When Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert was selected with the 21st overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, expectations were high. He played in 15 games as a rookie, recording 39 receptions for 445 yards and two TDs.
Then, with aims on building off his strong rookie showing, he dislocated his elbow in the first regular season game of 2014 and was lost for the year. His breakout season was put on hold.
In 2015, Eifert did not disappoint, coming into his own with 52 receptions for 615 yards and 13 TDs earning Pro Bowl honors. He was on his way to being one of the league's best tight ends for years to come. Unfortunately, this season hasn't gone so well for the former Golden Domer as he missed the first six games with back injury.
Eifert is fully healed now, torching the Redskins two weeks ago in London for 102 yards and a TD on nine catches. After a week off due to the bye, he's ready to sink his teeth into the Giants' secondary.
The Bengals' offense missed him, no doubt. They averaged over 26 points per game last season. This year, they've been scoring just under 21. The team is pleased to see Eifert return. He is the glue to their passing game which features All-Pro wideout A.J. Green, who is only behind Atlanta's Julio Jones in receiving yardage this season.
"He is another dynamic player and he gives the quarterback another option, gives the defense another threat to defend, so those are the good things that he provides" head coach Marvin Lewis said of Eifert on Wednesday.
The Giants have not defended tight ends particularly well this season, allowing 49 receptions, but have only allowed 489 yards and one TD. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Eifert will pose a challenge to the Giants' young safeties, Landon Collins and Andrew Adams.
"He's a big target with some range. He has sneaky speed, he can chew up some ground with his stride length," said Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, who knows a thing or two about tight end play. "But, again, big targets that are smart and get football, in the red and green zone, are an advantage for the offense."
Eleven of Eifert's 13 touchdowns last season came in the red zone. The Giants lead the NFL in red zone defense, only allowing touchdowns 39.3% of the time. Eifert is the kind of player who could change those percentages.
He has always been able to go up and get the ball. When he was at Notre Dame, head coach Brian Kelly said of Eifert: "He turns field goals into touchdowns in the red zone,"
"When I think back to basketball, I had a lot of rebounds," Eifert said this week. "I wasn't always the tallest guy or could jump out of the gym, but it's all about timing your jump so that you get it at the highest point that you can get the ball. If you time it right, it looks like you're up much higher than you are. It's just a timing thing and having a knack for that. People always talk about high-pointing the ball, but it's not really something that you practice. I've always had that knack and have been able to do that."
That is something the Giants have been successful in guarding against this season. We'll see if they can continue that trend come Monday night.