Sure, it sounds absurd on the surface – and maybe it is. But if it’s not a bit outlandish, then it’s not really a "bold" prediction. Our latest in a series of bold predictions is third year tight end Tyler Eifert being named to the Pro Bowl
In the two seasons following his selection in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, Eifert has compiled a grand total of 42 receptions for 482 yards and 2 touchdowns. That’s not exactly a Pro-Bowl caliber set of statistics – especially for a tight end who is regarded as more of a "receiver" than a "blocker".
Having missed half of the Bengals’ games since he was selected due to injury (16 of 32), Eifert faces serious durability questions regarding whether he can even play enough games this year to garner Pro Bowl consideration.
With the Bengals operating a run-heavy offense featuring a pair of solid running backs in Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, and possessing an elite wide receiver in A.J. Green who will be gobbling up many of Andy Dalton’s limited passing attempts, you can reasonably ask if Eifert will even see many balls thrown his direction.
So what arguments can we present in defense of the prediction that Tyler Eifert will be named to the Pro Bowl this season?
Tyler Eifert is making waves
Tyler Eifert looks to be on track to finally have that breakout season he teased with an excellent build up to the 2014 season.
LAST YEAR’S PRO BOWL TIGHT ENDS HAVE NO GUARANTEE TO REPEAT
Last year four tight ends were named to the Pro Bowl:
- Rob Gronkowski (NE)
- Jimmy Graham (NO)
- Greg Olsen (CAR)
- Julius Thomas (DEN)
As good as each of these tight ends are, they each have a legitimate chance of not returning to the Pro Bowl this year.
Gronkowski has missed 15 games during the last three seasons, and remains a potential injury candidate. Also, consider that he will possibly be without his elite quarterback Tom Brady for a quarter of the season. Both of these factors could reduce his production, and Pro Bowl chances.
Graham was traded to the Seattle Seahawks during the offseason and will be playing in a run heavy offense. Away from the Saints’ pass-happy offense, Graham could easily fall short of the requisite statistical numbers to return to the Pro Bowl.
Olsen is a very good tight end, but 2014 was a career year for him. He could repeat with another great year in 2015, or the 30-year-old tight end could just as easily return to his previous production and fall short of a Pro Bowl nod.
Thomas departed the Denver Broncos as a free agent this offseason, opting to sign with the offensively challenged Jacksonville Jaguars. Instead of receiving passes from future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, he will now have Blake Bortles (who threw 50 percent more interceptions than touchdowns as a rookie) heaving the ball in his direction.
THE TIGHT END FIELD IS WIDE OPEN
We looked at the incumbent Pro Bowlers, so what about potential challengers to Eifert replacing one of these incumbents in the Pro Bowl?
- Antonio Gates is facing a four game suspension. That reduces his production and likelihood to make it to a Pro-Bowl.
- Jason Witten is 33-years-old, and nearing the last stages of his career.
- Martellus Bennett is entering a new offense in Chicago where his role may revert back to where it was before his breakout season last year.
- Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener are both in high flying offenses – but are in the same offense, and thus, cancel each other out.
- Travis Kelce seems to have the potential upside, but needs to maintain good standing with the Kansas City coaching staff and not revert back to a limited role as he was stuck with last season.
In Hue Jackson’s last season as an offensive coordinator in Oakland, tight end Zach Miller led the Raiders with 92 targets, 60 receptions, 685 receiving yards, and 5 receiving touchdowns. Miller also made the Pro Bowl that season. It was Miller’s one and only Pro Bowl selection. From this, we see Jackson views the tight end position as an integral part of his offense.
And this was evident last year when Andy Dalton completed three passes to Eifert in the Bengals’ first two offensive possessions of the season. Clearly Jackson wanted to have Eifert heavily involved in his offense. Now that Eifert is healthy and looking great in camp, there is no reason to expect that Hue Jackson will suddenly remove the tight end from his offensive plans.
The emergency of Jeremy Hill last year as the Bengals’ lead back in their two-headed backfield has helped solidify the fact that they are capable of pursuing their offensive strategy of running the ball. With a good running game and heavy running philosophy, the Bengals will likely seldom be found in formations with three or four wide receivers, and no tight end. More likely, they will have at least one tight end in most of their formations. And that tight end will most often be Tyler Eifert.
So when the Bengals run a designed pass, or when Andy Dalton audibles to a pass, there is a very good chance Eifert will be on the field running a route. Obviously, more routes run should lead to more targets which should lead to more receptions.
Last year Eifert had to split time with a good blocking tight end in Jermaine Gresham. For various reasons, Gresham was not re-signed by the Bengals. That leaves rookie Tyler Kroft and whoever wins the battle for the second backup spot, likely C.J. Uzomah, as the only other tight ends on the roster.
Marvin Lewis has shown an affinity to playing veterans over rookies, and this bodes well for Eifert seeing plenty of time on the field, and resulting in a very limited role for his backups, who are all rookies or former practice squad candidates. Without losing playing time to an experienced veteran like Gresham, Eifert should be in line for a bulk of the Bengals’ tight end work this year – especially as a receiver, where he excels.
So what do you think of this bold prediction? Does Tyler Eifert have any chance of being selected to the Pro Bowl in 2015, or is this bold prediction just a bit too bold?