Following a season in which no Jacksonville Jaguars tight end caught more than two touchdowns, and only one touchdown was caught by a tight end after Week 4, the Jaguars wanted a contingency plan.
That contingency plan? Veteran tight end Tyler Eifert, whose career production far exceeds each other tight end on the roster. Last year, Eifert caught 43 passes for 436 yards and three touchdowns while also playing in all 16 games for the first time in his seven-year career.
Eifert has played in 59 games with 37 starts during his seven seasons in Cincinnati, where he was originally drafted in the first round (No. 21 overall) in 2013. His career stats include 185 receptions for 2,152 yards and 24 TDs. As long as he has been healthy, he has been productive, especially when compared to the stable of tight ends the Jaguars have trotted out in recent years.
“I think that adding Tyler Eifert, he’s done that, he’s run the option route with a fly, he’s lined up outside. He makes the defense show their hand a little bit," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said Tuesday. "Who’s covering him? If it’s man to man, the safety’s got him, you know. So, the quarterback knows if this is man to man, I know where to go with the football."
To get a feel for what Eifert will bring to the Jaguars' offense this fall, we reviewed some of Eifert's past plays via NFL Game Pass and picked five plays to demonstrate his skill set.
A Hail Mary attempt at the end of this game, Eifert made himself the hero of the Bengals in this matchup vs. the Miami Dolphins thanks to his ability to finish the play. Andy Dalton is able to maneuver in the pocket until Eifert positions himself downfield and finds an open space in the end zone, giving the 6-foot-6 target enough room to make a play.
Eifert, of course, is able to make the play happen thanks to his ability to high point the ball and shield it from defenders. He already has the size advantage, and he uses it to ensure he is able to climb the ladder and bring the ball to his frame before the Dolphins' defenders have a chance to breakup the pass.
While this may not be a play you will see from Eifert on a weekly basis, it does show traits that he will be able to use on more traditional vertical passing plays. Not every large pass-catcher is able to properly use their size to their advantage to box out defenders for the ball, but this clearly isn't an issue for Eifert.
If the Jaguars wanted to bring in a red zone threat this offseason, their best bet is easily Eifert. As this play and the previous one shows, Eifert is simply skilled at winning above the rim and making the tough catch in the condensed area of the field.
On this play, Eifert runs a simple wheel route out of the slot to find a sliver of space in the end zone. There isn't a ton of separation on the play, but Eifert is able to fight through contact within the route to adjust his body to the back shoulder throw. As he makes the adjustment, he shows terrific coordination, balance, timing, and overall ball skills.
Yet another example of Eifert dominating in the red zone, this time it is an example of Eifert beating man coverage and then, once again, finishing the play. This time, you see Eifert detached from the line of scrimmage and matched up with a safety, a matchup the Jaguars would love to see in the red zone in 2020.
On this play, Eifert runs a corner route without tipping his hand to the safety. The safety has inside leverage, and Eifert does a good job of not telegraphing his break to the outside, giving him the ability to attack the safety's outside hip. Eifert then explodes out of his break, leaving the defender trailing behind him and creating an open window for the quarterback.
Finally, Eifert finishes the play by tracking the ball and extending for it, bringing it into his frame and converting the catch into a touchdown. From the route to the catch, this was all good stuff from Eifert.
You can already see how this play would translate with Gardner Minshew II. On this play, Eifert is running a crossing route from the slot and looking for open space across the middle of the end zone, though he is still covered by the linebacker when the quarterback initially wants to get rid of the ball.
Eifert doesn't stop and sit on the route just because he wasn't open, however. He continued to work toward the sideline as he saw the quarterback break out of the pocket to the right, eventually creating a window for the quarterback to fit a pass into. Eifert kept the play alive and gave his quarterback a moving target to find once he cleared the final second level defender, and then once again was a safety blanket once it came to finishing the play.
On this play, the offensive coordinator motions Eifert from the right side of the line of scrimmage to the left slot, giving the offense a chance to see if the defense was in man or zone coverage. No safety followed Eifert across the formation, indicating that the defense would be in some variation of zone.
Eifert then releases vertically and is eventually able to clear the second level and find an open gap in the zone. This gap was minimal but still gave the quarterback a short period of time to deliver a strike to Eifert in the seam, and Eifert was able to use his frame to shield the ball away from the nearby defenders and finish the play for a touchdown. Attacking the seams for big gains was an issue for the Jaguars' offense in 2019, and the addition of Eifert should hopefully change this.