The Cincinnati Bengals’ former first-round tight end Tyler Eifert came into his own last year and emerged as a star in 2015, and, by no coincidence, it was also his healthiest year since he was drafted. But the skilled fourth-year player has not had many occasions to escape the injury bug.
Eifert, of course, is currently rehabbing from offseason surgery on a bothersome ankle that the team was hoping would heal without surgical intervention. The delay threatens to extend his recovery time into the regular season, making it all the more imperative that the rest of their tight ends are on the up and up.
But that has proved a bit of a problem as well, as their presumed second-string tight end, second-year Tyler Kroft, is also currently sidelined with an injury, as is their third option and h-back, Ryan Hewitt, who was recently signed to an extension through the 2019 season.
Earlier this week, Kroft was carted off the practice field after suffering a knee injury. Though later tests have revealed that the knee injury is not likely to be serious, and was described as a “jammed knee”, he is missing integral practice reps should he need to be called upon in Eifert’s absence to start the year.
Hewitt sat out a recent practice as well with a minor injury, as did yet another tight end, which left the Bengals yesterday with just two healthy bodies at the position to practice with, among them their other second-year tight end, C.J. Uzomah.
For his part, Uzomah was understandably featured prominently in the Bengals’ practice session yesterday, for obvious reasons. Obviously, having so many players ahead of the depth chart going down is providing him with some very valuable reps to improve his game, as well as his chances of retaining his spot on the roster.
Of course, injuries are simply a part of training camp, and football in general. Injuries come and go over the course of an August filled with the popping of pads as players ready themselves for the grueling schedule ahead, so that there should be a number of injuries at any one position is not out of the ordinary.
It certainly doesn’t help to have so many of their players at the top of the depth chart all missing time, however, and of particular concern is the fact that they are all relatively young. Even Eifert has only seen three years of experience, and that time has been marred by time missed due to injury. Hewitt was an undrafted free agent in 2014, and, as mentioned, Kroft was drafted just last May.
With an offense adapting to a new offensive coordinator in addition to seeing significant turnover at the wide receiver position, any disruption is to be taken as a concern, even if a marginal one, as it concerns the development of the offense for the 2016 season. They would certainly like to get their ailing ends back sooner rather than later to get back to the business of the season.