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New Bengals TE Mike Gesicki Looks To Joe Burrow For Production Revival

New England Patriots tight end Mike Gesicki (88) before an NFL football game against the New York Giants Friday, Nov. 26, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
New England Patriots tight end Mike Gesicki (88) before an NFL football game against the New York Giants Friday, Nov. 26, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

He's on his sixth starting quarterback and third offense since, but the Bengals and their new tight end believe that Mike Gesicki is the same player who caught a career-high 73 passes a scant two birthdays ago.

"I would like to think so," Gesicki says. "Just have to stay healthy, get the body right, and be ready to roll, which I feel like I am."

Gesicki and the rest of the Bengals can officially start rolling a week from Monday when the off-season workouts start at Paycor Stadium. But he already feels like he's on a roll with quarterback Joe Burrow when it comes to getting acclimated to the Bengals.

"I'm not going to bother him too much. But he's been great. He's been somebody I've been able to reach out to and have conversations," Gesicki says.

"He's been a leader in the locker room who a lot of guys look to. I'm definitely one of those guys looking to him. I've heard great things about him as a teammate. He's easy to talk to. Good sense of humor."

And while Gesicki, 28, says he's "never been in the huddle with that kind of talent," Burrow has never thrown to a tight end who has three 50-catch NFL seasons to go with a 41-inch vertical leap.

Catch radius? That means the 6-6 Gesicki has a vertical leap ten inches higher than each of Burrow's leading tight ends in his career, C.J. Uzomah and Hayden Hurst

James Casey, the Bengals tight ends coach, tries to compute catch radius by stretching out his arm. He says it measures 31 inches long. Gesicki, he knows, has arms that keep going for 34.

"Three inches longer. Short arms killed me in the draft. I might have gone in the third round," says Casey, who didn't have Gesicki Arms 15 drafts ago and went in the fifth. "It makes a difference. He can still run and he's an elite jumper with long arms.

"I remember a play from either last season or the year before when he was in the back of the end zone and it was one of those it looked like the quarterback was throwing it away, but he jumps up and catches it. That was impressive. Not a lot of guys out there, even (wide) receivers come up with that play."

In his sixth season coaching the Bengals tight ends, Casey is reminded of the first No. 1 he had in 2019. Also a seven-vet who went 6-6.

Tyler Eifert.

"Mike's more explosive, but both could go up and make the contested catch," Casey says.

Casey is in the process of finishing up his draft reports this week and now's a good time to recall that Gesicki went in the second round in 2018, the second tight end taken after Hurst. At the NFL scouting combine that year, Gesicki spiced his out of-this-world vertical with a brisk 4.55-second 40-yard dash.

"I don't know what it is now," Casey says. "But on tape he can still run."

Gesicki's travails since that 73-catch season in Miami during 2021 are well known. The Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel the next season and Gesicki had 70 fewer targets in the new system that didn't exactly suit pass-catching tight ends. Then last season he went to New England, where the offense didn't suit any pass catchers, and had seven fewer targets than he got under McDaniel.

But even though the Bengals are built on throwing to wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, it sounds like Gesicki is going to have plenty more targets than his combined 97 of the past two seasons.

In his two healthy seasons, Burrow averaged 65 targets to his No. 1 tight ends. And that with slot receiver Tyler Boyd, now a free agent.

"It gives you flexibility when you feel Iike you have an above-average pass catcher at tight end," Casey says. "You can put him in some receiving roles, too. You know Mike can do some of that stuff.

"Over the last five years I've seen him run across the field and make explosive plays. Go across the field, like on a crossing route, and he's got enough speed and size to be able to separate and make those catches. Obviously, he can also go down the seam and his red-zone stuff is impressive."

Also impressive is how Gesicki figures to mix in the locker room. He has entrée through one of his close friends with the Dolphins within Bengals center Ted Karras. And it already sounds like he's got an easy rapport with the quarterback even before Burrow starts looking for his third-down escape valve.

Gesicki admits he's excited for the new start. But he also knows after two straight seasons under new coaches, that can be daunting, too.

"New team, new staff, new quarterback. Everything is new for me," Gesicki says. "So I have to go out there and earn the trust.

"It's more proving what I'm capable of doing and earning more and more opportunities once the football starts," Gesicki says. "It's only April. A long way to go."

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