Longshot: Lengel, Peters
Leading up to the start of training camp for the Cincinnati Bengals on July 29, we’re breaking down each position group.
Today’s look is at the tight ends and H-backs, where Tyler Eifert, Ryan Hewitt and Tyler Kroft should hold down three of what figures to be four available spots on the 53-man roster, although neither Eifert or Hewitt participated in offseason workouts due to injuries.
Hewitt suffered a knee injury in the Week 16 loss at Denver, and Eifert hurt his ankle in the Pro Bowl and had surgery in May.
That leaves C.J. Uzomah, who didn’t see action as a rookie last year until Eifert suffered a neck injury in December, to battle Matt Lengel (practice squad last year) and John Peters for the remaining spot.
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Here are five things to know about the tight ends/H-backs:
The biggest offseason setback for the Bengals came in late May when tight end Tyler Eifert underwent surgery on the left ankle he injured in the Pro Bowl. The procedure opens questions about whether Eifert will be ready for the season opener Sept. 11 in New York against the Jets.
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If Eifert is unable to go by then, it would make the fourth consecutive year in which he has been unable to play a full 16 games. The 2013 first-round pick (17th overall) appeared in 15 games as a rookie, missing the finale and playing sparingly in the wild-card loss to Indianapolis due to a neck injury.
He played only eight snaps in the 2014 opener before suffering a season-ending elbow injury. And even during his record-breaking season last year, when his 13 touchdowns were the most ever by a Bengals tight end, he missed three games (concussion, neck).
Eifert’s Pro Bowl selection was the first of his career as he became the fifth tight end in Bengals history to earn the honor.
Bob Trumpy went to four (1968-70, ’73), Rodney Holman three (1988-90), Jermaine Gresham two (2011-12) and Dan Ross one (1982).
Eifert was targeted just twice last year's game on back to back plays. After catching an 11-yard pass in the fourth quarter, Eifert was the intended receiver on a deep pass to the end zone from Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston that resulted in his ankle injury.
In in first two seasons, H-back Ryan Hewitt has put up some modest numbers in the passing game, catching 18 passes for 185 yards.
But when Hewitt gets involved, it’s usually a sign of success. The Bengals are 10-3 in games in which he catches a pass, and they are 4-1 when his has double-digit receiving yards.
Hewitt’s biggest contribution in the running game as a lead blocker. Only once in his career that spans 31 games and 23 starts has he carried the ball. That was in Week 3 of his rookie year when Tennessee stuffed him for no gain on the final clock-killing drive of a 33-7 victory.
The Bengals went through a stretch where a number of undrafted college free agents were making their way on to the opening 53-man roster.
But Ryan Hewitt was the only UFA to do it in 2014, and no one accomplished it in 2015.
Tyler Kroft worked his way into playing a significant role in the offense as his rookie season progressed in 2015. A third-round pick out of Rutgers, Kroft started five of the final six games – three in the base offense when Tyler Eifert was injured and two as part of a double-tight end set alongside Eifert.
Kroft appeared in all 16 games and played 33 percent of the offensive snaps and 67 percent on special teams snaps.
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