The often overlooked C.J. Uzomah is used to flying under the radar. Will the Cincinnati Bengals give him more time to develop his untapped potential?
Making our way through the Cincinnati Bengals’ preseason, Tyler Eifert has had a roller coaster start to this season, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. This has become the norm for Eifert and it leaves fans asking “what could have been?” With a late return to training camp following precautions from an injury, Eifert has now found himself with limited playing time to prevent re-injuring his nagging back. With the probability that Eifert can’t last a whole season very high, the Bengals have continued to prepare by giving starting reps to C.J. Uzomah.
A Healthier Version of Eifert
A similar body build and style of play, Uzomah provides a down-field threat that is missing with Tyler Kroft. Kroft had his fair share of red zone targets and touchdowns, though. Scoring 7 touchdowns on 42 receptions totaling over 400 yards, Kroft will continue to be an option inside for Dalton, and even a run blocking option on the edge. Uzomah, though, has a higher ceiling, and has the support of the coaching staff who want to see him more involved. After only having 10 catches for 92 yards and a touchdown, I expect Uzomah to at least double that with more playing time.
Always Coming in Third
Since being drafted by the Bengals in 2015, Uzomah has always been competing for the backup tight end position. First it was to backup Eifert after starter Jermaine Gresham left for the Arizona Cardinals, and Uzomah ended up third behind Kroft and Eifert that year. The following 2016 season yielded a different outcome, as Eifert and Kroft were both injured to begin the year. This allowed Uzomah to be the starting tight end.
Uzomah set career highs in catches and receiving yards that season, and caught his first touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens to close out the season. He ended with 234 yards on 25 receptions and one touchdown during the eight games he started, and ten total that he played in. Last season, though, was a sidestep in the right direction, as he got a start against the Buffalo Bills.
Will He be Resigned?
With Uzomah entering the final year of his four-year contract, this season will be make-or-break for the young talent. Depending on Eifert to be healthy is a risk the Bengals continue to take, but having a talent similar to his at a much cheaper rate might be worth exploring. With precautions taken on Eifert this preseason, Uzomah has found himself taking some first team reps. His talent is best described as unproven, since his game action has been limited.
In that short time, Uzomah displayed qualities needed to be that go-to guy for Dalton in the red zone and on crucial third downs. That alone, along with making the most of his opportunities, could set Uzomah up for an extension. It will help if he displays what Eifert couldn’t: a consistently healthy downfield threat.