Sunday, December 29, 2013
Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert inactive
By Coley Harvey
CINCINNATI -- Injuries to Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert will keep the Cincinnati Bengals down their top two tight ends Sunday afternoon when they host the Baltimore Ravens in the regular-season finale.
Both tight ends were shelved all week as they tried to recover from injuries sustained in last week's 42-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Gresham hurt a hamstring and Eifert picked up a neck stinger.
In an effort to replace Gresham and Eifert, the Bengals will turn to backups Alex Smith and Orson Charles. Smith also got hurt last week, picking up a concussion. After sitting Tuesday, though, Smith came off concussion protocol in time to get a few workouts in ahead of Sunday's game. After playing nearly all special teams this season, Charles will be making his first start on offense of the season. It'll be the seventh start of his career, after he had six last season as a rookie.
Smith enters the game with two catches for 5 yards and a touchdown. Charles hasn't played tight end all season, after moving in the preseason to H-back as an extra backfield blocker.
Gresham and Eifert had a chance to go beyond the 500-yard receiving mark had they played. Gresham has 461 yards with four touchdowns, and Eifert has 445 yards with two scores. Eifert was the Bengals' first-round pick in April's draft.
Much of the year, the Bengals have used Gresham and Eifert in two-tight end sets as both blockers and pass-catchers. While Cincinnati may continue to use the scheme against the Ravens, they likely will get into more three- and four-wide receiver sets in passing situations.
Along with Gresham and Eifert, the Bengals announced that cornerback Terence Newman was going to be inactive for the third straight game. The veteran is trying to get over a left knee injury suffered in the Bengals' win over Indianapolis four weeks ago. Newman is expected to return in time for the Bengals' first playoff game, whether that's next week or the week after. Newman will be replaced again by second-year cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
Cincinnati could be playing in next week's wild-card round, or could earn a first-round bye, depending on what happens with the Patriots' game against Buffalo. A Patriots loss and a Bengals win would lead to a No. 2 seeding and the first-round bye.
Here is the complete list of inactives for the Bengals and Ravens:
Ravens: CB Asa Jackson, S Omar Brown, C Ryan Jensen, WR Deonte Thompson, TE Dallas Clark, LB John Simon, DT Arthur Jones.
Bengals: CB Terence Newman, RB Rex Burkhead, OG Tanner Hawkinson, DT Devon Still, TE Jermaine Gresham, TE Tyler Eifert, WR Ryan Whalen.