Carson Palmer has always had plenty of weapons while running the Bengals' offense, but there's always been one distinct piece missing.
During his career, the Bengals have never provided the quarterback with a pass-catching tight-end. Receivers like Chad Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh have helped Palmer stretch the field, and running backs like Rudi Johnson and Cedric Benson have taken pressure off of him.
There's never, however, been a tight end who Palmer can toss to as defenses lock down the receivers. Reggie Kelly, the Bengals' tight end for most of Palmer's career, has always excelled at blocking but has never posed as a passing threat. Chase Coffman appeared to be a weapon offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski could use when he was drafted last season, but his lack of understanding of the offense and failure to improve his blocking kept him off the field all last season.
Enter Jermaine Gresham, arguably the best tight end in the draft this year. Although he had to sit out due to a meniscus injury last season, Gresham had an unbelievable year in Oklahoma's wide-open offense during the 2008 season. The tight end caught 66 passes for 950 yards and an astounding 14 touchdowns, and was one of Sam Bradford's favorite targets. Gresham was also an integral part in the Sooners' appearance in the National Championship.
Last season, the Bengals offense lacked the distinctive pop they had a few years earlier, when Palmer, Ocho Cinco and Houshmandzadeh moved the ball with ease against opposing defenses. Ocho Cinco regained his footing last season after a horrid 2008. The outspoken receiver had 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns, but had plenty of focus on him without the lack of a quality second receiver, a role that Lavernous Coles and Andre Caldwell failed to accomplish.
Now, the Bengals have decided to put more focus on their passing game after building up their defense and running game last season. While it appears the team is heading toward being defensive-minded, the addition of Antonio Bryant and Gresham signals a regained focus on the passing game.
There is a reason Gresham slipped to the later end of the first round. His problems with injuries aren't a secret after suffering a torn ACL in high school and then another knee injury before the 2009 season, causing him to fall from arguably a top-10 pick down to the Bengals at 21st. But this gives the Bengals the chance to have an effective pass-catching tight end for the first time in a while.
The pick may be risky, but with the Bengals lack of a passing game last season and constant weakness at tight end, I say, why not take the risk?