After losing both Muhammad Sanu and Marvin Jones to 2016 free agency, the Cincinnati Bengals were banking on star wideout A.J. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert to be able to stay healthy and carry the workload of their offense. Well, as fate would have it, ESPN’s Adams Schefter has reported that Eifert will have to undergo ankle surgery after suffering an injury at the 2016 Pro Bowl, and could miss the Bengals’ first several games of the 2016 season. The severity and specific details of Eifert’s injury are still unknown, but the injury was reportedly suffered when Eifert when up to catch a pass from Tampa’s Jameis Winson during the late stages of January’s Pro Bowl. Eifert limped over to the sidelines after landing awkwardly on his left ankle in the back of the end zone, was evaluated by the medical staff, and did not return to the game. Eifert was later spotted sporting an ankle boot.
The surgery is reportedly going to require a minimum of three months of recovery time, meaning that Eifert will almost certainly be out for the entirety of training camp and the preseason. What makes the injury to Eifert even more bizarre other than the fact that it was suffered during the Pro Bowl is that the extent of injury has seemingly only gotten worse over the last several months, as initial tests on Eifert’s ankle by Cincinnati’s medical staff predicted a quick recovery for the due-to-be fourth-year man out of Notre Dame. Eifert even participated in the Bengals voluntary team workouts back in April, but it appears that the injury has only worsened since he began running on it again. Had Eifert had the injury diagnosed and undergone the surgery back in January or February, he likely would not be in this situation of having to miss a significant amount of time. Then again, the injury likely was not serious to point where it required surgery until Eifert began working on it again, so it’s hard to say as to whether Eifert was wrongfully diagnosed initially or if he did anything to cause more harm to the ankle in the last few months following the Pro Bowl.
No matter how the injury’s severity and the surgery came about, the loss of Tyler Eifert is going to be a costly one to the Cincinnati Bengals, to say the least. In 2015, Eifert was finally able to produce at the level that the Bengals hoped he would when they drafted him with the No. 21 overall pick in 2013. In 2014, Eifert suffered a dislocated elbow against the Baltimore Ravens in the season opener, ending his sophomore campaign. After returning from the injury in 2015, Eifert had a career season with 11 touchdown receptions and was the focal point of the Bengals’ red zone offense (caught three red zone touchdown passes from Andy Dalton in Cincy’s 31-10 win over the Browns in week nine). The Bengals chose to pick up Eifert’s fifth-year option of his four-year, $8.5 million rookie contract back in April, meaning he will be a free agent at the end of the 2016 season. As injury prone as Tyler Eifert may be, he has proven to be a valuable asset to the Bengals’ offense when healthy. If Eifert is unable to go for the first few weeks of the regular season, the Bengals will be at a major disadvantage against the gauntlet of the New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, and defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in their first three games.
A.J. Green is used to being counted on, and the Bengals are no stranger to dealing with key injuries to their offense after Andy Dalton was forced to miss the final three weeks of the regular season and the Wild Card round loss to Pittsburgh due to a broken thumb a season ago. However, now that the Bengals have already lost two of their three starting wideouts from 2015 to free agency, Eifert’s injury is even more significant. The Bengals will now have to rely on the services of the newly signed Brandon LaFell and 2016 second-round pick out of Pittsburgh Tyler Boyd to pick up Eifert’s workload. However, even if LaFell and Boyd turn out to be viable options for Andy Dalton to throw to, neither will be able to produce in the red zone and block on the line of scrimmage, as well as Eifert. This injury to Tyler Eifert could be a very costly one for Marvin Lewis’ team. Hopefully, a speedy recovery for Eifert.
Information from Pro-Football-Reference was used in this report.