The durability of tight end Tyler Eifert has been under more scrutiny than the handling of Flint, Michigan’s water.
Well, maybe not that much, but it’s been a pressing issue for five years now.
Eifert has been dealing with numerous injuries for the vast majority of his NFL career, and 2018 has been no different so far. He entered training camp this year with a back issue and was initially placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list for the first few practices.
To the surprise of most outside the organization, he was activated off said list less than a week after being placed on it, and was able to fully practice with the team again. But the team took a more conservative approach.
The sixth-year veteran has taken about as many precautionary rest days as he has practiced with the team, and has still not been blocking at all in camp. This moderate approach has created the belief that Eifert’s usage would continue to be minimized in the regular season.
And head coach Marvin Lewis may’ve confirmed that suspicion in his press conference this week when asked if he would Take Eifert out of the game when he’s 50 snaps into it.
“Well I hope he never gets to 50 (laughs
, because of course)” Lewis answered.
The Bengals offense ran the least total plays from scrimmage in the NFL last year, and they still averaged almost eight more plays than 50. The average number of plays from scrimmage a team ran per game during the regular league-wide was a little over 63. Clearly, 50 means noticeably less than a full game for Eifert.
But with the way they’ve limited him thus far leading up to September, this was foreseen.
Last season, the Bengals expected Eifert to not only play a full season, but to play at the 66.3 snaps per game rate he was on during the first 10 weeks of his Pro Bowl year in 2015.
When injuries started to pop up and caused Eifert to miss the final 14 games of last year, they threw Tyler Kroft into the starting role. And while Kroft found the ball in his hands in the end zone seven times in 13 games, he didn’t bring the vertical presence Eifert did.
This time around, while Eifert’s been limited, it’s been C.J. Uzomah taking his reps as the starter. Kroft has stayed locked in as the No. 2 role with either Eifert or Uzomah on the field with him. They’re clearly attempting to prepare the offense to operate at the highest capacity possible without Eifert, as Uzomah is the more comparable athlete to him.
With Eifert re-signed on a modest and incentive based one-year contract, expectations on his availability have obviously matured into pessimism, but Lewis understands the value Eifert still brings.
“He has done well.” Lewis said. “He has continued to stay the course. He makes a difference every time he steps out there. Offensively, the comfort level that Andy (Dalton) has, and the things he can create on the field as a mismatch are very evident.”
Eifert’s true impact can still be utilized on a situational basis. For third-downs all over the field and passing plays inside the red zone, Eifert will for sure be on the field when he’s most needed.
As long as the offense doesn’t have him on the field almost exclusively for passing plays and never for running plays which can potentially tip the play off to the defense, this plan should work out.
For fantasy players, this news isn’t exactly the greatest, as any situational player has low scoring upside. But for Bengals fans, hoping to see Eifert on the field every single week in 2018, this is the proper approach to making that a reality.