Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and the Cincinnati Bengals are going to face a gauntlet of the best tight ends in the NFL this season. Thirteen of Cincinnati’s 17 games will be against teams that have one of the top 15 tight ends in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
CBS Sports has the Bengals facing off against seven of their top 10 tight ends in 2023.
Many rankings determining who the best tight ends are come down to how good of a receiver the players are. Something that Bengals fans are acutely aware of is that there is more to the receiving position than catching the ball.
A valuable tight end is a good blocker and an excellent pass catcher who can provide mismatches and give his teammates opportunities to excel.
With that in mind, here are the five toughest tight ends on the Bengals 2023 schedule.
All statistics are provided by Pro Football Reference.
5. David Njoku
The Cleveland Browns drafted tight end David Njoku with the 29th overall pick in the 2017 draft. The team selected the former Hurricane to be a receiving threat. He has not turned out to be prolific in that area.
What Njoku has turned into is one of the best overall tight ends in the NFL. While he was not known for his blocking capabilities, he has developed into a solid pass protector and run blocker.
Cleveland was tied with San Francisco for the eighth-best yards per attempt. Nick Chubb, Cleveland’s Pro Bowl running back, rushed for 1,525 yards, the third most in the NFL. His 5.0 average was the fourth-best among running backs. This is in part due to Njoku’s improvement in the running game.
One of Cincinnati’s foibles from the tight end position has been their ability to block defensive ends one-on-one. While the offensive line rightfully receives the brunt of the blame for sacks and quarterback hits, the tight ends have also played an understated role in their rushing success. This is an area where the Browns’ tight end thrives.
When noting Njoku’s pass-blocking prowess, PFF writes, “Thirty-six tight ends have tallied at least 100 pass-blocking snaps over the past three seasons, and Njoku ranks first among them with a 77.9 pass-blocking grade. Over that stretch, he’s pass-blocked 136 times and has allowed a sack or quarterback knockdown just once.”
Another aspect of Njoku’s game defenses must contend with is in the red zone. He is a dependable and athletic target for their quarterback. The Browns' tight end was only one of two at the position to have more than 20 red zone targets last season, which resulted in the second-most red zone receptions.
Njoku finished last season with 58 receptions for 628 yards and four touchdowns for the Browns. Count on him improving upon those numbers this year.