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Triple option

Posted May 12, 2014

When it comes to the Bengals class of undrafted rookies, the highest-paid is Texas guard Trey Hopkins, the most compelling is the switch to fullback from nose tackle by Wake Forest’s Nikita Whitlock, and San Diego State wide receiver Colin Lockett follows in the footsteps of the combined 87 Bengals receiving touchdowns by San Diego State’s own Isaac Curtis and Darnay Scott.

When it comes to the Bengals class of undrafted rookies, the highest-paid is Texas guard Trey Hopkins, the most compelling is the switch to fullback from nose tackle by Wake Forest’s Nikita Whitlock, and San Diego State wide receiver Colin Lockett follows in the footsteps of the combined 87 Bengals receiving touchdowns by San Diego State’s own Isaac Curtis and Darnay Scott.

But the guy with the most intriguing shot to make it just might be Stanford’s Ryan Hewitt and his three positions. Here’s a tight end that caught five TD passes from Andrew Luck one year while blocking well enough to be compared by one scouting service to former Cowboys Pro Bowl fullback Daryl “Moose,” Johnston from back in the ‘90s.

Tight end. Fullback. H-back.

Not only does he already have the versatility, but he’s coming into a system that is similar to the one he ran at Stanford, where he played for a year with Bengals wide receiver Ryan Whalen.

“The offense is similar the way it’s structured to call plays,” Whalen said Monday as he watched the crush of rookies in the locker room try to get settled. “There is going to be some different terminology, but as long as you understand concepts and formations it’s easy to pick up. It’s easy to pick up. He’s a tough kid, he can block. He played on some good teams that played in four BCS games.”

Versatility isn’t easy to find coming out of college. Last year the Bengals opted to move tight end Orson Charles to fullback and he played just 67 snaps during the adjustment. Charles has a couple of new roster battles on his hands with Hewitt and Whitlock, but his NFL experience gives him the edge.

Running backs coach Kyle Caskey says Charles continues to improve as he makes the transition. And while Hewitt comes in used to blocking for Stanford’s zone blocking and power plays that are similar to what the Bengals do, Caskey is going to have to see some things.

“He’s a serviceable blocker. He’s going to have to get a little bit stronger in the way he blocks,” Caskey said. “His quickness and ability to adjust to movement is really good, they run power and zones, he was able to do a lot of good things with his lead blocking.”

He’s played in a lot of big games and has been able to keep his composure long enough to make plays like this one:

Early in the Pac-12 Championship Game, Hewitt mistakenly went in motion, but he turned the mistake into six points, setting a crucial block on Tyler Gaffney’s game-opening touchdown.

 

Hewitt doesn’t care. Fullback? Tight end? H-Back?

“Fill up a couple of bodies with one roster spot,’ is the way Hewitt hopefully put it Monday.

Did we mention special teams?

“Contributes on punt coverage and other special teams units,” according to Ourlads Scouting Services, the publication that makes The Moose comparison.

“The thing about Hewitt,” Caskey said, “is that he won’t be pigeon-holed for one spot.”

Hewitt caught 34 passes and five TDs as a sophomore in 2011, Luck’s last year with The Cardinal. In his final two seasons he combined for 23 catches and no touchdowns.

“Andrew was good at that particular play I had a lot of catches on,” Hewitt said. “As my career progressed, teams game planned for it and we didn’t call it as much.”

And, of course, there was no more Luck. The play consisted mainly of Hewitt slipping into the flat. One would come after Hewitt fake blocked the linebacker and sped to the flat. The other came after a Luck bootleg.

“He was so far above the other quarterbacks I played against,” Hewitt said.  “Quick release and a great mind.”

Whalen, a sixth-round pick in 2011, is a former teammate who is a reason Hewitt signed here after hearing from five clubs after the draft. They often worked out together during the offseason, either at Stanford or nearby California Strength.

“I knew him. I didn’t know anybody else on a couple of teams,” Hewitt said. “It helps knowing a teammate, having a guy that you can rely on to help you out if you need it.”

Whalen may not have to help him all that much with the playbook.

“I already spent some time today looking at some plays and it looks relatively easy,” Hewitt said. “It will take a little while because there are some variations with protections and blocking schemes. But it’s pretty similar.”

He hopes the roster spot is the same, too.

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