CINCINNATI (AP) — No question who's one of the early stars of filming for the Cincinnati Bengals' latest appearance on "Hard Knocks." When the camera crews shoot footage of people catching the ball, rookie tight end Tyler Eifert is often in the frame.
Just as planned.
The 21st overall pick out of Notre Dame was expected to add another dimension to Cincinnati's run-of-the-mill passing game, which ranked 17th in the league last season. With All-Pro receiver A.J. Green sidelined by a knee injury in camp, Eifert has been getting the ball more than many others with a lot more experience.
Cincinnati may have found someone to take the defense's focus off Green.
"He's done everything we thought and more," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. "He's just one of those guys that when he makes a play, you kind of look around and see if anybody else saw what he just did.
"He's running routes and catching the ball. He's very natural at what he does. He can beat man coverage no problem. He can beat zones. He's got a great feel for the game."
Those who have covered him the first five days of camp have been impressed. Eifert comes up with the ball even when there's someone right on top of him.
"He's got a different skill-set than a lot of tight ends, I think, as far as the way he runs routes," cornerback Terence Newman said. "He's a big guy, but he moves kind of like he could be a big wideout. It's kind of like the 49ers, what they do with Vernon Davis. He's versatile and he can do anything they ask him to do.
"He's going to be somebody to be reckoned with this year, for sure."
That was the plan.
Green emerged into one of the NFL's best receivers during his first two seasons, but Cincinnati hasn't been able to develop a consistent complement. Green had 97 catches for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. The Bengals' next-best receiver was Andrew Hawkins with only 51 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns. No other receiver had more than 18 catches.
Eifert was a dependable receiver at Notre Dame, where he lined up in the slot and at wide receiver positions. The Bengals plan to use him more like a receiver in two tight-end formations with Jermaine Gresham.
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