With the tight end position a growing part of NFL offenses, Tyler Eifert of the Cincinnati Bengals looks to have missed out.
Pass catching tight ends continue to be a huge aspect in the game of football. Look around the league today and you’ll see guys like Zach Ertz, who broke the single-season record for receptions by a tight end last year. Also consider George Kittle and Travis Kelce, who both broke the single-season record for yards by a tight end. One guy who didn’t get to benefit in the tight end renaissance, but certainly would have thrived in it, is Cincinnati Bengals tight end, Tyler Eifert.
Selected in the first round by the Bengals in 2013, there was no controversy in what Cincinnati saw in Eifert. One of the best tight ends in the country out of Notre Dame, Eifert looked to contribute immediately for the Bengals, who mostly relied on the services of Jermaine Gresham. For the organization, Eifert looked to be a smart upgrade.
Unfortunately for athletes such as Greg Oden, Bill Walton, and Daunte Culpepper, Eifert’s career has been derailed by injuries. In his first six years in the league, he has ended his season on the IR four times. In those six seasons, Eifert played in only 43 games. To compare, Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper, who was drafted three years after Eifert, has played in 46 NFL games.
After completing his rookie season injury-free, that would be the only season that would include the word “free” where injuries were concerned. Not even a quarter into his sophomore year, Eifert suffered a dislocated elbow, ending his season. In his third year, he missed a game due to a neck stinger, and when he returned, he suffered a concussion and missed the final two games of the season. Tyler was selected to the Pro Bowl in that season. He elected to participate in the event and tore ligaments in his ankle by landing on it wrong in the fourth quarter, which would cause him to miss the first six games in 2016.
Once he returned, he would miss two more games because of a back injury and then re-injure it in Week 15, missing the remainder of the season. The back issues would linger for Eifert. In 2017, he would have to have back surgery just a month into the season, once again ending his year. Finally last season, it looked like it might be a healthy one for Eifert. The Bengals were precautious with him in hopes to prolong his health. However, in the fourth game of the season, he suffered a gruesome ankle injury, thus closing the books on another disappointing year.
In the tiny sliver of being healthy, we have seen just how good of a player Eifert can be. In 2015, Eifert was a red zone nightmare. He finished the year with 13 touchdowns, finishing first among tight ends that year, two touchdowns ahead of Jordan Reed and Rob Gronkowski. It’s quite clear that he models the modern tight end and would’ve thrived. In a position that Gronk has revolutionized, Eifert excels as a matchup nightmare for the position.
Eifert and the Cincinnati Bengals moving forward
What’s next for Eifert? Is it over for him and reaching his potential? Can he thrive in a role, where he plays second fiddle at the position? In a surprising move, one where many believed the Bengals would move on from Eifert, the team signed him to a one year deal with incentives for 2019. This past April, in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Drew Sample, tight end out of Washington. Some already presume him to be the Week 1 starter. In some ways, the pairing of Sample and Eifert could make sense. Sample can help take the burden off of Eifert.
Some of his injuries were freak accidents, the elbow injury in his second season, and the ankle fracture last year but some of them haven’t been, like his back issues. Regardless, for maybe the first time since being drafted, Eifert hasn’t had the pressure to become what he was projected to be. Maybe 2019 is the year he can stay healthy. Or maybe it isn’t, and we remember him as the guy who could’ve been, but never was.