PHILADELPHIA ( - There has been dramatic change at the tight end position in Philadelphia with two long-time favorites moved out: the longest-tenured Eagles player on the Super Bowl LII team, Brent Celek, as well as the triggerman of the most famous play in franchise history, Trey Burton.

The good news is that the one constant is Zach Ertz, a 27-year-old Pro Bowl receiving tight end in the prime of his career who remains one of the toughest matchups in the league for defensive coordinators.

More so, the talent added is significant with 6-foot-5, 260-pound rookie Dallas Goedert bringing along similar traits as Ertz, notably length, speed down the seam, an impressive catching radius and top-tier hands.

The issue for Justin Peelle when it comes to putting together his 2018 unit will be blocking, not a strength for either Ertz or Goedert.

That's where veteran Richard Rodgers comes in, who has the size (6-4, 260) to handle the traditional Y in-line role although that was never his forte while in Green Bay catching Hail Marys from Aaron Rodgers.

The good news is that the need for an extra OT at times isn't as prevalent in the modern NFL where spread offenses are all the rage and when it is necessary Philadelphia can actually use an extra offensive lineman in 13 personnel (three tight ends), which is a look they used with Issac Seumalo last season.


Goedert has such promise as a receiver, however, there has to be a least some thought of playing more two tight end sets (12 personnel), something Doug Pederson admitted during minicamp.

"I could see that as [Goedert] progresses," the coach admitted. "We did spend a lot of time in three-tight-end sets with Trey last year, too, and obviously we put Isaac in those situations, Big V [Halapoulivaati Vaitai] has been in those situations, along with Celek and Zach] Ertz last year. I do think that as {Goedert] grows and matures and gets better and stronger and all that, that yeah, I like playing with tight ends. I think they can create some match-ups."

Pederson was quick to put a caveat on that, however.

"[As we] get into camp with the pads on and see his physicality, that'll also play a big part of it, especially in the run game," he said. "But I do see us leaning maybe a little bit that way [ two tight end sets]. And listen, these guys, they're so athletic and so gifted and talented, they almost play like receivers sometimes, just bigger receivers in the slot, detached, away from the ball, and it gives offenses some good, favorable match-ups."

Burton only played in 27 percent of the snaps last season and that includes two games where Ertz was hurt, against Denver on Nov. 5 when Burton played in 68 percent of the reps and against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 10 when Burton toiled 53 percent of the time, as well as the meaningless Week 17 finale against Dallas where Ertz made a cameo and Burton had a workload that reached 47 percent.

Take those three games out and the move TE behind Ertz played about 20 percent of the time or one in every five offensive snaps. More so, with Mike Wallace joining Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor at wide receiver for the Eagles, it's hard to imagine Pederson going away from his preferred 11 personnel alignment (three WRs, one RB, and one TE) in favor of an increased reliance on "12 personnel" (two WRs, two TEs and a RB), at least early.


Rodgers, meanwhile, 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 answered at the NovaCare Complex 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 and it starts with versatility.

In Green Bay, Rodgers, who signed a one-year deal for the veteran minimum, 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 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 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.


TE1 Zach Ertz - One of the toughest matchups in football for any defense.
TE2 Dallas Goedert - Rangy rookie has a lot of the same traits as Ertz.
TE3 Richard Rodgers - He's not Mark Bavaro but the only Eagles' TE who can hold his own in-line as a blocker. Doesn't get much separation as a receiver.


TE4 Billy Brown - King-sized college WR trying to make the transition.


TE5 Joshua Perkins - Undersized TE with some receiving skills. Probably too small to be a viable option.
TE6 Adam Zaruba - Former rugby player could carve out a niche as a blocker. At 265 pounds has the size and power.


-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for You can reach him at or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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