The tight ends for the Cincinnati Bengals are an underutilized bunch. These Bengals tight end grades signify that more could be from this positional group in 2022. This room could look very different once fall camp opens up.
With an offense full of wide receiver weapons, play-making running backs, and a quarterback destined for stardom, the tight end group is a tad lackluster as a whole. There were plenty of highlights by the veteran of the group, but in order for Cincinnati to make the jump, they may need more.
Cincinnati Bengals Tight End Grades for the 2021 Season
C.J. Uzomah: B+
Regular season: 49 receptions, 493 yards, five touchdowns
Playoffs: 15 receptions, 146 yards, one touchdown
One of just three players who were on the team for that 2015 Wild Card loss who is still on the team. C.J. Uzomah is a fan-favorite and a photo-bombing connoisseur. One thing that’s always been around is the huge smile on his face. Cincinnati loves Uzomah and likely wants him to play his entire career in stripes.
As a whole, Uzomah was a reliable option for the Bengals offense. All five of his regular-season touchdowns came between Weeks 4-7, however. He scored twice against Jacksonville, once against Detroit, and twice against Baltimore. He was held without a score all the way until the Wild Card game, where he scored the Bengals first touchdown of the post-season.
You knew @cj_uzomah was going to deliver for #NationalTightEndsDay!
Watch on CBS pic.twitter.com/MZP4bU9fUp
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) October 24, 2021
Uzomah did what was required of him and he played well for Cincinnati in 2021. He was often a reliable option on third down or in crunch time. The only thing that could be considered a fault is that he is just okay at blocking. Regardless, on that final play where Joe Burrow was sacked in Super Bowl LVI, he was wide open across the middle. As was the case with the other two skill groups, imagine the numbers Uzomah could manage if Burrow is sacked a little less. He set career bests in receptions, yards, and touchdowns for this team. Uzomah is currently slated to be a free agent in a very saturated tight end class.
Drew Sample: C+
Regular season: 11 receptions, 81 yards
Playoffs: One reception, four yards
The fact that Cincinnati used a second-round pick for a fourth-round tight end in 2019 continues to haunt. Drew Sample‘s role on this Bengals team is as an extra blocker. While there were a few times where Sample stepped up and opened a lane for Joe Mixon or protected Burrow for 0.12 seconds more, he was part of the offensive line struggles.
This offense does not use tight ends as receivers as frequently as it could. Some of that is on the offensive line, obviously, but having a stark lack of depth is an issue. When defenses can start to key in on play selection due to which tight end is employed, it’s a big impediment.
If Sample’s job in Cincinnati is to be an extra blocker when the offense employs 12 personnel, he’s fine. The issue is when he is left on an island against premier pass rushers when in empty. Overall, Sample graded out at 59.0 for PFF. This is fine for a back-up tight end; not for a former second-round pick that would likely have been there two rounds later.
Mitchell Wilcox: Not enough data
Season stats: Three receptions, 16 yards
Mitchell Wilcox was an undrafted rookie out of South Florida and had to fight his way onto the 53-man roster. There were little-to-no expectations for him other than to play special teams. On the year, Wilcox suited up for just 9% of offensive snaps compared to 57% of special team snaps.
There honestly is not nearly enough data for this Bengals tight end grades. Wilcox will likely have to go into 2022 fighting for a roster spot. Due to his experience this year, he is likely to remain in Cincinnati.
The Line Isn’t the Only Upgradeable Position
Thanks to Burrow and a decent amount of cap space, Cincinnati may be a destination for free agents. Rob Gronkowski even said he would want to play with Burrow if the opportunity presented itself. Even with a Gronk, Uzomah will need to return because Gronkowski is not exactly an everyday player anymore. Regardless, the tight end market is really solid this year and Cincinnati could look to upgrade at the position.
The final offensive position group is also the one that needs the most help: the offensive line. The worst unit in football two years running gets its grades next.