When Jermaine Gresham went down with a hamstring injury, QB Andy Dalton lost one of his most reliable offensive weapons. Its no secret in today’s NFL that rookie QB’s love big, athletic tight ends like Gresham, and losing him could have been disastrous to the Bengals’ offense, as he ranks third on the team in receiving yards and second in TD receptions.
Enter Donald Lee and Colin Cochart. Lee, a 9-year veteran, had played with the Green Bay Packers since 2005, serving mostly as a backup TE, even being third or fourth on the depth chart at times. He was signed by the Bengals prior to the start of thew regular season, and wasn’t expected to contribute much, if anything to the young Bengals. That changed when Gresham went down and Lee was thrust into the starting lineup and has made key plays at pivotal points in the last two games. Against Tennessee, he had two catches for 59 yards on the Bengals’ first scoring drive in the second quarter. Rookie TE Colin Cochart finished the drive off with a 1-yard TD reception. Cochart, the rookie FA out of South Dakota State, entered the game with no NFL catches, but snagged two, including the Bengals’ first TD. The two TE’s finished the day with a combined five catches for 55 yards and a TD in a game that was decided by a single TD.
Against the Seattle Seahwaks, Lee had a 14-yard reception on a TD drive that gave the Bengals a 17-3 cushion. He finished the game with three catches for 44 yards.
We see this ever year in the NFL with teams who have winning records. Depth is as important as how good the starter is. Last year, Green Bay won the Super Bowl with half of their starters on the IR, and lost several starters during their Super Bowl victory over the Steelers. Your only as strong as your weakest link, and so far, the Bengals have shown very few weak links.