After an injury-riddled season at the tight end position for the Jaguars in 2019, the team sought out a familiar face, at least to one of the team’s coaches, in tight end Tyler Eifert.
Eifert, 29, is heading into his eighth season in the NFL, and with an opportunity to play for his former offensive coordinator in Jay Gruden while sticking close to home in Delray Beach, Florida, it was a chance the veteran tight end simply couldn’t pass up.
“It was a big factor.” Eifert told the local Jaguars media today. “Me and Coach Gruden go back like seven or eight years. We get along great. I have a good understanding for the offense that he runs and a good feel for it. “
Eifert and coach Gruden first crossed paths in Cincinnati after the tight end was selected in the first round (21st overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft. Gruden, at the time, was entering his third season as the team’s offensive coordinator, solidifying his role with the team and on his way to become a head coach the following year (Washington).
Over the next several years following Gruden’s departure, Eifert was saddled with four different offensive coordinators, including, Hue Jackson (2014-15), Ken Zampese (2016), Bill Lazor/Ken Zampese (2017), Bill Lazor (2018), and Brian Callahan (2019).
“Learning a new offense can be challenging at times,” said Eifert. “You feel like you are never going to get it. Eventually over time and all the reps, it clicks. Having that familiarity with the offense is really nice. There is some new stuff in here, but being familiar with it and having a general idea of what’s going on makes it a lot easier to learn.”
Not only will Eifert be familiar with the team’s offense, he has tenured experience in the NFL, something the Jaguars are lacking, opting to go with a younger team than usual this season.
Along with Eifert, only seven Jaguars currently on the roster are entering eighth or higher season (Mike Glennon (8th year), DJ Hayden (8th), Abry Jones (8th), Lerentee McCray (8th), Rashaan Melvin (8th), and Al Woods (11th)), making it a challenge to immediately became a mentor and potential leader within the team’s locker room right away, a challenge he’s willing to embrace.
“For me, being familiar with this offense and understanding it … I have gone through all the installs once a long time ago and all the nuances and how it is taught. I understand,” Eifert said when asked what he feels he can bring from a leadership perspective to the team’s locker room.
“A lot of the things I have learned over the years, I look forward to passing them on to some of the younger guys and just helping them out.”
With all the years of experience in the NFL with various offenses, Eifert has done it all as a tight end.
“It is just having an understanding of what is going on, being able to play multiple positions, being able to create mismatches and giving Coach Gruden the flexibility to move me around and put me in those different positions along with … I have never claimed to be a great blocker, but I have learned a lot over the seven years that I have played with different techniques and how to use leverage and what the defense is doing against us.
“I am willing to do whatever, and I am excited for the opportunity just to help the team and be a leader in the tight end room and the offense and play wherever they need me.”
Over the course of his career, Eifert has accumulated 185 receptions for 2,152 yards, and 24 touchdowns. The catch? He’s only played in 59 of 112 possible regular season games over seven years. His injury history is well-documented, and he’s ready to move on after playing all 16 regular season games for the first time in his career last season.
Eifert says that playing a full 16 games for the first time was “easier” than he might have expected, noting that he’s had some bad luck with injuries, and after each one he’d have to put it out of his mind and move on, quickly. The downside, of course, is not being able to simply get better on the gridiron, having to rehab instead of getting, strong, faster, he said.
“Going through a rehab two years ago, playing a full season and now having a full offseason to get my body ready and to get better as a player I think will be huge going into this year.”