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2018 Bengals position preview: Tight ends

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Cincinnati’s tight end group has a lot of talent, but health remains a major issue among the players at the position.

Houston Texans v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

Though many major media outlets are low on the Bengals this year, there are some glimmers of hope for a major turnaround in 2018. Talent at the skill positions on offense are aplenty, but health and inexperience issues have bred major skepticism.

At tight end, the Bengals have a glut of ability, while injuries to the star of the group and overall “greenness” of depth players are causes for concern. However, if things play out in a favorable way (much like so many other aspects of the 2018 Bengals), this group could become a very valuable piece to the team’s potential success.

Comings and goings:

Additions: Jordan Franks (UDFA), Moritz Bohringer (International pathway program)

Departures: None

The cast:

Starter: Tyler Eifert

Rotators: Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah

Special teams: Clark Harris (Long snapper/tight end)

Grinding for a roster spot: Cethan Carter (TE/HB), Jordan Franks, Mason Schreck

Other: Moritz Bohringer*

If he’s ready to go by Week 1, which is still tentatively the possibility at this point, Eifert will be the starter. And, if he is and continues to remain healthy throughout 2018, the offense will be vastly improved.

Kroft had a nice season when filling in for Eifert last year, coming in second on the team with seven touchdown receptions. Like Eifert, he’s looking to prove himself in the final year of his deal to get a nice payday beyond 2018. The hope for both sides is that his long-term future is with the Bengals.

Cethan Carter was granted a spot on the active roster last year because of Eifert’s injuries. However, he disappointed in limited opportunities last year, thus possibly paving the way for a 2018 chance for either Franks or Schreck.

Harris has tight end experience and would be someone they may lean on in an extreme emergency, but he’s a Pro Bowl long snapper and that’s his role this season. Meanwhile, Bohringer is part of an NFL roster exemption where he can participate in practices and join the Bengals’ practice squad, but is not allowed to be activated to the final roster at any time in 2018.

(Editor’s Note: As mentioned, Bohringer is part of an international pathway program and is not eligible for a spot on the final roster).

2018 outlook:

Like some other positions on offense for the Bengals, depending heavily on the tight ends this year is a big gamble. But, if good fortunes shine on the Bengals in this group—namely in terms of health—the payoff could be tremendous.

Andy Dalton has had his share of ups and downs in the NFL, but he’s been one of the most accurate and productive passers in the red zone in recent history. A big reason of that is from when Eifert was healthy.

The Bengals will continue to play it cautious with Eifert. Though he made it back to training camp earlier than some had expected, he has had the occasional rest day throughout camp. He also didn’t play in the preseason opener.

Even if Eifert is to miss time, the good news is that Kroft is waiting in the wings. He’s only been inactive for two games in his NFL career and is coming off of his best season as a pro. If both are healthy, Dalton should continue to build upon that great red zone rating.

Uzomah is uber-athletic, has done some nice things in his career and is continuing to mine that raw talent that drew the team to him back in 2015. He should be the third guy in the group with Eifert and Kroft. It should be noted that Uzomah has been getting the reps at starter on Eifert’s rest days, while Kroft has been used exclusively as the Y-inline tight end.

The question is if the team will keep four tight ends beyond hanging on to Harris and Ryan Hewitt. Schreck, Franks and Carter have a big hill to climb, even if they keep more at the spot. It’s likely that they will land on the practice squad to be called up if more injuries strike the group.

Bohringer won’t suit up for the Bengals this year, but if he shows enough promise and growth, he could be a guy they look at giving a true shot next season.