Hobson's Choice: TEs won't be short changed

Q: Do you think that there is any chance that they keep only two "true" tight ends and Brad St. Louis comes in to play only if there is an emergency during a game? His college statistics would indicate that he could play if needed. Steinbach and Lougheed also have some experience at tight end if a serious emergency takes place.

**--Jim E., Symmes Township, OH

JIM E.: Can't see it happening with how important the tight end is in the running game of this offense. One of the first efforts of the Marvin Lewis administration was to beef up the tight end spot with three healthy, available guys who could block while making St. Louis exclusively a long snapper.

The Bengals tight ends have taken a lot of abuse since Lewis arrived because of the lack of catches. But the fact is, they're a major reason Rudi Johnson has twice set the franchise rushing record, and their protection is a key aspect in Carson Palmer setting a club record passing mark in a season a Bengals quarterback took his fewest sacks.

It wasn't all that long ago the Bengals were virtually crippled in the red zone and on the goal line when tight ends like Tony McGee, Marco Battaglia, and Sean Brewer always seemed to be hurt.

(Note: When the Bengals were 4-3 in 2001 and then proceeded to go through a dire offensive stretch in seven straight losses, injuries to McGee and Battaglia were a big reason why.)

Going short at such a position would not only kill them with injuries, but also on special teams.

Yes, they clearly want to upgrade their passing game at that spot. But when they felt that drafting Marcedes Lewis in the first round or Leonard Pope in the second would have been a reach, they were also saying they feel they've got enough weapons in the passing game.

If Reggie Kelly, Tony Stewart, and Ronnie Ghent can block the run and play special teams, they'll make it. And if Ghent plays teams in the preseason as tenaciously as he practices from scrimmage, it'd be hard to see him not making it.

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