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Tyler Eifert and Ryan Hewitt: Bengals Finally Have Tight End Duo

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Eifert’s return in 2015 will give the Bengals the other half (along with Ryan Hewitt) of what could be the tight end duo they’ve been seeking. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When the Bengals drafted Tyler Eifert with their first round selection in 2013, they were hoping they had just acquired the second half of what could’ve been an elite tight end duo along with Jermaine Gresham.  That plan has failed to materialize over the past two seasons.

But during this time span, the Bengals may have serendipitously fallen into the duo they sought.  This past off-season, the Bengals acquired HB/TE Ryan Hewitt as an undrafted free agent following the 2014 draft.  Hewitt proved to be a promising prospect at the H-back position and eventually won the competition between he and former Bengal Orson Charles for the roster slot.  Hewitt proved to be an extremely effective player at the position, even earning Pro Football Focus’ All Rookie and All-AFC North honors.

More important to this discussion though is Ryan Hewitt’s ability as a tight end.  Although he primarily lined up as the H-back, Hewitt did make appearances bookending the offensive line in the tight end role.  His ability to block consistently and effectively allows him to be the effective, reliable blocker the team has sough for some time.  And at 6’4″, 254 pounds, he has the size to take on both linebackers and defensive ends.  This especially holds true in the AFC North, as each of the Bengals’ opponents employs a 3-4 defense, which means Hewitt’s size and ability to block in space really bodes well when matching up with outside linebackers.

But it’s not just Hewitt’s blocking ability that makes him a capable tight end.  Hewitt also possesses soft hands, which presents a reliable target for Andy Dalton.  And when performing on the field, Hewitt only had two penalties on the year (1 per 338 snaps) while Gresham had five (1 per 188 snaps). It’s Hewitt’s reliability as a blocker and receiver that makes him a viable replacement for the likely exiting Jermaine Gresham.

Nov 30, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Ryan Hewitt (89) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14-13. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Completing the duo is Tyler Eifert.  He’s had an up-and-down start to his career.  When on the field, Tyler Eifert has slowly developed into a promising weapon for the Bengals, even becoming one of Dalton’s favorite targets this past off-season.  But a rash of injuries to his shoulder, elbow, and back have kept Eifert off the field for about half his career.  None of his injuries should impact his long-term outlook, so Eifert could very well return to the field 100% this season.

When on the field, Tyler Eifert presents a large, athletic target for Dalton.  He has enough speed to spread the field and line up on the outside.  His size and athleticism also allows him to work the seam effectively.  It’s this dynamic receiving ability that will give Dalton another reliable option while also spreading the defense, which makes things easier for the running backs.  Eifert isn’t the most refined blocker, but has shown promise in this area, which only adds to his value.  He certainly has the size to be an effective one, so if he continues to employ his work ethic in this area, the Bengals could have another reliable blocker bookending the offensive line.

Tyler Eifert and Ryan Hewitt are perfect complements for one another.  Hewitt being the more refined blocker who does have soft enough hands to be reliable in the passing game, while Eifert can be a dominant receiver who possesses enough skill to be a capable blocker when necessary; the threat of him as a receiver puts defenders on their heels initially, which makes things easier for Eifert when blocking.  This duo is also versatile enough that moving them in-motion pre-snap can make things very difficult for defenses while also forcing them to tip their hand a bit, which should make Dalton’s life easier once the play gets under way.

This duo will make life easier for the rest of the Bengals’ offense regardless of the position.  They will also make things easier for the Bengals this off-season.  The team could choose to dip into the tight end pool and add to the group, or if the right fullback/H-back is available, the Bengals could invest there also.  It’ll be interesting to see how the Bengals attack depth at these positions this off-season, but regardless of how things play out, the Bengals will have a promising, versatile tight end duo in 2015.

Next: A Couple of TE/HB/FB Prospects Can Be Found Here

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