Chase Coffman hasn't caught a ball for real since he caught the most passes of any NCAA tight end in history while playing for Missouri in 2008, so he is one of the more intriguing Bengals this spring. Can a guy be named Comeback Player of the Year without ever playing in a regular-season game in the league?
After not getting on the field last year in May and June and then never suiting up for a game because of foot problems and the massive adjustment to the pro position, what exactly have the Bengals seen from Coffman in the first seven practices since his offseason ankle surgery?
Even before he signed, veteran tight end Reggie Kelly talked up one of his two protégés, a group that includes No. 1 pick Jermaine Gresham.
"I don't think we should forget about Chase Coffman; I think he can be a very good player," Kelly said last month. "I think he can block and hold down the edge as well as be a great receiver. I think he can be an outstanding tight end."
Here is the current buzz:
Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, who says Coffman's NFL pedigree is starting to surface:
"Chase has really looked better. I think the work he had done on his ankles has freed him up a little bit. He's much more fluid, balanced and he's done some really good things. We've really been pleased with his progress. He can really catch it and he knows how to run routes and he's learning all the other stuff, too. (He's a) little savvy. Having been raised around the game (with) a father that was very successful."
WILL linebacker Brandon Johnson, the Bengals 6-5, 243-pound pass cover ace who found the 6-6, 257-pound Coffman to be a handful last year in practice:
"He was raw. But he looks a lot better. A lot stronger. When he first came in, he was like a baby deer. He wasn't real sure of his feet but that's because he never blocked. I think he's going to be a good player, but just like me and anybody else who comes into this league, he has to grow. I know he's going to be good. He's getting a little more wiggle to his routes. He always had the hands. I think once he gets the whole blocking thing down he'll be a good tight end.
"It took me four years. To me, he's right on time. He's tough to cover because he's big. There aren't many linebackers that are 6-5. It's tough to get around his body and the way the rules are you can't touch anybody."
Coffman grew up loving a three-time Pro Bowl tight end named Paul Coffman that played 11 seasons in the NFL. But his father retired when Coffman was two and when they moved to Kansas City, Chase ended up idolizing a future Hall of Famer named Tony Gonzalez, another pretty good receiving tight end.
"My background in college, I'm more of a receiving tight end, but I'm trying to make myself an all-around tight end," Coffman said. "I met (Gonzalez) before, not that he would remember.
"(The foot) feels like it's getting better every week. It's still getting a little bit sore and stuff. As long as I'm taking care of it and getting it iced up. Just getting to know the offense and being in the system for a year, it makes you a lot more comfortable doing everything. You're just not out there doing everything running full speed not knowing what you're doing as much. Playing smarter."