CINCINNATI -- As we hinted on Wednesday, we wanted to take one more look this week at a possible solution for the Cincinnati Bengals' early red-zone issues.
Truthfully, on the surface, there are relatively few issues for this Bengals team that has three of the most convincing wins of any team in the league through the start of this new year. But if there are any problems that do exist on offense, continuing to execute in the red zone is right at the top of that list.
Mind you, the Bengals actually did well inside their opponents' 20 last Sunday, when they converted four of the five red-zone chances they had into scores.
Overall, however, they are only 6-for-10 in turning red-zone series into touchdowns. They also have hit four field goals from inside that area so far. When you include the drives in the season opener that stalled around the opposing 30 and just outside the red zone, the Bengals' scoring problems slightly more concerning.
With all of that in mind, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has expressed some issue with the difficulty the Bengals have had in converting touchdowns once they get inside or around the 20, but he isn't worried about the apparent red-zone woes becoming a long-term trend.
"We have guys who can score touchdowns, whether it is the runners, whether it is the receivers or the tight ends," Jackson said. "There are going to be teams that are going to stop us and not want us to run it in there and we are going to have to throw it in. There are going to be teams that will not want us to throw it in and we'll have to run it in. We would hope to dictate that but at the end of the day, we are going to play some teams that are going to try to dictate that to us. The fun part about who we are, we think we can do both."
As was mentioned in the story linked above, it's been the passing game that has been notably absent from Cincinnati's red-zone offense. Of the Bengals' six red-zone touchdowns only one, the 18-yard pass from receiver Mohamed Sanu to quarterback Andy Dalton, was the result of a pass. The others were carries in goal-line territory. In fact, the Bengals have only completed four passes inside the red zone through the first three games.
Only one of those passes has gone to a Bengals tight end.
Jermaine Gresham, a tight end who has been a key part of the Bengals' red zone game plan in years past, has only been targeted twice inside the 20 this year. He has just one catch; a 5-yard grab last week that didn't end up in the end zone. The other time he was thrown to near the goal line, Gresham for some reason got crossed up and stopped his route short of a for-sure walk-in touchdown. At the end of the drag, he simply stopped running as Dalton threw, trying to lead him into the end zone. Had Gresham continued running, he would have caught the wide-open pass as he stepped untouched into the end zone.
Before this season, Gresham had real impact inside the 20.
Among NFL tight ends, Gresham entered 2013 trailing only Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis and Jason Whitten in red-zone touchdowns since 2010, the year his career began. Gresham had 11 red-zone scores.
Along with receiving a jolt next week from the red zone touchdown pass-catching Marvin Jones -- 10 of his 11 career touchdowns came inside the red zone -- who is coming off injury, perhaps the Bengals will soon discover ways to get Gresham more involved in the red zone once again.