Bengals 2020 Training Camp Preview: Tight End

With Tyler Eifert gone from Cincinnati, which of the remaining tight ends will step up for the Bengals as we head into the 2020 season?

The tight end position has been one of the most frustrating for the Bengals over the past few years, and it is a major question mark entering the 2020 season. Tyler Eifert was once a key contributor to the Bengals offense, but injuries limited his role, and we have seen the tight end position struggle for relevance in Cincinnati over the past three or four seasons.

However, with a new franchise quarterback under center and in the second year under Zac Taylor, the four tight ends currently fighting for a roster spot have a new opportunity to catch the eye of the coaching staff and their teammates. Here’s a look at how things stand for the Bengals tight ends as training camp opens for 2020. 

A straight fight for the starting role

C.J. Uzomah

The veteran enters his sixth season with the team on a reasonably sizeable contract and is favored to take the top spot on the depth chart. The only issue here is that Uzomah’s production has not been up to the standard that his contract would suggest, as he recorded 439 receiving yards and three touchdowns in his strongest season with the Bengals.

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He’s got a lot to prove this season if he wants to stay ahead of the likes of Drew Sample. That is especially the case given the fact the Bengals could clear close to $2.5 million in cap space if they decided to move on prior to the season. Despite starting all 16 games last season, Uzomah only saw 59% of the snaps on offense and cannot afford a bad camp.

Drew Sample

If there’s anything that gives Sample the chance to overtake Uzomah and take a quick climb to the No. 1 spot at the position, it’s his superb ability to serve as a blocking tight end. Given that the Bengals are expected to lean heavily on the run game, and have plenty of explosive pass catchers, blocking could be the biggest element of the tight ends job for the majority of 2020.

Sample suffered a setback due to injury during his rookie season, so we don’t yet know how much his ability to produce will rival that of Uzomah’s. However, Sample is an extremely athletic player. Coming into the NFL his Relative Athletic Score was an impressive 9.01, with solid scores across the board. Depending on how the camp and the early part of the season goes, Sample could end up being a serviceable upgrade to the team in a short period of time. 

An intriguing pair fighting for the potential third tight end spot

Cethan Carter

Carter is another player who could capitalize and make a bigger impact in Eifert’s absence this year. The Bengals re-signed the tight end/halfback to a one-year contract this offseason, having been signed by Cincinnati as a college free agent in 2017.

Carter reeled in two receptions for 13 yards last season after spending the 2018 season on injured reserve and has been a contributor on special teams. In his two active seasons, 2017 and 2019, he has seen the field for over 60% of the special-teams snaps. Being a player that the coaches trust on special teams is huge when a player is attempting to sneak onto the back end of a roster.

Mason Schreck

The Bengals waived Schreck last August, later signing him to the practice squad and then moving him up to the active roster when the need demanded it. He saw action in two of the last five games last season, but was only present for four snaps and went without a reception.

It wouldn’t be a shock if he didn’t make the team. However, he’s managed to stay in ad around the building the last two years, meaning that the Bengals see enough upside in him to be willing to have spent a practice squad spot on him in 2019. Between Schreck and Carter, Schreck came into the league with the slightly better RAS, and that athleticism advantage could work in his favor when it comes to the crunch of a cut down.

The bottom line

The top player at the position in Cincinnati for the year will probably be determined by the winner of the training camp battle between Uzomah and Sample, which could truly go either way at this point. The rest of the players behind that pair on the depth chart will probably see a much more limited role on the field offensively. If Uzomah is deemed surplus to requirement, then we could see both Carter and Schreck make the roster.

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