NFL Wire News

Bengals’ Eifert gives bang for the buck


The Sports Xchange

CINCINNATI — After a week in which Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green made the headlines and the big bucks, it was tight end Tyler Eifert who made the big catches to show he will be a key weapon this season.

On Friday, the Bengals gave Green a contract extension that could pay him $70 million by 2019. But in Sunday’s season-opening, 33-13 win over the Oakland Raiders, it was Eifert who caught nine passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns.

In so doing, he immediately erased the pain of missing almost all of 2014 with an injury, and put on tape a cause for concern among defensive coordinators who will play the Bengals.

Not only did Eifert show that his 6-foot-6 height and jumping ability were deadly in the end zone on both touchdown catches, but offensive coordinator Hue Jackson used Eifert and other offensive weapons in a variety of formations and motions that should make it a nightmare for any team preparing to play the Bengals.

“He makes things go,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said of Eifert. “If they rotate coverage one way or another, you’ve got guys who can win matchups. A big, tall guy is what football comes down to. We have big, long guys, and big, long guys have opportunities to make plays and put the ball where it belongs.”

Quarterback Andy Dalton took advantage of mismatches created by the multiple formations and tore apart the Raiders’ defense by hitting 25 of 34 passes — connecting with six different receivers — while totaling 269 yards and those two touchdowns.

“It’s one of those things where it’s like, what are they going to do to A.J.?” Dalton said. “When Tyler was able to get going, then it’s like, are they going to do anything different? Are they going to change? We were still able to take advantage of some of the looks that we had.”

For his part, Green caught five passes for 63 yards, but dropped two, including one in the second quarter that could have gone for a touchdown.

“I can’t be dropping touchdowns,” Green said. “Drops happen, but I’ve got to do my best not to let that happen. I’ve just got to keep playing and that’s what I did. I had some catches after that. I played well after that.”

Green’s new contract wasn’t the only big news coming into the season opener in Oakland. On the Friday he agreed to that extension, the Raiders signed former San Francisco pass rushing star Aldon Smith, whose career was in limbo when the 49ers cut him after he was arrested on a possible DUI this year in the latest of several off-field problems.

It was an attention-getting move by the 49ers because Smith was on the fast track to stardom with 44 sacks in his first 50 games, a record-shattering pace. But when he signed with the Raiders on Friday, that got the attention of the Bengals, especially tackles Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith, who already had concerns about Oakland defensive ends Justin Tuck and Kahlil Mack, the latter of whom Bengals’ offensive line coach Paul Alexander warned will be one of the top defensive players in the league this year.

“It’s like all of a sudden finding out on a Friday that J.J. Watt is playing for the team,” Whitworth said, likening Aldon Smith to the scariest defender in pro football. “As a tackle, it’s like whoa, OK, this kind of changes things. It’s an exceptional player that you’re all of a sudden adding to another exceptional player in Khalil Mack. It was some crash course stuff for Dre and I to do and both of us trying to come up with a plan and execute it.”

Dalton was not sacked once as tackles Smith and Whitworth handled ends Smith, Mack and Tuck. In films from preseason, the Raiders flipped Mack to the most advantageous side, right or left. On Sunday, Aldon Smith pretty much stayed over Whitworth and Mack tried to speed-rush Andre Smith. It was thought that Aldon Smith might play a half-dozen snaps, but he played 29 and appeared in good shape.

“If we can handle that, it makes everything easier for the offense,” Andre Smith said of one-on-one blocking. “We don’t have to worry about getting help from other places or a help read. It’s just a good win. We just had a lot of fun out there today.”

After the game, Lewis bragged about the job done by his tackles.

“That’s what winning football is,” he said. “We asked a lot out of those two kids and they did a great job today.”


PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus — Quarterback Andy Dalton had a seamless 117.8 passer rating with no picks while unveiling new weapon TE Tyler Eifert. Eifert’s two TDs matched his career total. Dalton didn’t get touched by ballyhooed pass rushers Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus — Inconsistent at times. But running back Jeremy Hill converted a fourth-and-1 for a TD and running back Giovani Bernard went for nearly eight yards per his eight carries.

PASS DEFENSE: A — Before they knocked quarterback Derek Carr out of the game late in the second quarter, they had held him to 61 yards passing. His backup, Matt McGloin, had just 4.6 yards per throw.

RUSH DEFENSE: A — They gave up 3.9 yards per rush, but there was a lot of garbage time. The turning point of the game came late in the second quarter when they stuffed a fourth-and-1 at the Raiders 44 and six plays later they made it 17-0 on a Hill’s two-yard TD run.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus — Mike Nugent had an extra point blocked, but he hit two field goals and Adam Jones set up a TD with an 18-yard punt return. The Raiders did have some decent returns.

COACHING: A — Head coach Marvin Lewis had his team ready despite the West Coast trip to a venue where the franchise had never won. So ready the Raiders got booed off the field at halftime. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, a former Raiders head coach, buried his old team with a bevy of formations that accounted for 396 yards.

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