To say that the Cincinnati Bengals have done well with their past handful of draft classes would be an understatement. Sure, there have been a fair share of misses, but that occurs with every team in every class. The formula seems to be to get three or four players that can contribute out of every class and, say what you want about Marvin Lewis, but he and his staff have been working magic of late.
When the team used a first round selection on a tight end for the second time in four years, it raised eyebrows. Not because of a feeling of the selection being a reach, but more stemming from the sentiment that the team hasn't valued the position all that often. Still, Tyler Eifert was slated to go within the top fifteen picks last year and he somehow landed in the Bengals' lap at No.21. With the team mantra seeming to be one of surrounding quarterback Andy Dalton with as much weapons as possible, the pick ended up making sense.
Though he shined at times as a rookie, it wasn't exactly a season for the ages. With a veteran starting in front of him and a coordinator that didn't always use tight ends to their maximum capability, Eifert podded to a 39-catch, two touchdown season that was effective at times, but left fans wanting much more. Many believe that it's on the horizon for the second-year man in 2014.
The Hue Jackson Effect:
It seems as if many feel that newly-promoted offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's presence will get the Bengals past the one-and-done hump. Logical? Yes. Risky proposition? You bet. However, it isn't just the running game that will get a boost under Jackson's watchful eye.
Even though Jermaine Gresham will likely be starting in front of Eifert, it's our belief he will get more action and looks in the passing game. That writing was on the wall from an interesting piece of information about the coaches being displeased with the incumbent starter. The hope is that Jackson will formulate a plan to these two tight ends' strengths.
The tight ends are a major key in Jackson's system--both as primary receivers and in setting up play-action. Jackson had a similar tight end to Eifert in Zach Miller when he was in Oakland and Miller thrived. In 2009-2010, Miller combined for 126 catches, 1,490 yards, eight touchdowns and 67 first downs. Keep in mind that this was with limitations at quarterback as Miller put up his best statistics as a pro.
Yes, Eifert will have to share the ball more as there are more weapons on offense than there was in Oakland, but a pretty major uptick in production should be expected.
Where Eifert Will Shine In 2014:
Personally speaking, I have been pleading with the Bengals' offensive staff to come up with a game plan in the red zone to use all of the big weapons to maximize efficiency. In fairness to the Bengals, they were one of the best teams in the red zone last year, but a proper utilization of all of the pieces in the red zone would make them truly lethal. Line up Eifert and Gresham as tight ends, A.J. Green outside as a lone wide receiver, have a running back deep and a another weapon in Orson Charles in at H-Back/Fullback. Run or pass should work almost every time out of a formation like that and Eifert could be a huge beneficiary.
Between the 20's, it would seem that Gresham is more suited for shorter routes where he can build momentum and gain yards after the catch, while Eifert can move the sticks and do the medium seam routes. If the Bengals are able to run the ball effectively and thus set up play-action as they hope, Eifert will shred defenses in the hash marks and sustain drives. Perhaps the best news? When we talked to him at the Taste of the NFL, Eifert himself declared that he was much more comfortable in his second year than he was as a rookie. Expect a leap in 2014.