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90-in-90 Bengals Roster Breakdown: Can Tyler Eifert replicate his 2015 success once healthy in 2016?

Tyler Eifert broke out in 2015 and will hope to reinforce that performance with another great one in 2016. But first, he needs to get healthy.

Tyler Eifert

Personally, I thought it was a bit strange when the Bengals took a tight end out of Notre Dame with their first round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. At the time, Jermaine Gresham was coming off of his best season as a pro, putting up 64 receptions for 737 yards and five touchdowns. He actually had more touchdowns and similar yards per reception in 2011. Yes, two tight end sets were all the rage at the time and the Bengals didn’t have another good pass-catching option behind Gresham. But, a tight end in the first round seemed like a bit of a reach.

The pick was definitely justified after Gresham posted some of the lowest numbers of his career over the next two years, fumbling the ball six times (one more time than the total of his first three years in the league). Eifert’s career got off to a bit of a slow start after clearly being second banana in his rookie season and being out for virtually the whole 2014 season. But, he really rewarded the Bengals for their belief in him with a breakout 2015 season.

In 2015, Eifert caught 52 of the 74 passes thrown in his direction for 615 yards and the second most receiving touchdowns in the NFL (13). He was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl berth. But, unfortunately, he hurt his ankle in the game, requiring corrective surgery in the offseason. With a recovery timetable of three months, he is expected to miss the rest of the preseason and potentially the first couple games of the regular season. The hope is, once he returns he’ll have a very good season, similar to his 2015 breakout year. But, the Bengals will surely miss his contributions while he is recovering.

Player Information:

Age: 25
Experience: 4th year
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 251 pounds
Position: Tight end
College: Notre Dame

Why he might improve in 2016

Eifert’s 2015 season was great and it will be hard for him to improve on such a standout performance. If anything, the hope is that he will stay healthier this season and not miss time in key games like he did last year. It seems he will miss part of the team’s very difficult three game stretch to start the season, but, he could still find more playing time than the 13 starts (also due to injury) he had in 2015 as long as he stays healthy after he recovers from the ankle injury.

If he could improve on his 2015 statline, that would be quite impressive. About the only thing he could really do there is finish with more receiving yards and lead the league in receiving touchdowns, rather than coming in second place. Though, he did lead all tight ends in touchdowns in 2015 with 13. With a quarterback whose confidence is sky-high, Eifert’s ceiling has likely yet to be met and we’re looking forward to seeing what he does in 2016.

Why he might regress in 2016

Having hit the heights that he did in 2015, Eifert could have an above-average year in 2016 and it would still be considered a ‘regression’.

Eifert’s injury in the Pro Bowl could also be a significant obstacle. Remember when Geno Atkins finished the 2013 season on injured reserve and missed an entire offseason of training? He wasn’t able to pick up where he left off and regressed in 2014, leading many to speculate that he might never be the same again. He did return to form in 2015 since he had the whole offseason to train and dominated last season. But, the point is, Eifert losing his offseason could cause him miss a step all season like Atkins in 2014.

In short, it would be pretty surprising if Eifert didn’t regress at least a little in 2016 given the ultra-high expectations and missing an entire offseason of work while recovering.