By now, you are probably aware that Tyler Eifert is rehabbing an ankle injury suffered in the Pro Bowl. It was concerning back in January when the injury first occurred. As time wore on, we found out the injury was worse than originally thought and fears emerged that Eifert would miss part of training camp.
But, it got worse in late May when it was announced that Eifert would undergo surgery. As a result, his ability to be ready by the start of the season looks uncertain. There hasn't really been a lot of information on his recovery since, other than numerous reports that he'l miss at least Week 1, but this injury could spell doom for the Bengals at the start of the season. Here's just a few reasons why it really sucks. (And no, we're not above saying this sucks.)
5) Missing training camp and the preseason
It might not seem like as big of a deal for an ultra-talented guy like Eifert to miss training camp and the preseason. After all, he's already really good. So, will it just be a minor hindrance before he shakes off the rust in the first few snaps once he's back on the field?
Unfortunately, that's not always how it works. Remember when Geno Atkins missed the 2014 offseason due to a torn ACL suffered in 2013? He was behind for the entire season and finished with only 22 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble, and a pass deflection. Those are ok numbers for average defensive tackles, but by Atkins' standards it was terrible. After a full offseason of practice and work the following offseason, he came out strong in 2015 and put up 11 sacks, 31 tackles, and a forced fumble. If Eifert misses all of training camp and the preseason, he could be seriously set back at the beginning of the season, taking away one of the Bengals' best weapons.
4) Inexperienced backups
If Eifert misses regular-season playing time and not just the preseason, that means the Bengals will need to rely on Tyler Kroft and possibly C.J. Uzomah to replace the threat that Eifert represents in the passing game. Kroft did have a few good games in 2015 while Eifert was dealing with other injuries, but, he's no Eifert. And with the losses in the passing game the Bengals have come across, the team needs Eifert to shine this year. Uzomah is a complete wild card who only had one single catch in five appearances for the Bengals last year. So it's hard to say he's really ready to step in and step up either. Though, that would be great to see.
3) Tough early schedule
Losing a big passing threat like Eifert is rough in general. But, the potential for him to not play early in the season when the Bengals start off traveling to face the Jets and Steelers in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively, before coming home to face the world champion Denver Broncos in Week 3 could be devastating.
The Steelers and Broncos alone combined for four of the Bengals' 17 games in the 2015 regular and postseason. Eifert was injured in the home game against the Steelers, which the Bengals ended up losing. That injury, a concussion, caused Eifert to miss the Bengals' excursion to Denver later in the season, a game they lost but could have won with a bit more of an offensive threat in the second half.
In the two games against the Steelers in which Eifert did play, the Bengals won one of the matchups by a score of 16-10 and barely lost the other by a score of 18-16. Eifert wasn't particularly productive in either game, but his presence on the field opened up so many opportunities for other players to make plays
If Eifert misses time early in the season, that difficult three game stretch in Weeks 1, 2, and 3 becomes even more difficult.
2) Vontaze Burfict will miss the first three games
In some ways, you could consider Burfict to be the Eifert of the Bengals' defense. He's a big playmaker whom the rest of the unit performs better with than without. They're both two of the Bengals' biggest stars on each side of the ball, so not having either could be a huge blow in that early season stretch. Things should start to calm down in Week 4 when Burfict returns to action, though, Week 4 does present a Thursday Night Football matchup in Cincinnati against the Miami Dolphins. But, not having two of their biggest stars on either side of the ball could be a huge blow in those first few games.
1) It's really fun watching Eifert make great plays
We're all for seeing Eifert make more amazing catches.
Like this one before he was targeted and hit in the helmet by Mike Mitchell, inducing the above-mentioned concussion.
Or, this one from Week 1 of the 2015 season, which turned some heads.
Or this one from Week 5 against the Seahawks... Turning more heads.
And there was this quality touchdown against the Cardinals in Week 11, which was really nice, too.
Basically every game in which Eifert played last year, he made an amazing catch.
If he misses time, there will be less great catches to watch.