Hobson's Choice: Draft Day tightens

Am i the only Bengals fan that sees a real need for a big play tight end? How many years must we suffer through these same 3 sub-par tight ends? Is this even a position that is being addressed with the draft and free agency looming on the horizon? Matt Schobel is a perfect tight end when it comes to size and strength, but can't seem to hold on to the ball, if he catches it at all. i think that David Thomas from Texas is a nice fit for our team, and all he needs to do is add some black to his already orange and white uniform. thanks,
Randy, Toledo, OH RANDY:
You're certainly not a voice in the Bengalness on this one, but I wouldn't call them three sub-par tight ends. They're certainly not the Pro Bowl split ends that are in vogue now, but they're tough, team-first guys that have done a lot of good dirty work for one of the NFL's top offenses. But, to paraphrase the old Nixon news conference, you won't have them to kick around any more.

At least not Schobel and that's too bad because he'll be a productive guy in a system that uses the tight end. And I'm not sure you can totally blame Schobel for his lack of production because head coach Marvin Lewis is right. When you've got two 1,000-yard receivers, a 1,500-yard running back and another running back that has the potential to break any of his 50 catches, what do you really need your tight ends for but blocking?

That said, you can sense the Bengals moving into a new era on this one and there would be no surprise if they take a tight end in the first round. The position is flashing on the radar this week at the scouting combine.

Kelly is still an enormously important player in the scheme and you only had to listen to Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Anderson talk at the end of last season to realize how much his teammates covet his selfless and tenacious blocking.

Plus, Kelly is so valuable in the No Huddle because he can work out of both fullback and tight end and the Bengals don't have to sub.

But the Bengals' defense sees it virtually every game they play. The hardest guy to defend in the passing game on critical plays always seems to be a skilled, catching threat of a tight end.

Look what happened against Indy. Colts tight end Dallas Clark killed them on a couple of big plays when they had wideouts Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne covered. So did the Ravens' Todd Heap in the half of football that ignited the defense's trend of giving up big plays. The Steelers' Heath Miller killed them in the first game against them last year and in '04 Jerame Tuman had the big 26-yard catch on a trapped Ben Roethlisberger scramble that led to the winning touchdown in the Pittsburgh win at PBS.

Any time Boomer Esiason waxed poetically about his offense, it always started with Pro Bowl tight end Rodney Holman. There's no question a nice big target running across the middle on third down with defenses playing Cover 2 against a lethal vertical passing game gives a quarterback comfort and a rope and makes him better. In the Age of Carson, give him what he needs and you can feel the draft of a first day tight end.

But he'll have to be able show that he can block and want to block. The value of a guy is to be able to play him all three downs and be a threat to do both.

There could be a new breeze blowing, but don't blow away these guys that have been here. It's not their fault they didn't throw it to them. Schobel may have had some drops this year, but he also had some big plays along the way, like beating Pittsburgh late and beating Dallas long. When healthy, Tony Stewart is another big reason they run the ball well, and he could be back.

And that would be good. They can teach the kid to do the dirty work necessary for him to succeed.

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