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Lindsay Patterson, Paul Dehner Jr. and Paul Daugherty talk football and Bengals with Tyler Eifert on this week’s episode of Beyond the Stripes.
Cincinnati Enquirer

Tyler Eifert got a fresh haircut this week. His increasingly famous mullet, despite what he dubbed “awkward stages,” looks fuller than ever.

He was asked this week, ‘What would the mullet say if it could talk?’

“Somebody throw me a Miller Lite,” Eifert said.

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Yep, these are the questions coming Eifert’s way these days. That’s because we aren’t asking how his back feels. Or his elbow. Or his ankle. Or his neck. Or, well, you get the point.

It’s early. Only three games in, and every player on the field is one play away from seeing their season end. Nobody knows that better than Eifert.

But watching Andy Dalton buzz the helmet of a defensive back for Eifert to rise above and pull down a contested catch through the defender’s arms was vintage Dalton to Eifert this past Sunday. It served as the latest example of why the Bengals were willing to take a chance on the oft-injured tight end.

We all knew he could look great, but the difference after three games and 114 snaps is he feels great.

“I feel really good,” said Eifert, who is third on the team with 11 receptions for 131 yards. “The last two seasons even thought I was cleared to play and everything, I didn’t feel like I had the same explosiveness and the types of movements and things I’m used to doing. I feel really good and I’m just trying to keep it that way throughout the year.”

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Lindsay Patterson, Paul Dehner Jr., Fletcher Page and Paul Daugherty talk football and the Bengals with Tyler Eifert on this week’s episode of Beyond the Stripes.
Cincinnati Enquirer

The Bengals have noticed. They entered the season with a plan to keep Eifert’s snaps minimized that they would evaluate every week as his health and production within the game plan came into clearer focus. Throw in the emergence of C.J. Uzomah and continued solid play from Tyler Kroft and the Bengals tight ends have become one of the best groups in the league.

The use of three-TE sets has become a versatile weapon for them and the two-tight end sets allow Eifert a chance to take breaks. His usage did tick up after the wait-and-see of the first week.

He went from 41 percent of the snaps against Indianapolis, to 64 and 65 percent the next two games.

Eifert made the most of his 42 snaps against Carolina with six receptions for 74 yards. Eight of his 11 receptions this season have gone for a first down, though he’s yet to grace the end zone.

Plays like the leaping grab against Carolina don’t surprise Dalton, but do go a long way to rebuilding the connection that made the two a lethal combo in 2015 when Eifert caught 13 touchdowns in 13 games.

“That was a crazy catch,” Dalton said. “For him to go up and catch it over him like that is what he’s done and what’s made him so good. I wouldn’t necessarily say that was the moment I thought, ‘He’s back’. But that’s what he can do. For me, it’s just giving him the chance to make those plays by putting it in a good spot where he can make it. With the other guy’s hand in there, I don’t know how he came down with it. But that’s what he does.”

The amazing part of Eifert’s return comes from the easygoing nature in which he’s handled the constant stream of adversity through his six seasons. The toll of the ailments have him altering his routine to assure he is taking care of his body throughout the week for the specific back issue he deals with.

Even though he’s been a full participant, he’s still listed for his back injury on the daily practice reports every day. It’s part of his story now.

“Give him credit, he does the things he needs to do maintenance-wise,” Marvin Lewis said. “We’re nine weeks through football now. I’m sure he feels a little different from when he did 63 or so days ago when we started (training camp). He has to maintain that all the way through. We’re doing the best job we can to manage him through the week of practice and managing his snaps on Sundays.”

Eifert will just go on just managing his hair. It’s a fantastic change of pace three weeks into the season.

“I’m embracing my role,” he said. “I’m not getting as many snaps as I used to, that’s part of the plan, but I’m enjoying being out there. It feels good to feel good. It’s been a long time.”