Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert missed spring practices this year due to a shoulder injury, leaving Hue Jackson's offense with a collection of players that includes (part-timer) Jermaine Gresham, Alex Smith, Kevin Brock and some Ryan Hewitt. Eifert's injury isn't (reportedly) related to the neck stinger that he suffered against the Minnesota Vikings, which kept him out in the regular season finale against Baltimore. In fact the injury was suffered earlier this year, writes Geoff Hobson.
I don’t think anything is wrong with Eifert. All indications are he’ll be ready for the first practice of training camp a week from Thursday at 3 p.m. at Paul Brown Stadium. From what he told the media, the reason he didn’t practice this spring is because of a shoulder he dinged on the first day that sounded like a bruise. He said it has nothing to do with the neck injury that limited him to three snaps in the playoff game.
Eifert figures to be a significant contributor this year -- expanding his 680 snaps from last year and improving his 39 receptions for 445 yards receiving (then again, he figured to be last year too). The theory is that Cincinnati will play an even greater number of double-tight formations with Eifert or Gresham splitting wide. The options not only accommodate match-up issues for the opposing defense, but it gives Cincinnati options to run and pass due to the variable nature of Cincinnati's personnel packages.
That, of course, depends on the coaching staff's appraisal of Gresham. A report last month surfaced that read, in part:
The coaches were far from pleased with Gresham last year and there was a sense that Eifert didn't get the chances everyone thought he was going to get as a rookie. Particularly deep. In the afterglow when he dropped to them in the first round, the thinking was they had just caught a guy that was going to catch 50-60 balls and he ended up with 39.
According to Pro Football Focus, Eifert dropped five catchable passes last year. However, the distribution from Andy Dalton was close to balance with Gresham seeing 63 targets and Eifert seeing 56.