The Cincinnati Bengals offense will look different under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in 2018. Will Ryan Hewitt see a more prominent role?
The Cincinnati Bengals signed Ryan Hewitt as an undrafted free agent following the 2014 NFL Draft. The Standford product became a part of the Bengals offense immediately as he played in 39.7 percent of the offensive snaps as a lead blocker in the run game and a passing option for veteran quarterback Andy Dalton. In August 2016, Hewitt signed a three year, $8 million deal with the team. That was the last we heard from him though.
Over the past two seasons, Hewitt was only on the field for 15.9 percent of the offensive snaps. When signing his deal, he thought that he would be getting more involved in the offense, but instead did the opposite. Given that the fullback position is slowing disappearing in today’s NFL, fullbacks have to show versatility to find time on the field. With offensive coordinator Bill Lazor changing the offense to suit the players they have, it’s possible we see Hewitt as more than just a special teams player in 2018.
“The fullback is a lost art to some degree. We just made an emphasis on the first day of practice to have some fullback involved every day,” Lazor said. “I think when you’re in that position you have to be able to have some versatility, and Ryan has proven that he can play tight end. Sometimes you have fullbacks who can double as halfbacks. He can double as a tight end. Not a halfback yet. I feel good about him. He’s a smart guy. He’s a tough guy. In practice, you can see if you put him in all those roles he doesn’t blink.”
Former running back Jeremy Hill was the only running back on the roster that had success running behind a fullback last season. The Bengals let Hill hit free agency where he signed with the New England Patriots and now are left with running backs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard leading the pack. Both players have more success running out of shotgun sets where fullbacks are not needed.
Considering Hewitt’s versatility to play tight end, he will have a better shot at making the 53-man roster this season. Tyler Eifert is returning on a one-year incentive deal but has yet to prove he can stay healthy. Which means that having a fourth tight end would not be out of the question for the Bengals. Considering Hewitt’s success blocking in the run game, Cincinnati should consider keeping him around.
“You watch what a lot of the players who played my position for his offenses, they’re very multiple-skilled guys who aren’t one-faceted blockers or route runners,” Hewitt said. “He kind of likes guys who can do it all, so that’s what I’m hoping I can bring to the table. Obviously, I’m a little more run savvy, but I like to get out and catch the ball and do that thing, too. Hopefully, I’m able to get some of that done this year.”
We still don’t know exactly what the Bengals offense will look like as the franchise has been very secretive during camps. Our best guess is to see more of what we saw in weeks 16 and 17 of last season. Hewitt hopes to find a more prominent role in the offense in 2018 and it would be fun to watch if he can show his versatility in the new offense to not only block,but catch passes and pick up yards that way.