The Cincinnati Bengals brought back tight end Tyler Eifert on a one year deal for the 2018 season, but they cannot build the offense around him.
The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the most explosive tight ends in the NFL, but he cannot seem to stay healthy for an entire season. In all five years of his career with the Bengals, Eifert has missed time due to injuries. Just in the last two seasons, he has only played ten games. Last season he was out after week two with a back injury that should be causing troubling thoughts for the Bengals front office.
Back injuries are some of the worst to happen to players. While there are other terrible injuries like tearing an ACL, players are more likely to come back at some point from those injuries and get back to the top of their game. Now, that doesn’t always end up being the case, but it happens more frequently than back injuries. Just look at Houston Texans J.J. Watt who has struggled with back problems the last couple seasons.
Cincinnati brought Eifert back on a one-year prove it deal this offseason that is incentive based. Meaning that if Eifert can stay healthy and put up numbers, he will get paid accordingly, but if he gets hurt, the Bengals aren’t paying out a truckload of money to him. The contract will save the Bengals money if Eifert finds himself once again getting injured, but that doesn’t save the offensive production.
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has put his stamp on the playbook this offseason, and it should look different in the 2018 season. We saw glimpses of it in the final two weeks of the season which made the offense all of a sudden come back to life. With some upgrades along the offensive line, Eifert and second-year receiver John Ross coming in healthy, and running back Joe Mixon getting more touches it should be a good season.
Eifert can make this offense explosive again just by himself. Adding him next to star wide receiver A.J. Green has worked before. However, Lazor cannot build the offense around that duo. Eifert has shown no reason to be trusted to stay healthy for an entire season, and the back injury makes me even more cautious. Lazor will have to build enough of his playbook around his running backs and helping the second and third wide receivers get into position to make plays.
Without Eifert on the field, defenses slanted towards Green’s side of the field dramatically. There was no other weapon on the offense that they were scared of making it extremely hard for quarterback Andy Dalton last season. Backup tight end Tyler Kroft is a good backup, but that’s about all he is. Kroft is not your tight end that will make big plays between the twenties or force defenses to focus on him.
Eifert says that he feels good, but the Bengals aren’t taking any chances with their star tight end made of glass. Cincinnati has kept him out of 11-on11 work so far in OTA’s. While Eifert can be a huge weapon for the Bengals to utilize this season, but they should plan their offense around him not being on the field. Not to say they shouldn’t build plays or packages around their star, they should just limit those.
The offense is going to have to rely heavily on the running backs in 2018. During the week 16 game against the Detroit Lions last season, Giovani Bernard ran the ball for over 100 yards and the running back group put up another 106 yards through the air. They will have to carry this over if they plan on doing anything on that side of the ball if Eifert goes down.