as the defense sniffs a top five ranking for the second time in three years. Especially since Bill Parcells is so staunchly in his corner.
It only happens when people take notice what you’re doing and the Bengals have made them do that.
I THINK I BELIEVE Geno Atkins has a shot to be the first Bengals defensive tackle to make the Pro Bowl since nose tackle Tim Krumrie in 1988. Players and coaches are no different than everyone else and vote off stats, so his NFL-leading 6.5 sacks among tackles are huge. And you’ve got national media writing that Atkins was the best defensive tackle on the field in Baltimore the other week, not Ravens Pro Bowl tackle Haloti Ngata.
I THINK I BELIEVE that Sunday’s 51-yarder from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green showcased the kind of chemistry between a QB and receiver that hasn’t been seen around these parts since Carson Palmer was throwing to T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2007, when Houshmandzadeh shared the NFL receiving title with 112 catches.
I THINK I BELIEVE the offense’s not-so-secret weapon is tight end Jermaine Gresham. The guy is a matchup nightmare when you also have to cover the speed of Green and Jerome Simpson downfield. It is shaping up to be the best season by a Bengals tight end since Rodney Holman went to the Pro Bowl in 1990. Gresham isn’t going to the Pro Bowl, but he’s on pace for 58 catches for 575 yards and while Tony McGee had 754 yards receiving on 55 catches in 1995, he only had four TDs. Gresham already has five. Holman also had five TDs in 1990 and 14.9 yards per his 40 catches.
I THINK I BELIEVE one of the most underrated stats of this season is Mike Nugent’s 8-for-9 effort on field goals in the fourth quarter. How good has Nugent been? He’s 35-for-40 from all over for an 87.5 percentage since he became the Bengals kicker in 2010. When he arrived before the season, his career percentage was 79 percent on 79-for-100.
I THINK BELIEVE if I’m left alone in the draft room with a box of Cap’n Crunch and Stephen King’s Nov. 22, 1963, I go cornerback, wide receiver, guard, D-lineman, running back in that order with those five projected picks in the first three rounds, the guess being that extra pick in the third ends up as the compensatory pick for cornerback Johnathan Joseph.
The Bengals have to think about D-line, too. With tackle Pat Sims and DT/DEs Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanene looking at free agency, how many stick around to keep being part of a rotation instead of a starter? One thing, though. Every lineman gets a pretty significant number of snaps.
I THINK I BELIEVE this is a scheme league. How else to explain that quarterback Carson Palmer is winning the kind of games in Oakland in his first month that he didn’t win in Cincinnati for several years, if ever? On Sunday in the win over the Bears he threw for 301 yards without his top running back (Darren McFadden) and two of his top three receivers in Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore.
Running back Michael Bush had just 69 yards on 24 carries. And there’s the nut. The Raiders are pounding the ball and mixing play-action for deep shots downfield with short throws to the backs as Palmer averages a whopping 8.9 yards per throw. Against the Bears he threw nine times to his fullback and running back.
He had back-to-back 100 passer rating games against Minnesota and San Diego. The last time he did that was the first two games of 2007. The last time he threw for 300 yards in a win was the last game of 2007.
The reports of his demise were clearly false. The guy can still play.
So, as it turns out, can Dalton.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Geno Atkins, Jay Gruden, Jeff Fisher, Jermaine Gresham, Mike Nugent, Mike Zimmer
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 21 Comments »
First-round pick Jermaine Gresham has missed the first two practices and his agent and the Bengals don’t appear to be close to a deal even though the two picks ahead of him at No. 21 are in. And it appears that agent Ben Dogra isn’t talking to the media about it, either.
Possible snafus? Dogra and his agency CAA have a raft of first-round picks and they may be trying to get one of their other guys signed first. Or, Tim Tebow, at No. 25, got some serious quarterback incentives that could balloon it to $33 million and that may be a factor.
Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said earlier this week that missing the entire first week of training camp is crushing because it is so heavy in review and installation.
» Safety Gibril Wilson got his foot stepped on and missed the latter part of Thursday night’s practice, but it didn’t look serious.
» Cornerback Leon Hall (back) thought a weekend return was possible
» The pads come on for the first time Saturday morning.
» Two former Bengals turned media mega stars, NFL Network’s Solomon Wilcots and Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham, signed off on the Terrell Owens move. Both played on Super Bowl teams in Cincinnati with a lot of weapons and saw the egos co-exist.
“If Issac Curtis was double covered, Kenny Anderson threw it to Cris (Collinsworth),” said Lapham, a member of the ’81 club. “If Cris was double covered, he threw it to Isaac. If they were both double covered, he threw it to (tight end) Danny Ross. … The bottom line is if you look in the huddle and what is looking back at you is guys trying to win the game and not get their numbers, then you know you’ve got it and that’s what we had.”
One nagging concern in this corner: Can the Bengals still be a team committed to the run and run a lot of three receiver sets? Wilcots says not to worry.
“They crushed the Bears with three receivers last year,” he said. “You can certainly do it. Your receivers have to block. T.O. is big guy who can block and Antonio Bryant is a tough guy that blocks.”
Wilcots isn’t looking for much blocking from The Ocho, but he likes the other two guys and how the three-receiver sets widens the running lanes.
Tags: early notes, Jermaine Gresham
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 8 Comments »