While the Cincinnati Bengals are taking part in OTA’s, we are making predictions on which players will make the final 53 man roster cuts.
The Bengals’ tight end situation is tricky since a lot of components of its success are in flux. Primarily, the health of starter Tyler Eifert is a massive question heading into this season. Eifert, the Bengals’ franchise tight end, returns to play this season on a 1-year, $6 million prove-it deal. The structure of his deal says quite a bit about how the Bengals view Eifert now. Clearly, they still like his fit on the roster. However, by only giving him one year, it’s evident that the Bengals don’t trust Eifert to play 16 games.
Eifert’s potential to contribute in 2018 is enormous. Following a 2015 season in which he tallied 52 catches for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns, Eifert looked headed for stardom. However, after ankle, arm, and back injuries, he rarely saw the field in 2016 and 2017. Therefore, 2018 will be a defining year for Eifert. He gets a third chance to headline this group of tight ends, but he needs to prove himself this year. If he does stay healthy, Eifert should significantly lead the Bengals’ tight ends in catches and touchdowns.
Backing up Eifert again this season will be 2015 third round pick, Tyler Kroft. For the first couple years of his career, Kroft did not get much game action. However, after Eifert went on IR before the 2017 season, Kroft stepped up as the starter. In Eifert’s role, Kroft put up 42 catches for 404 years and eight touchdowns. Given Eifert’s injury history, Kroft may have to start again in 2018. He proved he’s not the same dynamic receiving threat as Eifert, but he’s a reliable short-yardage target and goal-line threat. Even if Eifert is healthy, expect to see a healthy dose of Tyler Kroft in this offense.
Behind the top two tight ends, the Bengals will likely return 2015 fifth round pick C.J. Uzomah. In all likelihood, Uzomah won’t be more than a depth piece at the position. Even in Eifert’s absence last year, he only caught ten passes for 92 yards and one touchdown. If Eifert stays healthy, Uzomah is clearly the third option on this Bengals team. While he won’t see the field much, Uzomah is a safe depth piece because of his athleticism and his familiarity with the offensive schemes.
One other name to keep an eye on is H-Back Ryan Hewitt. Entering his fifth season with the Bengals, Hewitt hasn’t done much more than block. However, when given a chance, he has flashed as a receiver. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Hewitt take on some of Eifert’s targets if he gets hurt. Hewitt is more physical than all of the running backs, but quicker than Kroft, giving him intriguing versatility as a pass catcher. Hewitt could finally become a Swiss Army knife-type player for the Bengals if he needs to step into that role.