Updated: 5:25 p.m.
Two tight ends?
Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis lived it during his last two seasons with the Patriots in 2010-2011. In fact, he was on the field in that 2010 opener in Foxboro when Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez made their NFL debuts against the Bengals.
The tandem is one of the reasons the Patriots sailed away, 38-24. They each caught just one ball, Gronkowski for a one-yard TD that made it 38-17, and Hernandez for a wide-open, back-breaking 45-yard catch-and-run early in the game.
Also making his debut in that game was Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham and he also caught his first NFL touchdown. Now that the Bengals have selected Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert with the same pick they took Gresham three years ago (No. 21) the Bengals passing game is looking Boston Strong. Green-Ellis saw Gronkowksi and Hernandez foul up a lot of defenses when they were on the field at the same time.
"Long story short, if you have two tight ends and they are both big guys and you don't feel like you have to cover them with DBs, it actually brings more people in to the box," BJGE offered Monday. "If you have two guys and you feel like one of them is really a receiver then you approach it differently."
Hernandez is seen almost as another wide receiver because of his excellent skill sets with the ball, and that might be where Eifert is at this point.
"That was the big thing when I was in New England with Hernandez. (In) the first quarter we had to see how teams were playing us, like, would they play us in nickel personnel to put a DB on Hernandez?" BJGE said. "Or would they leave a linebacker in there because now it gives you options from an offensive coordinator standpoint? You could either go back or say, 'Well, if they are going to play us in nickel personnel with both tight ends, we will run the ball. They play us with big people personnel we'll just put one of the receiving tight ends out and have them run routes.' Altogether you can't really say two tight ends is going to make it better because it all depends on how the defense you're playing that week is going to approach it."
BJGE thinks back to that 2011 season New England lost the Super Bowl late to the Giants after the Patriots finished second in the league in passing and 20th on the run. The Bengals won't be sneaking up on people like the Pats did, when quarterback Tom Brady and company chucked it 612 times, compared to 438 rushes.
"You look at that year and a lot of people don't realize that Tom had his best statistical season ever in history. We threw the ball numerous times," Green-Ellis said. "We ran the ball three to five times a game. Of course, that's not what you want to do when you're a running back. But we were winning games. We killed people. It was a shock to the league that year. It can actually be a great thing when you have two guys who can catch the ball. It takes a lot of pressure off what you can do because you had to prepare for all those guys."
The Patriots didn't exactly take the air out of the running game that season. They averaged 27 runs per game, but the point is made. It was a nightmare for defenses.
"You give and take a little bit, because they are on opposite sides of the ball; then you balance off the defense automatically," BJGE said. "They are on the same side, you can overload one side and run the other side or whatever. It's all about what the guys' skill sets may be when they come in and if they are able to block and things like that. Obviously, we will learn that real fast because once we get out there on the field we will be able to see what guys can do and other teams will be able to see what guys can do as well. We'll just have to adjust how defenses play us."
DALTON ON DALTON: If you're one of those who think there are now no more excuses for quarterback Andy Dalton after the Bengals drafted two weapons for him in the first 37 picks of last weekend's draft, he agrees with you.
"Well, there shouldn't be any excuses," Dalton said after his Monday workout. "The players we already have and adding these guys is just going to make the offense better. So I expect us to take the next step, I expect us to improve from where we were last year. Time will tell, but we've got the right attitude going in and the way we've been working, I don't expect any less."
But Dalton says this is nothing new. He knows what he has to do coming into a third season he's done just about everything a franchise quarterback can do except win a playoff game.
"I don't feel more pressure; I expect to be better this year. Regardless if we didn't even get anybody, I would still expect to be better. The more weapons we have, the better I feel," he said. "There's not any more pressure. For me, I felt like I got better last year than I did after my rookie year. So I've just got to keep getting better each year. That's all you can expect of yourself. And hopefully making the improvements will help with the win-loss record and we win more games and we get back to the playoffs and we win games in the playoffs. I think that's what it comes down to - if you're winning games or not."
DALTON AND HIS DRAFT: Ah, the Carson Palmer trade. The gift that keeps on giving.
The irony here is the second-round pick the Bengals got from the Raiders on Friday night turned into just the kind of running back Palmer never had in the seven seasons he quarterbacked the club:
An excellent route-runner with great hands along with some sizzle that can make defenders miss. Translation: North Carolina's Giovani Bernard.
OK, Palmer had Chris Perry for one season in 2005. But that's it.
Dalton certainly knows what a guy like Bernard can do for an offense. He hasn't seen any game film, but an Internet search showed all the right things.
"The most that I've watched him is just on YouTube," Dalton said. "It seems like he's got really good feet and he's got a good understanding of the game. Talking to some of the coaches when he was in here, they say he's got a good understanding of the game of football. I think he'll add another dimension. He'll be able to run routes. I think he catches the ball really well … he's going to be a good complement to BenJarvus."
Along with a welcome text to Eifert, Dalton had what passes for a 21st century conversation with Bernard with "three or four" texts.
"Welcome here. We're excited. Said if you ever need anything, you've got my number so don't hesitate to ask or call," Dalton said. "Or text."
A pass catcher out of the backfield had been a draft priority. Another big target at tight end was a bonus. Throw in the re-signing of right tackle Andre Smith and Dalton felt like the offense came out of Friday night attacking the needs.
"I think it felt like there's areas where we could improve and we went after it and got them," he said. "One of the biggest things with the whole draft was getting Andre signed, not having to use a pick on a tackle early on and getting him back. So I thought overall, we drafted really well."
As the keeper of the Xs and Os, Dalton knows exactly what using two tight ends means.
"It's matchups. You can get looks and see what coverages, man-zone reads and things like that," Dalton said. "Also you get the matchup of the tight ends on the linebackers and safeties. So I think (Eifert) is going to be a great addition. He's going to make Jermaine a better player. I'm excited to get him in here and get working with him."
Dalton reiterated what BJGE experienced.
"If we get to throwing the ball really well and we get two tight-end sets, then they have to play nickel and if they play nickel, we can run the ball," he said. "They take out a linebacker and put in another corner type. So that gives you a chance to do different things based on the personnel they put on the field. I think that's why we went after him so early."
Dalton agrees with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden that Eifert's presence enhances Gresham's game.
"Not just from a matchup standpoint, but having another guy out there that teams are going to have to worry about," Dalton said.
REY READY: Rey Maualuga has had more votes of confidence this offseason than Parliament.
First off, head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer wanted him back, so the Bengals re-signed him to a two-year deal. Then Lewis said he's not going to move Maualuga out of the middle. That seemed to be verified with last week's signing of SAM backer James Harrison.
Yet Maualuga, in the best shape of his NFL life to start a season, feels the need to make good on what he sees as a second chance after struggling late last season.
"Although they signed me back, it's still early on. I've still got to go out in OTAs and show our coaches that I'm better than I was last year, better than my previous four years here," Maualuga said. "I had a lot to think about this offseason. I understand what I need to work on. I understand what my role is coming in. I just want to make sure that since I've been given this second chance to work on the things that need work and try to make sure I'm a better person than I was last year."
Like everyone else, he's intrigued by the impending arrival of Harrison in two weeks.
"I think his leadership and that mentality he brings, as far as 'Can't be blocked, can't be stopped,' he's going to bring everything he has to make sure he gets to the play," Maualuga said. "He brings a lot to the table. He's going to boost up our defense that much more. I'm just looking forward to having him come in and see what we can become as a group."
MORE REX AND JACK: Sixth-round pick Rex Burkhead began his first week as a Bengal in the Oval Office. Burkhead's good friend, seven-year-old Jack Hoffman, was invited to the White House by the President after Barack Obama heard about Jack's fight with pediatric brain cancer. Burkhead, Jack's favorite Nebraska player, struck up a relationship with Hoffman and he has been named the 2012 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion.
"Being in there talking with the President was a weird feeling," Burkhead told the web site for Uplifting Athletes. "Being in there with the Hoffman family and Jack and bringing about awareness to pediatric brain cancer is very important. It's all about bring more awareness and raising money for more research."