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Spotlight: Jermaine Gresham

posted by Mike Brown on Aug 14th


Mike Brown's thoughts

Jermaine Gresham entered the league to much fanfare from fantasy owners a season ago, as many of us saw him in the Antonio Gates/Vernon Davis mold, a pass-catching freak who presented defensive mismatches at every turn. The Cincinnati Bengals had made him their first round pick, and it was widely assumed that he would step into the lineup and produce almost immediately.

During the first few weeks, Gresham provided glimpses of the sort of talent he possesses but he never really did break out in the sense of becoming a true number one option at the tight end spot. Of course, a lot of that can be attributed to being a rookie tight end thrown into the fire right out of the game. Unless your name is Cam Cleeland, there's a good chance you didn't have a dynamite rookie season at the tight end position. But Gresham more than held his own, battling through a case of the drops and looking a bit bewildered at times.

He rebounded to post his best game of the season in Week 10 against the Colts, going for 85 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions. Of course, by that point veteran Terrell Owens had firmly entrenched himself as the team's go-to receiver. Gresham was solid for a handful of games, but for the most part he was the third or fourth option in the passing game and becoming something of an afterthought in the red zone. He struggled down the stretch, catching just 12 passes over his final six games with only one touchdown. Fantasy owners were disappointed with the lack of production, although he did turn in 56 yards and a score in the season finale.

Heading into 2011, the Bengals offense looks wildly different than in 2010. Quarterback Carson Palmer is semi-retired. Number one receiver Owens tore his ACL and won't return. The team's other starting wideout, Chad Ochocinco, was traded to the Patriots. And the Bengals used the fourth overall pick in April's draft to select all-world wide receiver A.J. Green out of Georgia. While Green is expected to step into the role of go-to guy right away, Gresham is still in a position to see more work. And with a steady improvement on his end, he could move into TE1 territory for fantasy owners. Of course, with all of those changes to the Cincinnati attack, it could mean that the team's passing game falls flat on its face and relegates Gresham to your team's bench or waiver wire fodder.

Positives

  • On talent alone, Gresham is rivaled by few other tight ends in the game. If he was on any other team, he'd be looked upon as one of the obvious best young sleepers at his position
  • Rookie tight ends rarely make a big mark in their first seasons, but Gresham was legitimately roster-worthy all season long. The Bengals now bring in Jay Gruden to run the offense, which can only be seen as a positive for all involved
  • With WRs Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens no longer around, there will be about 200 more passes to go around to other targets. Along with rookie A.J. Green, Gresham provides an explosive weapon for young QB Andy Dalton to utilize

Negatives

  • Gresham had a number of mental errors in 2010, namely dropped passes. He'll need to be more focused as he enters his second season
  • While there will likely be more targets going in his direction, the quality of those targets may not be up to par. Not that Carson Palmer was terribly effective last season, but one has to assume he was better than rookie Andy Dalton will be this year
  • With Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens gone, Gresham will see more passes - but he may also see a lot more attention from the defensive secondary this year than he did a year ago

Final thoughts

It's difficult to project a breakout season from anyone involved in the 2011 Cincinnati passing game, but if there's anyone who is in a position to make great strides, it's Gresham. He's got a first round pedigree on his ledger, and didn't look completely lost out there last year. Don't underestimate him based on his final stats - those are actually pretty solid for a rookie tight end. Now he'll get to work with Andy Dalton, who doesn't possess the strongest arm in the world. What does that mean for Gresham? Well, if Dalton is unable to get the ball deep down the field with regularity, who do you suppose his primary check-down will be to? Additionally, A.J. Green for all his talent is still a rookie wide receiver. It stands to reason that the coaching staff will want to involve Gresham from the start to make sure they aren't putting all of their eggs in the rookie receiver's basket.

Like we said, Gresham is supremely talented and provides mismatches no matter where he lines up. He's either too fast for a linebacker or too big for a defensive back. So when Cincinnati gets in the red zone, expect to see them work him into the mix more and more. This is a team that is going to have a tough time scoring with regularity, as they've got an unimpressive running game and young/inexperienced wide receivers. Gresham should greatly improve on his numbers simply by virtue of there being no one else to throw to; and if he shows even moderate improvement in focus and ability, he'll blow away his 2010 stats.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

doowain said:

Was a huge fan of his in college and he did nothing last year to make me think he won't be a top TE as soon as this year (easily a TE1). As poor as the offense projects to be this year if they are starting a rookie QB, I still see him leading the team in targets (somewhere in the 90s or low 100s). He's also an absolute beast and match-up nightmare in the red zone.

Iwannabeacowboybaby! said:

It just didn't seem like Palmer wanted to check down to his TE last season. When given a chance, I thought Gresham was pretty good at turning up field and getting yardage. I don't seem as the type of guy that will ever be an elite TE in this league. I really don't look at the QB situation in Cinci all that much of a negative as some QB's will look for their TE a lot more than what Carson Palmer did last year. I think Gresham is a TE that should finish in the 10 to 15 range.

Thomsen said:

No doubt about Gresham's talent, but his situation isn't favorable. New system, new QB and and this is only his 2nd year. I believe Gruden will make him a bigger part of the offense, and that Dalton will look to him more often than Palmer did, maybe amounting to 1-2 more targets per game. Still it will be difficult to improve drastically with all the changes and a rookie QB.


Jermaine Gresham projections

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