Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches of all time and has singlehandedly taken the NFL by storm with his two-tight end sets thanks to Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
Many analysts rushed to compare the Bengals to the Patriots after Cincinnati drafted Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. The comparison makes sense. Eifert will be paired with Pro Bowler Jermaine Gresham in Cincinnati's West Coast offense.
That said, Bengals' offensive coordinator Jay Gruden isn't thrilled with the comparison, as Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com reported:
"We're not the Patriots," he says. "We're the Bengals and we're going to do what we do with our players."
However, in the same article Gruden goes on to lament about the possibilities of running a scheme similar to what the Patriots do with Hernandez and Gronkowski:
"You've got the same plays you have with regular," Gruden says of the base formation with two backs and two receivers. "Now instead of a fullback running a route, you add a tight end that's a great pass catcher and you have a lot of the similar runs you can run with a fullback. Maybe not some of the lead-type (isolation runs), but zones and outside zones and different things you can do with another tight end in there is good."
Gruden is adamant the Bengals will have their own identity on offense that separates them from the Patriots, which is fine. As he told Dan Pompei of The National Football Post, how much the Cincinnati offense resembles the New England attack is up to the blocking prowess of Eifert:
"If Tyler is a good blocker, that puts us in a good advantage in the run game," Gruden said. "That's what New England does so well. They get teams to match up nickel with them and they can run the ball effectively out of that two tight end set. They have an extra big body blocking. Tyler has a long way to go to prove he's a good blocker. Training camp will help him. Coach [Jonathan] Hayes has been around tight ends for a long time and is a great tutor for him."
That's the beauty of how the Bengals have assembled the roster, especially at the tight end position. Gresham, a two-time Pro Bowler is one of the best two-way tight ends the NFL has to offer thanks to his ability to effectively block and catch passes.
Now you have a guy in Eifert who has some experience blocking and has room to grow. As a receiver, he's actually shown more than Gresham and appears to have a higher ceiling in that regard.
Both Gresham and Eifert also have the ability to split out wide. This eliminates the need to have them both on the line if the coaching staff wants them on the field at the same time (as they should).
What should be encouraging for fans is the fact Gruden is studying one of the NFL's elite offenses. That can do nothing but help. He's right-Cincinnati is most certainly not New England because the Bengals still have a developing quarterback in Andy Dalton.
Dalton is entering his third year and anything Gruden can take away from the New England offense will only help Dalton as he looks to take the next step.
Now with two outstanding tight end targets and an offensive coordinator plotting a multitude of creative ways to use them, Dalton could see a jump in performance next season.
Gruden and the Bengals certainly don't want to be the New England Patriots, but it certainly doesn't hurt to look in their direction for inspiration. When applying some of his knowledge with aspects pulled from Belichick's playbook, Gruden could allow the Gresham and Eifert combo in Cincinnati to finally catapult the Bengals over the top.
Chris Roling is a graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. His work has appeared on Bleacher Report, Fansided, The Cincinnati Enquirer and more.
You can follow Chris on Twitter @Chris_Roling
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