Versatile Pantale Carving Out a Niche as Eagles FB
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - When scanning the Eagles' depth chart, you might declare Chris Pantale as the prototypical bubble player, buried behind star tight end Zach Ertz, as well as solid contributors like Brent Celek and Trey Burton at the position.
If that's your take, however, you'd be off base because pigeonholing Pantale as just a tight end in Doug Pederson's offense in an incorrect view of the landscape because the Wayne, New Jersey native, has easily been the most versatile of the team's players saddled with the tight-end label during voluntary work.
To date through three weeks of Eagles OTAs when the team uses a fullback, it's been Pantale in the backfield as the lead blocker but that hasn't stopped the Boston College product from moving around the formation as a traditional y-back or in-line tight end, as well as an h-back or movement tight end.
On occasion Pantale has even taken on the Ertz role as the detached tight end acting like a glorified receiver in the slot, making him the Swiss Army Knife of the group as he attempts to find a spot on the 53-man roster.
"That's my goal. To be as versatile as possible and play as many (roles as possible)," Pantale told 973espn.com after practice Tuesday. "Backup y and then split out and play that h-back type of role and then play that fullback to show I'm willing to mix it up a little bit. I've been just trying to learn as much as I can."
Pantale, who ended Tuesday's session with a spectacular touchdown catch from Carson Wentz on a corner route in red-zone work, has been the only Eagles player to line up as a fullback in the three practices open to the media.
"Me and Trey will rotate in sometimes (at fullback) but I've been primarily taking the reps," Pantale admitted "It's whatever the coaches want so I've just been taking their lead."
Pederson obviously made his bones in this league as an Andy Reid protege and the current Chiefs coach has always kept a fullback on hand. Last season in Kansas City, Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman was on the field for 206 offensive snaps, hardly a preponderance of the time but enough to have a meaningful role and one that would have likely been even bigger had not Jamaal Charles gone down with an injury.
That said if you look at the Eagles offense and how Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich are progressing, it's pretty clear that 11 personnel (three receivers and a tight end with one back) will be the default setting followed by a 12 grouping (two WRs, two TEs and a RB). On occasion, though, you can bet 21 or 22 personnel will hit the field, especially if a Ryan Mathews starts to get hot running the football, and that's where Pantale is going to fit in with this offense.
And the 26-year-old, who spent most of last season on Chip Kelly's practice squad, feels very comfortable in this offense after spending two years with the Jets under then-coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, another Reid acolyte.
"I do feel more comfortable in this system in particular because it's a west-coast offense and I was with the Jets for two years and they ran a similar offense," Pantale said. "All the terminology, the concepts, the language is similar to what we ran with the Jets. Last year was just a whole different philosophy and just as fast as possible to put pressure on the defense. But this year we put pressure on the defense in a different way. We are being more detailed and stuff like that. But football is football, there is still the same route concepts."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen