4 significant questions for the Bengals tight ends this season

  • What to expect
  • Third-stringer
  • Pass-protection
  • Passing on draft prospects
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tanner Hudson (87) completes a catch as Green Bay Packers safety
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tanner Hudson (87) completes a catch as Green Bay Packers safety / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY
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Heading into the offseason, the tight end position was a big question mark for the Cincinnati Bengals. Will the team re-sign Hayden Hurst? Will they draft a tight end? Who will they sign now that Hurst is gone?

Many of those questions were answered, but others remain in their wake. Here are four significant questions for the Bengals' tight ends this season:

What to expect from the TE1 and TE2?

None of the tight ends on the roster have much experience starting. The projected starter is Irv Smith Jr. He was signed to take the job vacated by Hurst’s departure in free agency. 

However, we do not know how he will play as a starter. After being drafted in the second round by the Minnesota Vikings in 2019, Smith was never a full-time starter. This was in part due to injuries. He has only played a full season once and he missed the entire 2021 season due to an injury. 

In four years, Smith has only made 15 starts. This is his chance to show that he can remain healthy and perform well as a starter. He signed a one-year contract with Cincinnati, so if he can produce like Hurst did last season on the field, Smith could earn a big contract in free agency like Hurst. 

Drew Sample was regarded as a “blocking tight end” when he was drafted in the second round of the 2019 draft. He showed improvements in this area last season but even still, Sample has not grabbed the top tight end spot despite being a high draft pick. This could potentially be the year that changes. 

If Smith gets injured or does not perform how the coaching staff needs, Sample will be next in line to take over the top spot. It would be great for him to live up to his second-round pick potential. For now, however, Smith remains TE1.