‘Versatile’ Rodgers Needs to Block in Philly
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Richard Rodgers wasn't a big-ticket item in free agency for a reason and the fifth-year tight end seems to understand why.
"Everything," the 26-year-old tight end answered at the NovaCare Complex Friday when asked what he needs to improve on.
That doesn't mean the Cal-Berkeley product can't help an Eagles team that needs depth at the position behind Zach Ertz after losing Trey Burton in free agency and waving goodbye to the long-tenured Brent Celek.
It starts with versatility.
In Green Bay, Rodgers, who signed a one-year deal for the veteran minimum earlier this week, lined up all over the formation at times -- in-line, detached and even in the backfield as a fullback. He possesses plus hands and the frame (6-foot-4 and 260 pounds) to be a capable blocker.
“In Green Bay, I played in the backfield. Played in-line, spread out, so I’ve done a little bit of everything,” he said.
The issue might be with mentality.
Rodgers' lack of speed means he gets little separation and he enjoyed the luxury of playing with Aaron Rodgers, the NFL's best quarterback when it comes to placing the football in tight windows.
His production careened downward over the past two seasons -- from 58 receptions and eight touchdowns, including the famed Hail Mary from A-Rod against Detroit -- to 30 catches in 2016 and then just 12 during his final season in Titletown.
"I just did what I was told," Rodgers claimed when explaining the lesser production, "did what the coaches asked me to do, and that’s all you can do as a player. Just do what the coaches ask you to do. My numbers just dropped for whatever reason.”
He also added context to the 58-catch anomaly, namely the injuries Green Bay suffered that year.
“I was playing a lot of snaps,” Rodgers said. “That was my highest snap-count year. And we had a lot of injuries. A number of things contributed. I was trying to be consistent and trying to help the team win and if that’s having 100 catches or having 10, it doesn’t matter.”
The Eagles want Rodgers to be the replacement for Celek, which means blocking is the headline of the job description with outlet receiver down the list.
Despite that Rodgers was clear on what he sees as his greatest strength as a player: "My ability to catch the ball," he claimed.
As for the blocking and how he's progressed since his days as a third-round pick of the Packers back in 2014, Rodgers stumbled a bit.
“Umm, I don’t really know,” he said. “I don’t know how to quantify that.”
The Eagles hope to quantify it one way: as better than Celek's in 2017.
"I just want to come out and help the team win, and if I can do that, I can be satisfied,” Rodgers said.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen