Can C.J. Uzomah Be A Weapon for the Bengals?
Jan 1, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Auburn Tigers tight end C.J. Uzomah (81) reacts after he scored a touchdown against the Wisconsin Badgers during the second half in the 2015 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Auburn Tigers 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
When the Cincinnati Bengals selected C.J. Uzomah in the fifth round of this year’s draft, many fans felt the selection underwhelmed. Uzomah was the second of two tight ends selected and was statistically unproductive in college. But this shouldn’t deter fans from believing that this year’s fifth-round selection can make an impact in 2015 and beyond.
The Bengals selected C.J. Uzomah because of the promise he offered. At 6’5″, 264 pounds, he possesses NFL size. He has the size to be an effective blocker and deal with the hits he will inevitably take while working “the seam.” Bolstering the potential Uzomah offers, the Auburn coaching staff told Cincinnati that they should have done much more with their newest tight end.
Nov 15, 2014; Athens, GA, USA; Auburn Tigers tight end C.J. Uzomah (81) makes a reception against Georgia Bulldogs safety Corey Moore (39) in the first quarter of their game at Sanford Stadium. Georgia won 34-7. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
"“You know when you’re around people and you see someone and you meet them and they’ve got that look in their eye and you can tell he’s a focused young man,” Hayes said. “He wants to be good. He just wants someone to show him how to be good. The Auburn coaching staff holds him in very, very high esteem. Their one downfall, they said, was they didn’t do a good enough job in featuring him in their offense, and they said it repeatedly at the workout.”"
Cincinnati also believes C.J. Uzomah will only get better going forward due to the lack of coaching he received in college. Due to the Tigers’ offensive scheme, the university didn’t employ a tight ends coach. Instead, because they run the spread offense, Auburn had Uzomah worked with either the wide receivers or offensive line depending on whether they were working on running or passing. With some individualized in the NFL, it’s reasonable to believe that Uzomah will only improve.
Also worth noting is the impact former Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham may have had on C.J. Uzomah’s selection. While it’s true that Gresham’s departure likely had the largest impact on the team’s willingness to select two tight ends, it’s also worth noting that Gresham’s inability to play through injury may have bolstered the Bengals interest in Uzomah specifically.
"“He’s a very tough kid. He played against Alabama with a slightly separated shoulder and he played the entire game. You can see it on tape that he is a tough kid. The thing you realize, though, is he’s raw and he has to be brought along, and that’s what’s exciting with him. He’s going to push the guys in my room, and that’s going to help us get better.”"
In his first offseason, C.J. Uzomah will be battling primarily with fellow rookie tight end Tyler Kroft for playing time. Kroft was the team’s first of two third-round selections, and was drafted primarily for his ability to block.
Although Kroft likely has a leg up in the blocking game, according to Bengals ESPN reporter Coley Harvey, C.J. Uzomah is separating himself in the passing game.
"“Although still comparatively raw, Uzomah — a fifth-round selection — seems to have a better handle on things than Kroft, who dropped his share of passes during organized team activities and minicamp.”"
If Uzomah heeds the coaching he receives this offseason, I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a serviceable blocker come Week One this year. And if Uzomah can become this, it’s reasonable to believe that he could pass Kroft on the depth chart by this time. Hue Jackson runs a dynamic offense, so he will undoubtedly enjoy his ability to contribute to the passing game.
In NFL.com’s draft profile of him, analyst and draft pundit Lance Zierlein also believes C.J. Uzomah was under-utilized in college. He states that Uzomah “could become a much more productive move tight end in the pros than he was in college.” Although this is a relative statement considering his collegiate numbers, it seems C.J. Uzomah’s prospects are looking up. Fans may want to keep a close eye on his training camp story, as he has all the skills to make an impact in the coming season.