Andy Dalton is hoping that Tyler Eifert can return and enjoy a healthy 2018 campaign. Unfortunately, the Bengals coaching staff isn’t optimistic.
When he’s healthy, Tyler Eifert is one of the most dangerous tight ends in football. Unfortunately for the Bengals, he isn’t healthy all that often. The team’s coaching staff is already worried about his rehabilitation ahead of the 2018 season.
Just two weeks ago, Eifert excited his team’s fan base by claiming his rehab was running right on schedule. Evidently Marvin Lewis didn’t get that memo. He told local reporters that he wouldn’t be sure where Eifert stood until the team begins to play football. That hardly represents a vote of confidence for the talented, but fragile tight end.
It’s hard to blame Lewis for being pessimistic. Eifert has suffered significant injuries in three of his last four seasons. In fact, he’s only managed to play 24 games during that stretch. Playing an average of six games per season isn’t what any NFL coach would call reliable.
The only saving grace for the team is that they don’t have a ton committed to Eifert this season. His lengthy injury history allowed the team to bring him back on a one-year contract for just $5.5 million. That’s not peanuts, but it won’t crush the Bengals roster if they lose Eifert for an extended period of time once again.
If Eifert can’t produce for the Bengals this year, the team will be forced to rely on Tyler Kroft at the tight end position once again. He’s an adequate pass catcher, but he cannot stretch the field like Eifert.
The team will also hope that John Ross and Tyler Boyd can allow Lewis to play more three wide receiver sets. They certainly aren’t going to replace Eifert as a move tight end, but they can use their exceptional speed to work the middle of the field. Dalton will need one or both of those young receivers to step up if Eifert can’t go this season.
For Eifert, this will likely represent his last chance to extend his Bengals career. At some point, the team will have to give up on him if he can’t stay healthy for a full season. He might get a chance somewhere else, but this is likely his last opportunity in Cincinnati.