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Hue and Hew


There is Hue and there is Hew.

Hue Jackson is the Bengals offensive coordinator who has been riding herd on his staff and his players this offseason in an effort to take the NFL's sixth best running game to grander heights by dialing up another wave of brute force and toughness.

Ryan "Hew," Hewitt is the Bengals fullback/tight end/H-Back regarded by some in his building as the best fullback in the league after a rookie season he became the personification of Jackson's blueprint emphasizing physical versatility. And now that the Bengals have drafted two tight ends and signed two more in rookie free agency, the Bengals think they now have enough at blocking tight end to let Hew be Hew and leave him in to punish people as the lead back for running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill.

"We've got a ways to go with those guys to get them where they need to be," Jackson says. "I'm confident the young guys we drafted have some skill… (Hewitt) allows us to find out about these guys. It gives them a chance to grow."

The blueprint yellowed and curled last year during Jackson's first season when injuries wiped out two of his top three tight ends and knocked his two starting wide receivers out of a total of 22 games where they didn't have a catch. And that included the Wild Card Game, when all three of the tight ends were out.

But the blueprint lives through Hewitt and the young tight ends.

Hill calls Hewitt an "X-Factor." He's the multiple choice answer, the Swiss army knife cutting through the heart of eight-man fronts, the bruising double-edged sword.

"To me, quarterback and fullback are the toughest positions in the league because fullbacks are going in there. You have to be a little crazy to do it down and down out," Hill says. "The best definition for him is H-back because he does it all. He can line up in the slot, he can line up on the edge and play tight end, he can get in the shot gun next to (quarterback) Andy (Dalton). He does a little bit of everything. His versatility helps this team. He's a great fullback. I definitely wouldn't like losing him as my full back. He's a big part of our offense. An X-factor every Sunday. I like that I have him doing the dirty work."

That's why the Bengals don't want to move Hewitt and why they took a tight end as high as the third round when they took Rutgers' Tyler Kroft earlier this month. It is estimated that about 40 percent of their running plays last season came with Hewitt as the fullback while averaging 4.2 yards per carry and scoring four touchdowns outside goal-line situations, including Hill's clinching 60-yard touchdown run against Jacksonville and Bernard's 89-yarder against Carolina that was the second longest run in franchise history.

"Hewitt's a cool dude. He just goes ahead and does what he's supposed to do," Bernard says. "He's a smash mouth type of guy...He understands what we might read as running backs. It definitely helps to have a guy see what you see trying to set up the play like you try to set up the linebackers. It's like you're reading through him."

It's easy to read the 6-4, 255-pound Hewitt. Undrafted out of Stanford's pro offense, he's not only smart enough to play anywhere, he's smiling no matter where it is.

When tight end Jermaine Gresham floated into free agency and before the Bengals drafted Kroft and Auburn's 265-pound C.J. Uzomah in the fifth round, there was some thought the Bengals could cover themselves  opposite pass-catching tight end Tyler Eifert with Hewitt. But Hewitt hadn't heard about it.

"I don't do too much thinking. I'm about the team. Where ever they want me to play, I'll play. I don't really care where," Hewitt says. "I feel fine with either. I'm used to it by now. I've played a lot of both at here and Stanford."

But there's no question that Hewitt is energized by the two-back set with him in the lead.

"It's fun. It's the most physical play, in my opinion, in  football. The lead block," Hewitt says. "I enjoy doing it. It's something you have to have a certain mindset for and I have that mindset."

Jackson is confident that they'll be able to get enough out of the rookie tight ends so that Hewitt won't have to be called for double duty. He says the two free-agents, a pair of 6-foot-8 guys in Eastern Kentucky's Matt Lengel and Mt. Saint Joseph's John Peters, aren't projects and could contribute soon. But clearly they've got a lot of confidence in Kroft.

"I like Kroft because I think he has a lot of the combination of all the things we're looking for," Jackson says. "The ability to block on the edge, the ability to catch, the ability to run down the field. The ability to move around. He's very smart. I think he can block.

"Can he block the way we want him to block? That's the challenge. I think he can. It matters to him, he's conscientious. With guys like that, coach him, put him in the right environment and goodness will come out of it."

Not to mention allowing Hue to let Hew be Hew.

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