The tight end position was an important one in former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's scheme, and it figures to continue to be under new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
As we continue with our daily offseason factoid, our focus is on the Bengals' tight ends. Friday's number: 481
That's the number of combined yards after the catch for Cincinnati's top two tight ends last season, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert. Gresham had 256 yards after the catch. Eifert had 225. Thanks to those numbers, the Bengals were the only team last season to have two tight ends with more than 200 yards after the catch. The Bengals also were one of two teams that had a pair of tight ends both go over the 400-yard mark in total receiving yards. Gresham had 458 total yards receiving, while Eifert had 445. Philadelphia's Brent Celek and Zach Ertz had 502 and 469, respectively.
Why is tracking the tight ends' yards after the catch so important? Because the more they collect, the more comfortable the team will feel about passing to them in space or in traffic and still seeing them pick up big yards. In offenses like Jackson's that hinge on exploiting big-play opportunities, any pass-catchers who can create additional yards after the catch can be valuable. Having two with bodies large enough to shed hits from defensive backs and linebackers can be even more valuable. With two, it becomes that much more difficult for opposing defenses to draw up a game plan. A team can't focus too much on one of the tight ends or the other could burn it. That's part of the reason why in recent seasons you've seen so many teams adopt two-tight-end strategies.
When it came to picking up yards not only after the catch but yards after first contact, few were better than Gresham and Eifert last season.
For every pass that he caught, Gresham averaged 5.77 additional yards after the catch. For every pass Eifert caught, he averaged an extra 5.57 yards. Only three tight ends averaged more a year ago: Celek (8.88 yards), Martellus Bennett (5.91 yards) and Julius Thomas (5.82 yards).
After drawing first contact from a defender, Eifert went on to pick up 2.82 yards after a catch. That was the highest figure in the NFL in 2013. Bennett averaged 2.23 yards after first contact. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, whose overall receiving numbers were in lockstep with some of the league's top wide receivers, averaged 2.05 yards after first contact. Then came Gresham, averaging 1.98.
With respect to first downs, neither of the Bengals' tight ends was particularly prolific when it came to converting for a new set of downs. Graham led the league with 61 first-down conversions. Gresham was more than 20 tight ends down that list, converting just 24. Eifert was even lower, having only 19 first downs last season. Part of that might stem from the types of situations when the Bengals passed to both players. Cincinnati wasn't necessarily always looking to get a first down when it passed to Eifert or Gresham.
Of the 131 times the Bengals passed to a tight end (Alex Smith also was a tight end last season), 56 of those targets came on first down, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Another 53 came on second down. Only 21 came on third down and one lone attempt went to a tight end on fourth down.
This could be a pivotal year for the Bengals and their two tight ends. Gresham, who hasn't been viewed all that favorably after an earlier rash of postseason drops and a knack for committing untimely penalties, is up for free agency at the end of the year. Eifert still will have two years on his rookie deal after this season.
Both are battling through injuries. Eifert does't seem to believe his current shoulder issue is too serious, and he anticipates being full-go by the start of training camp next month. Gresham, meanwhile, has an injury neither he nor the Bengals are discussing. He hasn't shown for the first two open voluntary organized team activity practices, although coach Marvin Lewis contends he is around training. Lewis said this week that Gresham would be fine for training camp.
Information from ESPN Stats & Information was used in this report.