AFC North Notes: Eifert, Browns, DeCastro

Despite being one of the NFL’s biggest injury risks, Tyler Eifert returned to the Bengals this offseason. The team that used a first-round pick on the former Notre Dame tight end has a plan for trying to prevent another significant setback, though. The Bengals are going to try to limit Eifert’s snaps, Marvin Lewis said (via Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer). Since Eifert’s Pro Bowl 2015 season, he’s played in only 11 games. With Eifert being most effective in the red zone (20 career touchdown receptions, 19 from inside the 20, per Dehner), that will surely be a place the Bengals try to deploy the sixth-year pass-catcher. But Lewis identifies Eifert as the team’s best blocking tight end, too. Eifert averaged 58 snaps per game during the 2015 season. Lewis doesn’t envision his starting tight end getting there again.

Well I hope he never gets 50,” Lewis said. “It’s a plan thing. There are certain things (OC Bill Lazor) is going to plan to do with him on the field, both runs and passes. I think that and then using him as a decoy at times to help open up other things for the other guys.”

This plan may limit Eifert financially. He has $3MM tied up in performance incentives, ones that will become difficult to reach if the Bengals place heavy restrictions on his usage. He played 23 snaps against the Colts.

Here’s the latest from the AFC North:

  • Emmanuel Ogbah‘s run into injury trouble again. Hue Jackson didn’t believe the third-year edge defender suffered a high ankle sprain but said (via’s Nate Ulrich) it was “something like that” and that Ogbah will miss time. Chris Smith entered the fray as Myles Garrett‘s sidekick following Ogbah’s first-quarter injury and should be expected to start Sunday against the Saints. Recent waiver claim Anthony Zettel should have a role, too, Pat McManamon of notes. Ogbah saw a foot injury halt his momentum last year and end his season. His development was part of the reason the Browns selected Denzel Ward over Bradley Chubb.
  • The Browns‘ left tackle position contributed to several NFL news cycles this offseason, due to Joe Thomas‘ retirement and the layered search for his replacement. But Jackson insists no change will commence between Week 1 and Week 2. Desmond Harrison will remain the Browns’ left tackle, per Jackson (via the Lorain Morning Journal’s Jeff Schudel, on Twitter). The rookie UDFA made the start, despite Greg Robinson and 2018 second-round pick Austin Corbett residing on the roster. Pro Football Focus graded Harrison as the second-worst full-time tackle in his debut, and Rotoworld’s Evan Silva adds (on Twitter) Harrison allowed the most hurries of any lineman last week.
  • Kenneth Dixon suffered a knee injury in the Ravens‘ blowout win in Buffalo, and Ian Rapoport of expects (Twitter link) it to keep him out for several weeks. Dixon scored a touchdown against the Bills after missing the entire 2017 season. Buck Allen should move into the role of Alex Collins‘ backup for the time being.
  • David DeCastro fractured his hand on Sunday, and Mike Tomlin said this could limit him going forward. But the veteran Steelers blocker expects to play Sunday against the Chiefs, per Jeremy Fowler of (on Twitter).
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5 comments on “AFC North Notes: Eifert, Browns, DeCastro

  1. Hue Jackson deciding to make an undrafted FA a starter at left tackle on week one, may be the most wreckless and incompetent thing he’s done as a head coach. Which is quite the statement. Harrison received no reps with the first team offense in the preseason and is obviously raw. Bitonio should be LT and Corbett should be LG until Harrison can improve. He was thrown to the wolves this past Sunday. Grading the worst of any LT shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone… and then “not starting Gordon”, please. No one believed he would be on a snap count, just stop talking to the media.

  2. sufferfortribe

    So how is he supposed to improve if he’s not getting reps against the first team? Because he won’t be in your scenario.

    • My point is Bitonio played LT with the 1s in preseason and Corbett was at LG. It wasn’t until after the preseason concluded that they put Harrison in the starting lineup. An UFA from a small school. Of course he’s going to struggle. Do you not understand that?

    • How is he supposed to improve – more practice. Not in games. Like most other non starting lineman.

      • sufferfortribe

        But he’d only be practicing against second team defenders. That ain’t no way to improve.
        It’s not like they’re gonna win a lot of games this season. Let him start and grow and get up to speed with the pro game. That will only come against other starters.

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