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Bengals hope to take a page from Patriots with two-tight end approach

05.13.13 at 11:58 am ET
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Since they arrived as rookies in 2010, the Patriots have been able to utilize the dynamic skill set of tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in a way that has kept defensive coordinators struggling to keep up. When healthy, the combo has created havoc for opposing teams, as New England has effectively presented two-tight ends sets that are difficult to defend, particularly when faced with the prospect of a steady and consistent running game.

So it was no surprise to hear this weekend that other teams have started studying how to best utilize two young tight ends in passing games of their own. This offseason, the Bengals added former Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert as a first-round pick, joining an offense that also already had Pro Bowler Jermaine Gresham. On the surface, it’s easy to make the physical comparisons: Eifert is a more physical presence like Gronkowski, while Gresham is more of a fluid, pass catcher — a tight end in a wide receivers’ body.

Speaking with reporters over the weekend, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was reticent to make any sort of comparisons to the Gronkowski-Hernandez combo, saying that, “We’re not the Patriots. We’re the Bengals and we’re going to do what we do with our players.” But he did allude to New England’s two-tight approach later, and added that how much the Cincy offense will resemble the Patriots is up to the rookie.

“If Tyler is a good blocker, that puts us in a good advantage in the run game,” Gruden told Dan Pompei of The National Football Post. “That’s what New England does so well. They get teams to match up nickel with them and they can run the ball effectively out of that two tight end set. They have an extra big body blocking. Tyler has a long way to go to prove he’s a good blocker. Training camp will help him. Coach [Jonathan] Hayes has been around tight ends for a long time and is a great tutor for him.”

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