The Jackson Factor – Part II: Ender’s Game

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The X-factor is Orson Charles.  A strong prospect coming out of Georgia in 2012, Charles showed flashes in his rookie campaign, but in a reformatted role as a halfback in Jay Gruden’s 2013 offense, Charles recorded only one play the entire 2013 season.  It makes sense that OC Hue Jackson will return Charles to his original role as a more complete tight end (now that he has had an entire season of blocking drills under his belt) in order to round out the depth chart.  Indeed, the Bengals have taken three tight ends on their final 53-man roster every year since 2009.

September 22, 2012; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks tight end Colt Lyerla (15) runs the ball against the Arizona Wildcats at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

The concern, however, is motivation.  Coach Jackson does not figure to feature dual tight end sets in his ground-first offense, but with only three legitimate candidates headed to training camp, the preseason seems like a forgone conclusion for the position.  To add some pressure, the Bengals should consider taking a flier on a player like Colt Lyerla of Oregon.  Despite the being littered with red flags, Lyerla had first round grades at the conclusion of his 2012 season, but inappropriate tweets, disputes with coaches, and a cocaine arrest in less than a six month window led to him going undrafted this past weekend.  Partially this can be explained by his emotional immaturity (Lyerla was 20 years old during all this) as well as growing up in poverty and an unstable household.  Nonetheless, Lyerla is a rare talent who lined up as a tight end, wide receiver, and running back while playing for the Ducks.

By all accounts, Lyerla is a bit odd, but this is the same team that has found a role for Taylor Mays.  Regardless of personality, some competition has to be found lest the Bengals get stale at tight end.