Eagles Training Camp Preview: The Tight Ends
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles already have a proven star at tight end and now believe they have another player at the position on the crux of being a difference maker.
Zach Ertz might be the second best athlete in his own household but the veteran Stanford product is in the conversation with Kansas City's Travis Kelce, the brother of Philadelphia All-Pro center Jason Kelce, and San Francisco's George Kittle for the title of best pass-catching TE in the NFL. Dallas Goedert, meanwhile, may be ready to turn into one of the better in-line TEs in the NFL after a solid rookie season in which he surprisingly impressed as a blocker.
Ertz, who spent much of his summer in Paris watching his wife Julie win a second consecutive World Cup as a dominant midfielder for the U.S. Women's National Team, is coming off a monster 116-catch season. He's always a mismatch in the middle of the field with a huge catching radius and a knack for route running where his body control gives opposing defenders fits.
While in France Ertz was sure to handle his own business as well making sure to get in workouts with Paris native Anthony Mahoungou, who was in Eagles camp last year.
MORE '12 PERSONNEL'
Goedert himself excelled as a pass receiver in college at the lower FBS level but few knew what he could do in-line because he was too big a playmaker at South Dakota State to be used as a blocker.
The Eagles and former personnel chief Joe Douglas believed Goedert had the size at 6-foot-5 and nearly 260 pounds to ultimately develop into a competent blocker but just about everyone at the NovaCare Complex was stunned how quickly Goedert embraced that part of his game. He also proved to be as advertised as a receiver and was lauded by coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh as a player who really stood out this spring.
"We’re very excited about Dallas," Groh said. "He is a very talented guy. He had a very productive rookie campaign. I know he’s just as excited as anybody to get out there and do it again this fall."
Most of the discussions will hinge on whether the Philadelphia wants to use more 12 personnel with both Ertz and Goedert on the field at the same time which would take a receiver off of it, most likely slot option Nelson Agholor. Last season the Eagles used their 12 personnel on 35 percent of their offensive snaps, a number that was already second in the NFL to Houston.
Whatever Pederson decides to lean on, Ertz for one is amazed at the skill-position talent that's been assembled for Carson Wentz.
“In terms of talent, I have never been on a team like this," he said. "The talent on this team is second to none”
THE SLUGGER VS. THE SLOT
Along with being a heck of a softball player and the star of Carson Wentz's AO1 Charity Softball Game, veteran Richard Rodgers is one of the more complete TE3's in the league, a player with great hands and the ability to at least hold his own at the point of attack. Rodgers lacks speed, however, and that limits his ability to stretch defenses down the seam.
Josh Perkins spent much of last season on the roster when Rodgers was down with a knee injury and when the latter was ready to come back, Perkins went down with his own knee issue. More of a detached TE, Perkins' fate is going to boil down to what the coaching staff wants in its third TE, the glorified WR or the more complete option.
Will Tye has spent some time in the league with the Giants and finished last season on the practice squad but faces a tough numbers game.
TE1 Zach Ertz - Carson Wentz's favorite target is coming off a monster season.
TE2 Dallas Goedert - Should be in the conversation for the best TE2 in the NFL and will force an already heavy 12 personnel team into more of that.
ON THE BUBBLE:
TE3 Richard Rodgers - Well-rounded option who lacks the speed to stretch the seam.
TE4 Josh Perkins - Former college receiver is a detached option.
TE5 Will Tye - Big old-school TE trying to carve out a niche in the modern era.
POSITION GRADE: 9.0 [With Ertz and Goedert the Eagles may have the best 1-2 punch at the position in the entire NFL.)
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen