Patrick from One Foot Down, an SB Nation website dedicated to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, sat with us for a few minutes to give us a feel for the Bengals newest tight end, Tyler Eifert. We asked generic questions to get a general idea, though
The Bengals may use Tyler Eifert in a variety of roles in 2013, from tight end, to slot and even as a wide out. Based on your observations, would you use Eifert as a receiver, or should he stick at tight end?
"I think at the next level, you should see Eifert playing in the 'new school' tight end role. Think Jimmy Graham or Aaron Hernandez; you'll see him attached to the line and in the slot when outside of the red zone, and when you're within range, you may see him split out looking for the fade in the end zone."
"One of the small gripes I had with Notre Dame's game plan in the national championship game (ND was on offense?) was that Eifert was split out wide a lot. It was something I think Brian Kelly used as a little bit of a security blanket. At the next level with the Bengals, I think Eifert would be best used as a huge matchup problem in the middle of the field. I think he'll be 85 cents to Jimmy Graham's dollar as a receiver, but he's a better blocker than Graham."
What would you say is Eifert's strength?
"I think Eifert's strength is certainly his athleticism (and tied into that, his hands). He will go get the ball, and I can't think of a total drop that he's ever had. He's not a total Julio Jones freak of nature, but for a man of his size, he's surprisingly quick and has some good ups. He'll win jump balls he has no business winning."
"Before last year, I think every ND fan would tell you his blocking was a huge hole. This year, he was a spectacular blocker, so that's been somewhat addressed.
"An area I can see Eifert struggling (at least his first NFL seasons) is physicality after the catch. He's a great athlete and has the physicality to fight defenders off to go get the ball, but as a runner, he's not going to get you many yards after the catch unless he's running free. He's not going to make people miss, and I don't think we've really seen him bowl safeties and CBs over getting to the end zone.
"That being said, it isn't much different from the other "new school" tight ends I think he should model his game after."
How quickly do you feel that Eifert will grasp an NFL offense?
"Eifert is a tremendously smart kid who should have zero issues (other than usual rookie growing pains) learning an NFL offense. The Notre Dame offense actually involves plenty of receiver reads, so I think Eifert should be able to slide right in as a major part of the offense and not only be limited to 3rd down hitch routes and fades in the end zone."
Do you view Eifert as a tough guy? Will he mix it up with other teams (pushing, trash-talking)?
"Nope. He's a Tim Duncan-esque "lead by example" player. He will show up, do his work, score a few touchdowns, shake your hand as a gracious winner, ask the local beat writer how his kids are doing, go home, piss excellence, and enjoy a good book about Teddy Roosevelt and Panamanian-American relations at the turn of the century.
One issue we've had with Jermaine Gresham is mental mistakes, such as drops and pre-snap penalties. Has Eifert shown similar issues?
"I honestly can not remember a single flat-out drop that Eifert has made at ND. I would also be hard pressed to find a penalty that Eifert has been called for that wasn't about aggression in getting to the ball -- he's sometimes on the edge of offensive pass interference with his physicality. He's not going to do anything dumb to hurt the team."
How would you rate Eifert's durability? Does he get right up after taking a shot? Was there any injury history of note at Notre Dame?
"He had a pretty good back injury his freshman season, but the next three years as the workload increased, he missed zero games. As with any receiver who's going to go across the middle, you always worry about concussions, but that's part of the game. He's a pretty durable guy."
"You will be surprised at how good of a blocker he turns out to be, and he's the ultimate team player. He's also good for 5-10 circus catches every season, so get your popcorn ready. We've been spoiled at ND to have great Tight Ends recently (Fasano, Rudolph, Eifert, now Niklas), so we "know em when we see em", and you've got a good one.