Bengals add offensive weapon in Eifert

Drafting Tyler Eifert was a no-brainer when the Notre Dame product was still available at pick No. 21 Thursday night.

CINCINNATI – Tight end wasn’t a position of need for the Bengals heading into the first round of the NFL Draft but drafting Tyler Eifert was a no-brainer when the Notre Dame product was still available at pick No. 21 Thursday night.

The Bengals added to their offensive arsenal by taking Eifert, a mismatch-in-the-making at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds. 

New England has made the NFL take notice of versatile tight ends with its utilization of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez the past few seasons and now the Bengals have their own set of tight end twins in Eifert and Jermaine Gresham. 

The idea of having two pass-catching tight ends to go along with All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green should be a pleasant one for quarterback Andy Dalton

“I’m sure Andy Dalton is happy right now,” said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. “We try to make Andy happy, and the more weapons you have, obviously, the better. We need to take pressure off A.J. Green and this is one step in doing that.”

Eifert joins Gresham as a first-round tight end taken in the last four drafts. 

After not selecting a tight end in the first five drafts under head coach Marvin Lewis, Eifert is the fifth tight end drafted by the Bengals in the past six years. Besides Gresham in 2010, the Bengals also took Matt Sherry in the sixth round in 2008, Chase Coffman in the third round in 2009 and Orson Charles in the fourth round last year. Undrafted college free agent Colin Cochart made the roster in 2011. They recently signed veteran Alex Smith and also have fifth-year player Richard Quinn on the roster.

“He complements Jermaine and the other players we have,” said Lewis. “He’s got ability. To be moving around and doing a lot of things, show some flexibility, he’s been a very productive receiver at Notre Dame.”

Bengals tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes worked out Eifert at the NFL scouting combine in February and again at Eifert’s pro day. Still, Eifert didn’t go into the draft expecting to get a call from the Bengals.

“We all do our own mock drafts in our head, who needs the position that we are and whatnot so I was a little surprised,” said Eifert. “I think we’re very similar players. Our ability to create mismatches and get down the field and put our hand in the dirt and block. I’m excited for the opportunity to play next to him.”

Eifert is the first Notre Dame tight end taken in the first round since Irv Smith in 1993 but the Fighting Irish have sent Anthony Fasano, John Carlson and Cincinnati native Kyle Rudolph into the NFL as second-round picks. Rudolph, from Elder High School, has 79 receptions and 12 touchdowns in two seasons with Minnesota, including 53 catches for 742 yards and nine scores last season.

“I learned a lot from him. He’s been a mentor for me and we’ve got very comparable games,” said Eifert. “My phone has been vibrating off the hook and I haven’t had a chance to look through them all (to see if Rudolph called) but maybe I can rent his room until I find a place.”

The Bengals were ranked 22nd in the NFL in yards per game (332.7) and 12th in scoring at 24.4 points per game. They were 31-of-57 scoring touchdowns in the red zone, 16th-best in the NFL.

While the Bengals went 7-1 in the second half of last season to finish 10-6 and reach the postseason but they were hardly an offensive juggernaut. Including the playoff loss at Houston, the Bengals managed just seven offensive touchdowns in their final six games, including going without an offensive trip into the end zone in two of the last three games. 

The lack of offensive effectiveness was pointedly telling against the Texans. 

The Bengals went into the game wanting to attack a Houston linebacker group that was limping with injuries and reserve players but they were unable to take advantage of the situation. Gresham was the main target in that game plan – they didn’t attempt a pass Green’s way the entire first half – but Gresham had just two receptions for seven yards in the seven attempted passes Dalton threw his way in the game.

Gresham certainly wasn’t the lone offensive issue against the Texans – the Bengals managed just 198 net yards on offense and didn’t convert any of the nine third-down chances they had – but he stood out as an example of their overall failure. 

“I don’t think Jermaine’s has a lot to worry about; Jermaine’s our starting tight end,” said Gruden. 

“Tyler’s going to come in here and add another element with the two tight end package or three tight end package and be a good, solid backup for us and be a steady player for a lot of years here.

“Everyone should be pushing themselves anyway. Jermaine should be working to get better whether we draft Eifert or some slappy from New Haven… We struggled at the end of the year, but it’s not because these guys don’t work hard. They work extremely hard, and we’re all excited to get back on the field, add a few pieces to the puzzle, continue to push them and hopefully we’ll take that next step next year.”

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