Cincinnati Bengals: How Offense Can Remain Lethal Without Jermaine Gresham
The Cincinnati Bengals surprised many pundits across the NFL by advancing to the postseason last year, but as the team prepares to take the next step and win a playoff game for the first time since 1990, their plans were nearly dealt a significant blow.
Starting tight end Jermaine Gresham, who reeled in 56 passes for 596 yards and six touchdowns last year, injured his knee in the first quarter of the team's preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons Thursday.
Granted, the injury isn't believed to be serious. Head coach Marvin Lewis told the team's website after the game that Gresham was "fine."
However, as Gresham lay on the turf, Bengals fans had to be left wondering how the team would cope if they were to lose their second-leading receiver from a season ago?
The answer, according to my "what if?" machine (batteries not included) is: surprisingly well, assuming that a couple of things happen.
The first and most important thing to take into account is that while a serious Gresham injury would be a significant blow, it wouldn't necessarily be a season-killer.
Granted, Gresham is a talented young player, but there are two offensive players that Cincinnati absolutely, positively cannot have get hurt for any period of time, and Jermaine Gresham isn't one of them.
The first thing that a Gresham injury would likely force the Bengals to do is lean on the ground game even more than they already do. The Bengals ranked in the top 10 in rushing attempts per game last season, and with Benjarvus Green-Ellis now in Cincinnati, they probably will again this year.
Were Gresham to go down, that number would only increase.
With that said, the biggest factors in overcoming a Jermaine Gresham injury would likely be two of the newest additions to the team. Although he's presently listed third on the depth chart, rookie tight end Orson Charles is a much more dangerous receiving threat than journeyman Donald Lee. Were Gresham to go down, Charles would be forced into a much more prominent role in the Bengals passing attack.
In addition, wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who was the Bengals' third-round pick in April's NFL draft, would also have to step up and take some of the pressure off in the underneath passing game.
The former Rutgers standout has yet to work his way into the starting lineup, but the 6'2" Sanu has just the sort of size and hands that could make him an excellent intermediate target.
Luckily for the Cincinnati Bengals and their supporters, this is all hypothetical, and Gresham should be fine. However, after a strong draft that added even more offensive weaponry to their arsenal, the Bengals have put themselves in a position where even if Gresham went down, the offense would be able to soldier on and keep the team in the thick of things in the AFC North.
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