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Jermaine Gresham helped Tyler Eifert adjust to NFL

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The combination of Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham never really worked out in Cincinnati. Now, the former teammates face each other as Gresham's Cardinals host Eifert's Bengals on Sunday Night Football.

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Jermaine Gresham will get his first crack at the team that drafted him this week when his Cardinals host the Bengals on Sunday night.

Gresham left Cincinnati this offseason in free agency and there was little to interest from Cincinnati in keeping him around. Perhaps the biggest reason why was they already had his replacement lined up in tight end Tyler Eifert. Three years after the Bengals selected Gresham out of Oklahoma 21st-overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, they grabbed Eifert out of Notre Dame with the 21st pick in 2013.

After playing with Gresham for two years, Eifert says he enjoyed playing with the veteran who helped him get acclimated to the NFL.

"Me and Jermaine were pretty close when he was here," Eifert said, via ESPN's Coley Harvey. "He took care of me, kind of took me under his wing and sort of looked out for me. ... So I'm excited to see him."

Gresham finished his Bengal career having played in 74 games (67 starts) while catching 280 passes on 416 targets (67 percent) for 2,722 yards (9.7 yards per catch) with 24 scores. Through his first three years, Gresham hauled in 172 passes on 296 targets (64 percent) for 1,804 yards (10.5 ypc) and 15 scores.

As for Eifert, he's played in 25 games over his first three years while catching 82 balls on 124 targets (66 percent) for 942 yards (11.5 ypc) and 11 touchdowns. He's missed 15 games due to injury compared to the three Gresham missed over his first three years in Cincinnati, but Eifert has clearly been more effective when he's played than Gresham was.

Eifert is on pace to catch as many touchdowns in almost half as many games as it took Gresham to hit 15 scores. That doesn't mean Eifert isn't thankful for what Gresham taught him as they played together for two years. One key lesson Eifert learned was not to ever get too down about one bad game in the midst of a 16-game season. After Monday's three-drop performance against the Texans, that's exactly what Eifert needs.

"He came in here and we were always having fun," Eifert said. "Good game, bad game, whatever, he always kept it light. Which, for me as a rookie, you're like, 'Oh my gosh. I'm in the NFL now, and this is so serious.' Meetings were so serious and long, and he always kept it light. It can be a grind, and it's good to keep that attitude throughout the year."

After all, one bad game shouldn't overshadow the amazing season Eifert is having. He's caught 40 passes for 460 yards and an NFL-high nine touchdowns through nine games and is on pace to break a variety of franchise records. That said, once you drop one pass, it can quickly turn into several drops like it did Monday night.

"You drop one, you try to forget about it and your mind ... every time the ball's coming to you after you're thinking: 'Don't drop it,'" Eifert said of Monday's 10-6 loss.

As for Gresham, he's been a small contributor in the Cardinals' offense thus far. He has a mere 13 catches for 158 yards and one touchdown in nine games this year.

Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is making it clear Gresham was a positive contributor to his offense in Cincinnati and is thankful for what Gresh did.

"We ran the ball extremely well with him," Jackson said. "Everybody appreciated what he did here and everybody's glad to see him land on his feet and then get a great situation with a quarterback he knows and with a team that I'm sure he's very proud to be on. We're happy for him."

Blocking is one area Gresham could dominate at times at, whereas Eifert often finds himself being a liability as a blocker, both in pass protection and in run blocking. That said, letting Gresham go this offseason was the right move for Cincinnati as that allowed Eifert to take sole possession of the No. 1 tight end spot, which he's dominated doing more often than not this year.

Now, we get to see which tight end is on the better team come Sunday night, and both players figure to play a role in their club winning or losing.