Bengals Battle: Ryan Hewitt vs. Orson Charles
Ryan Hewitt has the early lead over veteran Orson Charles for the FB/HB duties. Can he hold his position? Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
The Bengals have been known for adding quality undrafted free agents (UDFA) following the draft for the past couple of years. In 2012 the team added both Vontaze Burfict and Emmanuel Lamur and in 2013 they added fellow linebacker Jayson DiManche. Keeping with this new tradition, it’s beginning to look like their next addition from this “passed over talent” pool will be FB/HB Ryan Hewitt. He’s in a heated camp battle with converted FB/HB Orson Charles, who the team prioritized last year over the superior fullback, John Connor. ESPN’s Coley Harvey recently reported coach Marvin Lewis feels it’s a “dogfight” between the two.
Charles has struggled to transition into the role after being drafted as a “steal” of a tight end coming out of Georgia. When Tyler Eifert fell to the Bengals during the 2013 draft, the team couldn’t resist the opportunity to draft him. It was this decision that pushed Charles out of the tight end rotation. Hue Jackson, who was the running backs coach in 2013, took Charles under his wing and began the process of developing him into the FB/HB role, one that Jackson has coveted for some time. Despite his receiving ability, Charles’ struggle to effectively block in space, a must for any fullback, has forced him out of the team’s game plans. The Bengals have clearly prioritized the FB/HB role as they’ve made Domata Peko the de facto goal line blocker and have inserted Tyler Eifert into the backfield sporadically. During his time in Oakland, Jackson turned Marcel Reece, who played wide receiver while at Washington University, into one of the league’s best and most dynamic fullbacks, so he has an understanding of what it takes to make it as a fullback in an NFL that is often negating the position.
Hewitt was a college fullback/tight end at Stanford. He’s been impressive thus far in camp receiving praise from coaches and the media alike. He has the blocking capability that Charles lacks and has proven he can catch the ball out of the backfield; he had an especially good year while Andrew Luck was quarterbacking the Stanford Cardinals. In the Bengals first preseason game, Hewitt was involved in 28 snaps while Charles was involved in none; maybe the most telling sign that Hewitt is winning this battle thus far. If Hewitt can keep up his quality play, which I’m sure has Hue Jackson drooling over visions of his next Marcel Reece, he may secure his position within the next game or two and be the next Bengals’ addition from the UDFA pool.