It's time. The Cincinnati Bengals need their first truly dominant tight end since the days of Rodney Holman and the hope is former first round selection, Tyler Eifert, will become a dominant player in the team's offense. Frankly, it needs to happen. It's needed for Andy Dalton and, well, it's needed for Eifert.
As a rookie, Efiert sat behind Jermaine Gresham and struggled to find a role in Jay Gruden's offense. In that 2013 campaign, he had 39 catches, 445 yards and two touchdowns, while flashing the big-play capability that he consistently showed at Notre Dame. With big expectations looming in Hue Jackson's more tight end-friendly system, Eifert was lost for essentially the entire year with a dislocated elbow.
The shame of it lay in the fact that for the sole quarter and a half he played against a formidable Ravens defense, Eifert was showing the first round trait of domination. Sure it was just three catches for 39 yards, but the picture was clear that he was to be a big part of the offense. It is again the goal in 2015.
Why He Makes The List:
Expectations And Back To Full Strength: Eifert has placed big expectations on himself this year, telling a local radio station recently: "I’m one hundred percent. I’m good to go. We just finished mini-camp and it felt good to be back out there running around. It feels good to be healthy again". Reports have the tight end group looking pretty sharp overall, which should bode well for the offense this year. And, Eifert has regained all of the strength weight back after losing it with the arm injury.
The Crew Back Together And The Plethora Of Offensive Weapons: At first blush, having the full bore of receiving options might seem like something that might hinder Eifert's production in 2015. Perhaps, but the other side of the coin notes that Efiert should see a lot of single coverage because of the attention that must be paid to A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and even Giovani Bernard. Most linebackers are a speed mismatch and many safeties won't stack up to Efiert's 6'6"-inch frame either. Dalton's strength as a passer are the quick throws in the short and intermediate areas, which is where a player like Eifert should thrive. Let's also not forget the use of that size in the red zone.
There have been some high-quality tight ends in the AFC North in recent years and there isn't any reason that Eifert shouldn't join that club, save for injury and/or misuse in the system. For the first time, Eifert is the clear No.1 tight end and should see the type of attention from Dalton that we witnessed in the first quarter in Baltimore.
One never wants to put lofty expectations on a young player, but with his draft position, his skill set and Jackson's system, it's difficult not to foresee a Pro Bowl bid, should everything go according to plan. And, as the accumulated injuries and subsequent offensive struggles would suggest, as Eifert goes, so might a good chunk of the passing game.