It seemed as though the Cincinnati Bengals were gearing up coming out of their Thursday Night victory to get their Pro Bowl tight end, Tyler Eifert, back from an ankle injury that caused him to sit out the first four games of the season, as reports indicated that he was making good progress.
Yesterday, however, the young player suffered a setback on his road back—not reinjuring his ankle, but now suffering a back injury during practice on Monday. By the end of yesterday, the Bengals had not ruled him out, but it remains unclear whether or not he will be able to return to play on Sunday against the Cowboys.
Eifert suffered an ankle injury last season and was hoping to be able to recover from it without surgical intervention over the course of the offseason. The team determined in the middle of the offseason, however, that he would need to have surgery to take care of the situation, and as a result, he had to be sidelined for the first month of the season.
The fourth-year tight end tweaked his back while running an innocuous route during practice as a non-contact injury. He has yet to play a full season due to a number of injuries that he has dealt with. He was limited to 13 games last year, and just one the year before. He played 15 games during his rookie season. Last year, he led the league with 13 touchdowns.
A good number of those touchdowns came in the red zone. This year, the Bengals offense is struggling significantly in that portion of the field, as they currently have the second-worst touchdown percentage in the league on all drives that have cracked the opposing team’s 20-yard line. The team was fifth in the league in that category last season with Eifert.
After undergoing a number of different tests on his back injury, the Bengals currently do not appear to have a good grasp on the nature or extent of the injury in terms of short-term or long-term issues, but it is growing increasingly unlikely that he will not make his 2016 debut this Sunday.
In his absence, tight ends Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah, Alex Erickson, and Ryan Hewitt have combined for 14 receptions on 27 targets for 189 yards and no scores, producing an average of 13.5 yards per reception, but a catch rate of just 52 percent.
While A.J. Green has been exceptional so far this season more often than not, it is clear that the Bengals’ offense has struggled to overcome the number of changes that they have had to deal with since last season in terms of both the coaching staff and personnel.
In inclusion of Eifert back into the mix as a receiving threat should do a lot to solidify Cincinnati’s passing game, though they have also struggled to run the ball effectively. It is a big reason why they are only 2-2 so far this season, with one of those wins coming as the home team on a short week.