Though Cincinnati didn't select a safety, linebacker or running back on Thursday, positions that were identified as the team's biggest needs during the pre-drafting process, there's growing optimism that Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert will help improve a stale passing offense.
"He has proven he can make contested plays because the lanes aren’t always that big. He’s a great weapon to have," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden told beat writers at Paul Brown Stadium.
Yet the belief isn't so much that Eifert is being groomed to replace starting tight end Jermaine Gresham, who is signed through 2014. Rather an additional weapon for quarterback Andy Dalton, gratefully adding to a list of options that includes wide receivers A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu, as well as two-time Pro Bowler (though as an alternate) Gresham. Andrew Hawkins and Marvin Jones included.
"I’m sure Andy is happy. The more weapons you have the better," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. "We’re trying to take some of the pressure off A.J. Green."
Gruden: "Jermaine doesn't have to worry. Jermaine is our starter." #Bengals— Kevin Goheen (@FSOhio_KGoheen) April 26, 2013
Mel Kiper Jr. identifies Eifert as an "all-around tight end" that could split out wide as a wide receiver with good body control during underneath routes and the ability to make contested receptions at the highest point.
"I really feel he is a player who is going to add a lot to our team. He compliments Jermaine, has ability to move around," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis told reporters.
Eifert wasn't surprised, only because he had no idea where he'd possibly land.
Eifert: I wasn't surprised. No way to tell where gonna go. Happy to be part of the organization and to have the opportunity. #Bengals— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) April 26, 2013
Whatever the belief, the decision to draft Eifert wasn't based on Gresham's performance and as a subsequent replacement. Think more along the lines of the lines of helping Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. When asked how similar Eifert is compared to Gresham, the newest Bengals tight end said that "I think we're very similar players. Our ability to create mismatches, get down the field but also put our hands in the dirt and block."
Though the Bengals defense is clearly the core of Cincinnati's postseason run in three of the past four years, the Bengals offense made their next leap to catch up.