The Bengals are getting closer to seeing Tyler Eifert back on the field.
The Pro Bowl tight end said Wednesday that he will be practicing and running routes this week, the first time he's practiced with the team since the week leading up to the Wild Card game in January 2016.
Eifert confirms he'll run routes today in his first team practice— Geoff Hobson (@GeoffHobsonCin) September 21, 2016
Eifert suffered an ankle injury during the Pro Bowl and underwent offseason ankle surgery. Returning to practice, even likely in a limited fashion, is a great sign for Eifert's progress, not to mention it looks like he's had no setbacks in his recovery.
However, with Eifert having been sidelined for most of the past seven months, it's hard to see him being ready for the Week 3 clash with Denver. He’s just missed too much time to be in adequate game shape for it.
It was reported last week that Eifert was only running at half speed and could be several weeks from going full speed. If he’s practicing this week, that would suggest he’s close to being ready for full speed work, though that does not mean he’s cleared for full-contact practice.
The Bengals host the Dolphins on Thursday Night Football, so it could be tough for Eifert to make it back for that game on a quick turnaround after this week. Week 5 at Dallas is probably the best bet for when we will see Eifert, but it’s possible the Bengals play him within the next two games.
I doubt Eifert gets used as anything more than a decoy to start out, but just having him on the field could force opposing defenses to alter their game plan. There is no question Eifert makes the Bengals offense much harder to deal with, and that’s been painfully obvious through the first two games.
The Bengals have managed to reach the end zone just four times in two games while squandering multiple red-zone trips that ended in field goals. That’s the area where Eifert helped make the Bengals offense elite in 2015, and not having him has been very costly for this offense.
NFL teams need to overcome injuries, but the Bengals have not done a great job of doing so with Eifert out.
Be sure to check back this evening for the full participation report for Bengals practice. That could give us an indicator as to how far along Eifert is, though I would not expect anything more than limited practices for him this week.