JACKSONVILLE – The past is the past for Tyler Eifert.
But while Eifert said his former NFL life very definitely "is wrapped up," the Jaguars' tight end did have a former-team request this week for Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II.
"I think we're looking to try to get 20 targets just because," Eifert said.
Eifert laughed as he said it – and made clear that while playing his former team for the first time will be special, it won't be his foremost thought when the Jaguars (1-2) play the Cincinnati Bengals (0-2-1) at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sunday at 1 p.m.
"I think you always want to play well against your old team, but I don't want to be a distraction," Eifert said. "I don't want it to be about me or anything like that. This team, we need to go in there and get a win and get this thing rolling in the right direction."
Eifert, a first-round selection by the Bengals in the 2013 NFL Draft, caught 185 passes for 2,152 yards and 24 touchdowns in seven seasons in Cincinnati and made the Pro Bowl following a 2015 season when he caught 13 touchdown passes.
He struggled much of his Bengals career with injuries – and while he played 16 games last season for the first time in his career, he expected entering the offseason that his time with his first NFL team had ended.
"I think they made that pretty much as clear as you can by just telling me they're not going to re-sign me," he said. "So, yeah, I wasn't expecting to go back there."
Eifert has caught six passes for 55 yards and a touchdown in three games this season.
Count Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden among those impressed with rookie running back James Robinson. The free-agent from Illinois State not only has rushed for 210 yards and three touchdowns on 43 carries this season, he also has 10 receptions for 129 yards – and he has impressed coaches in pass protection. Gruden on Wednesday called Robinson "arguably the best player on the team out there on offense" in a 31-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins last Thursday, a game in which Robinson had 46 yards and two touchdowns rushing and 83 yards receiving on six receptions. "He was excellent in the passing game," Gruden said. "He was great in protection. Obviously running the football, he had two touchdowns and some nice hits. So he's been everything we hoped he would be, but playing in the National Football League, it's about consistency and doing it week in and week out. But obviously, for us to be good, he has to have big production, both in the running game, in protection, and in the pass game. He's everything we thought he might be, but he has to continue to keep it up because we are going to rely on him in a big way moving forward."
How important is DJ Chark Jr. to the Jaguars' offense? The answer goes beyond the seven receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown the 2019 Pro Bowl wide receiver had in the season's first two games. The Jaguars felt Chark's absence against Miami, with Gruden saying Wednesday: "It was a lot, actually. Not to make excuses, but he is usually the guy we want to look to in the one-on-one matchups. He's our best one-on-one matchup player and not having him available kind of hurt us." Gruden said the Jaguars didn't learn until late Wednesday afternoon that Chark would miss the game with a back/chest injury sustained in the previous Sunday's loss at Tennessee. "We had a lot of formations and plays designed for him," Gruden said. "It's really hard to change your game plan totally from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday night, unfortunately. So that had a good impact but we're not going to use that excuse. But DJ's definitely a guy that anytime he's not in the game, you're going to miss him for sure." Chark practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Minshew called Chark's potential return "huge. He's a great player for us. He's proved over the last two years he can really change games. Either way, I feel confident in the guys we have in that room."