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Jay Gruden says Tyler Eifert is "the most underutilized player on our team"

Bengals Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden says first-round pick Tyler Eifert is "underutilized."

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

When the Cincinnati Bengals selected Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert No. 21 overall during the 2013 NFL Draft, many expected he would become a significant red zone threat this year, especially as a complement to Jermaine Gresham.

Well, the Bengals are 12 games into the season and Eifert has only caught 32 passes and has scored just one touchdown. Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden spoke to Dan Hoard and Dave Lapham of the Bengals Radio Network on Wednesday night on Cincinnati's Fox Sports 1360. He was not shy when asked if he believes the Bengals have gotten what they expected out of Eifert.

"No, not even close," Gruden said. "He is probably the most underutilized player on our team. Before the season I thought he'd have 80 catches by now."

Gruden isn't throwing Eifert under the bus by any means. However, it is interesting to hear that fans' expectations weren't necessarily as high coming into the season, though slightly greater than what we've seen at this point. Gruden did acknowledge the offensive scheme, along with Gresham are preventing Eifert from reaching his full potential.

"When you go three receivers, one tight end we still have Jermaine so Tyler doesn't get those reps," Gruden said. "If Jermaine wasn't here then he'd be getting all of those and he'd probably have double the amount of catches."

Gruden didn't hint at replacing Gresham with Eifert, but he does expect the rookie's role to increase in the future.

"I think what we see in Tyler the ability from him to block is really going to set him apart from other tight ends," he said. "Were going to see huge things from Tyler Eifert in years to come."

The tight end duo has combined for 67 catches and three touchdowns on the season.