CINCINNATI — The Bengals hadn’t gotten much production from their tight ends going into their Week 9 matchup with the Bills.
The quartet of Irv Smith Jr., Drew Sample, Mitch Wilcox and Tanner Hudson combined for 20 receptions for 122 yards and zero touchdowns in the first seven games of the season.
They nearly doubled their yardage in Sunday night’s win over Buffalo, combining for 10 catches for 101 yards and two scores.
The trio of Hudson, Smith and Sample produced in a big way.
“Those guys were awesome today. They really stepped up,” Joe Burrow said after the game. “They all made big plays for us, so we’re going to need more of it.”
Is Sunday’s success sustainable after seven games of little to no production from the tight ends on the roster?
“We were all fresh, so that’s always a good part of it,” Sample said. “James (Casey) does a good job of just making sure we all know everything and putting us in position to succeed.”
The Bengals don’t need elite production from the tight end room. The offense leans on Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon. They do need the tight ends to be serviceable and consistent, which is something we didn’t see during the first seven weeks of the season.
The quartet they have on the roster might’ve turned a corner. They should be able to produce moving forward.
Some weeks Hudson and Smith may play a big role in the passing game. Sample will continue to be a primary blocker, but there’s a chance he becomes a factor with the ball in his hands every once in a while.
Wilcox is the perfect blend. He helps on special teams, is a solid blocker and is a more than competent pass catcher.
There’s no reason why the Bengals’ tight ends can’t play at a league average level for the final nine games of the season.
Hudson is the most natural pass catcher. Smith is the best athlete. Sample is the best blocker. Wilcox may be the most complete of the group.
Don’t be surprised if the Bengals keep four tight ends active for the foreseeable future and rotate them, to not only keep them fresh, but maximize their strengths for the rest of the season.