Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis won't say if tight end Tyler Eifert plays Saturday in Dallas (7 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), but what he will say is don't be surprised if he doesn't appear in the second pre-season game.
After not playing in Thursday's pre-season opener, Eifert has displayed the past two practices why he's so valuable. No match up against him ends well as he rolls through the middle catching ball after ball from quarterback Andy Dalton. With his cranky back vulnerable to anything from shrugs to shots, Lewis prefers restraint rather than reps.
Eifert sat out Tuesday's practice and he's feeling good.
"He makes a difference every time he steps out there," Lewis said before Tuesday's practice. "Offensively he's in the comfort level with Andy and the things he can create on the field as mismatches is very evident."
Everyone has an education here. Why risk Eifert in August? Lewis is asking himself the same thing and rhythm in the offense be damned. With apologies to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.
"It's easier for me now," Lewis said of backing off starters in the preseason. "They all know we're better with Tyler. I try to limit everyone. It's harder for the offensive coaches, for Bill, to plan things. I think we've got a pretty good handle on it. Knowing the days we have Tyler out there and when we don't and make sure the emphasis those days are on certain things."
Expect the same deal with right end Carl Lawson, even though he's perfectly healthy, as they get him ready for what everyone expects to be his first double-digit sack season in his second year.
"By limiting his exposure, we'll get more production," said Lewis, citing his career at Auburn as well and the 8.5-sack rookie year. "He's not that big of a person so to go in there and bang with the big people all the time is not going to be beneficial to him and what he (needs) to get done at the end of games when we need him."
Lewis would have gladly teamed up with another NFL team to have joint practices this season. But he said the Bengals are restricted, in part, by not wanting to conflict with Reds games and by the time the pre-season schedule comes out, teams like the Bears already have a plan. Chicago would have been the ideal team with which to work since the Bears were at Paul Brown Stadium for the opener. Lewis hinted he was more open to practicing against a team this camp rather than last season because the offense has so many young skill players, as well as a line competition.