A week ago, it seemed as though Cincinnati Bengals fourth-year tight end Tyler Eifert was set to make his 2016 debut after taking off the first four games of the season as he continued to rehabilitate from an offseason ankle surgery, but a wrench was thrown in the plans for the Pro Bowler.
Eifert suffered a back injury, described as a tweak, in his first practice back on the field last week, running a route and going out for a pass in a non-contact situation. He was unable to return to practice that week, and it caused him to miss the Bengals’ 28-14 drubbing at the hands of the Cowboys.
The former first-round draft pick has yet to return to practice since then, in fact, even though there was initial optimism that he was likely to return soon after suffering the tweak in his back. He has already missed the first two days of practice for this week and is not anticipated to take the practice field today.
In other words, Eifert is about to miss his sixth game of the season, and at the moment, there is not a great deal of certainty that he would be prepared to return for the following game either, considering the fact that he has hardly practiced at all.
The Bengals are facing a critical game early in the season, being hosted by the Patriots after already getting off to a rough 2-3 start to the year, dropping games to the Cowboys, Broncos, and Steelers. They have lost three of their last four games since narrowly escaping defeat in the season opener.
The Patriots, meanwhile, are off to a 4-1 start and have just gotten Tom Brady back off a suspension. Brady looked like his usual self in throwing for over 400 yards with three touchdown passes, doing a lot of damage via his tight ends.
The Bengals have not been so able to take advantage from the tight end position, which is something that I discussed last week when I originally wrote about Eifert’s back injury. Of course, the Steelers can somewhat relate, as they brought in a tight end to start only to see him land on the Physically Unable to Perform List without ever even seeing the practice field back to spring drills.
Cincinnati’s offense has clearly suffered this year, and the lack of their Pro Bowl target from the tight end position is no small part of it. He accounted for 13 touchdown receptions in 13 games played in 2015, but he has often lacked the greatest ability of all, which is availability.
Eifert missed one game during his rookie season, but then was sidelined for all but one game in year two. He missed three games last year, and is set to miss at least six in year four, bringing his total games missed to 25 and counting in a four-year span.