JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The homecoming storylines this week are prominent for a couple of Jaguars.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden returns to Cincinnati and Jacksonville tight end Tyler Eifert is back facing the team that drafted him.
A different team now, but good memories of their time in Cincinnati.
For the Jaguars, it’s a business trip to shake off the hangover from back-to-back losses against the Titans and Dolphins, the latter of which was a letdown across the board on primetime television.
Gruden, who served three seasons as the Bengals offensive coordinator before taking the head coaching job with Washington, said he’ll probably get an unfavorable reception from the crowd on Sunday when the Jaguars (1-2) visit Cincinnati (0-2-1).
“Probably not a good one. I think they’re glad I left, probably,” Gruden said Wednesday. “Who knows? I like Cincinnati. I have a lot of respect for the Brown family. [Bengals President] Mr. Brown was very fair to his coaches and players. [I have] a ton of respect for them, nothing but good things.”
Eifert spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Bengals, although he only played more than eight games in a season in three of those. He signed with the Jaguars this offseason and has had minimal impact thus far (10 catches, 55 yards, TD).
“I’m excited to be going back there. It’ll be nice,” Eifert said. “They’re allowing fans in the stadium, so my family will be able to go. When I played there, they pretty much came to every home game, so that’ll be good having them there. It’ll be cool to go back there and play for the other side, but [I’m] looking forward to it.”
Quarterback Gardner Minshew said that it’s no doubt a special game for both Eifert and Gruden.
“I’m super excited for Tyler and Coach Gruden, both going back to Cincinnati. It’ll be a big game for them. They both obviously have a pretty good impact for us and more than anything, you just want to do right by them," he said.
Homecomings aside, the big task this week is to get the offense back on track after an abysmal effort against the Dolphins last Thursday. Running back James Robinson has emerged as a legitimate weapon out of the backfield, but the Jaguars need more than just Robinson producing.
After two solid games to open the season, Minshew was erratic against Miami.
Eifert said the effort against the Dolphins was more than just an issue for Minshew.
“I thought he did a nice job. I think anytime you lose a game, everyone’s going to walk away and say, ‘Hey, I wish I could’ve done a better job,’ coaches included, myself included,” he said. “I think that’s always going to be the way people look at it and if you’re not looking at it that way, then you probably have some difficulties. I think if you walk away and you’re like, ‘Well, I did everything I can.’ that goes against everything we’re trying to get done as far as team concepts where we’re trying to get better.”