Tight ends coach James Casey believes Drew Sample can be an upper-echelon blocker for the Cincinnati Bengals moving forward.
When the Cincinnati Bengals selected Drew Sample in the second round of the 2019 draft, they drew plenty of criticism. The roster had more glaring needs at linebacker and offensive line, along with other positions that certainly could have used some bolstering. To make matters worse, many believed the Washington tight end could have been had on day three, leaving fans and analysts alike scratching their heads.
Sample had a forgettable rookie campaign that ultimately ended in injury. The lackluster start along with the many new faces set to grace the halls of Paul Brown Stadium have caused most of the orange and black faithful to faithful to forget about the second-year player. Tight ends coach James Casey, however, still has very high expectations for him.
In a video released by the team, Casey had this to say,
“He’s strong, he’s tough… it’s just confidence. It’s hard that first year to get that confidence to realize, ‘Hey, I can be a dominant blocking tight end and I can dominate some of these defensive ends.’ He’s got a chance to be one of the upper-echelon tight ends in the NFL blocking wise.”
With a year under his belt, Sample’s confidence has grown and he looks to prove his positional coach right by bursting onto the scene. But does he really have the potential to be an upper-echelon blocker?
Drew Sample’s draft profile suggests a bigger year two impact
Coming out of Washington, many believed that Sample was the best blocking tight end the class had to offer. Draft analyst Lance Zierlein had this to say about the 6’5 prospect before he was selected by the Bengals,
“Sample’s size and lunch-pail demeanor are what NFL teams look for at the point of attack…His size, football character and commitment as a run blocker give him a chance to become a solid combination tight end…”
This praise, along with the fact that Sample earned Pro Football Focus’ highest blocking grade for tight ends reigning from a Power 5 conference suggests he has much more to offer moving forward.
That’s great news for a Cincinnati club that has struggled mightily along the trenches for the past several seasons. If Sample can live up to his draft billing in terms of blocking, he may be able to make the jobs of the tackles easier and mask their deficiencies.
On top of that, he can help get the run game going more consistently, providing the push necessary to allow Joe Mixon to continue his remarkable level of play.
Drew Sample may bring more to the table than just blocking
Even if Sample was one of the best blocking tight end prospects in recent history, it’s difficult to explain why he warranted a second-round selection. It’s clear the front office saw something in him that most did not.
Although Sample was never known as a prolific pass catcher, earning only 252 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns in his final collegiate year, there’s a belief that he has the potential to grow into more of a threat moving forward.
Circling back to Zierlein’s profile of Sample, he’s among those that think he can help the Bengals in their passing attack, stating that he has the necessary speed and ball skills to become more productive at the professional level.
It may be more difficult for him to prove his worth in the passing game moving forward, thanks to the plethora of weapons the Bengals possess in other areas. Cincinnati doesn’t necessarily need him to become a dynamic weapon up the seams, but it’s nice to know he has the potential to eventually help out in that regard, should he be called upon.
What the Bengals need to see from Drew Sample
Thankfully, Cincinnati doesn’t need Sample to turn into a top tier tight end. They don’t even need him to be an “upper-echelon” blocker, as Casey thinks he can be, although that would be a welcome development.
They just need him to take the next step in his development and perform at a solid level in all aspects. If he does that, it will give Zac Taylor one less thing to worry about in terms of getting the ground game going and allow the front office to check off one more box in their attempt to rebuild the roster.