Jan 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Ryan Hewitt (89) gets past Indianapolis Colts cornerback Darius Butler (20) in the first half in the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
The Bengals have long sought a player who was versatile enough to man the fullback position while also providing depth elsewhere. Past seasons have proved the Bengals don’t want to use a roster spot for someone who was exclusively a fullback. It’s likely why they cut John Conner in 2012 who clearly outplayed former Bengal Orson Charles. The Bengals chose to retain Charles because he possessed more promise and versatility. They hoped he would become a capable blocker out of the backfield while also being able to play tight end in a pinch and special teams consistently.
In 2013, Charles, a fourth-round pick in 2012, was beaten out for a roster spot by a little known undrafted free agent. Ryan Hewitt earned the role after showing the kind of promise and versatility the team had sought the previous two years.
Ryan Hewitt managed to play in all 16 games this year; an incredible accomplishment for any rookie much less an undrafted one. He was involved in 466 offensive snaps this year (43.8%) while also contributing on 209 special teams plays (45.9%). This kind of workload signifies the kind of trust the Bengals’ coaching staff had in the young player, and rightfully so.
Hewitt’s blocking was impressive throughout the year. No play better displayed the kind of trust the coaches had in him than this one against the Buccaneers.
Pinned down on their own one-yard-line, the Bengals chose to run a play straight up the gut that asked Ryan Hewitt to meet the linebacker in the hole. If he whiffs on the play, the Bengals likely suffer a safety, but the trusty Hewitt met his man and stonewalled him which allowed Giovani Bernard to burst through the hole and gain 15 yards. It’s was an impressive block considering how predictable the play could’ve been for defenders.
Against the Jaguars on a play that saw Jeremy Hill gain 10 yards, Ryan Hewitt was similarly impressive. When the plays begins, it looks as though Andre Smith isn’t going to gain the proper angle on his defender and Hill will likely meet the defensive end in the hole. Hewitt comes from the backfield and on his way to meeting the linebacker on the outside, he chips Smith’s man back towards the middle of the field allowing Smith the proper angle to open the running lane for Hill. Hewitt proceeded forward to block his assignment, the linebacker, towards the sideline and Jeremy Hill took the ball downfield for a first down.
Again versus the Jaguars, Ryan Hewitt put his particularly impressive blocking ability on display. Blocking in space is such an important quality for a fullback to possess. Hewitt was impressive enough in this regard on the previous play when locating and effectively blocking the linebacker. But on this next play, Hewitt recognizes that the strong side linebacker is accounted for and continues through the running lane. He locates and successfully blocks the safety at the third level of the defense.
It’s one of the more impressive highlights of Hewitt. Effectively blocking a linebacker at the second level is generally impressive enough. But successfully locating and blocking a defender at the third level is about the best example of blocking in space one could produce.
These highlights display the talent that Ryan Hewitt possesses when catalyzing the Bengals’ running attack. Yet, Ryan Hewitt’s impact on the Bengals doesn’t stop there.
Over the course of his rookie season, Hewitt displayed reliable hands and an ability to make a plays in the passing game. Against the Cleveland Browns, Hewitt made a nice one-handed catch on an errant screen pass and took the ball for a solid gain–it could’ve been more had Clint Boling not whiffed on his block. In that same game, Hewitt broke into the flat and took an Andy Dalton pass for a first down.
It’s these kinds of simple, yet important, plays that make Hewitt such a valuable player on offense.
In the coming year, Ryan Hewitt will give the Bengals options on offense they haven’t enjoyed in the past. Having someone who can man the fullback position while also plaing effectively as a tight end and special teamer means the team won’t have to use two roster spots on players who can cover these roles. Hewitt’s reliability when blocking and receiving gives the Bengals a viable duel-threat player who won’t give the opposition insight into the coming play.
Hewitt will also give the Bengals options in the upcoming draft. With Jermaine Gresham set to become a free agent, the Bengals must consider their options at the position. The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paul Dehner has already reported some of the Bengals’ staff may want to move on from Gresham. He notes that reliability and trust are a large factors working against Gresham while conversely Ryan Hewitt seems to possess these qualities.
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If in fact the Bengals choose to move on from Gresham, replacing him in the draft will be considered. But with Tyler Eifert returning in the coming year, his receiving prowess would be complimented well by Hewitt’s penchant for blocking. This would allow the Bengals to either draft a tight end later in the draft or simply find a free agent option (re-signing veteran Alex Smith remains an option while the Bengals already re-signed reserve tight end Kevin Brock).
Ryan Hewitt could play a major role for the Bengals in the upcoming season. Having already participated in nearly half of the team’s offensive snaps this year, it’s likely Hewitt surpasses the 50% mark in 2015. Dalton may look to Hewitt more when throwing the football while Hewitt could also be a valuable weapon out of the backfield on play-action passes. It’s these kinds of options both during the off-season and presumably in the upcoming season that will make Ryan Hewitt a player to watch in 2015.