2018 Eagles Training Camp Preview: Tight Ends

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Zach Ertz finally broke out.

And yes it’s still a catch Cris!

Ertz caught 74 passes for 824 yards and eight touchdowns last year, making plays as an outside receiver, slot receiver and traditional in-line tight end. He was too big for cornerbacks and much too athletic for linebackers, especially along the seam. Ertz was Carson Wentz’s favorite target in the red zone due to his large catch radius and ability to use his frame to box out defenders.

Ertz’s lackluster blocking will keep him from being the best tight end in the game, but I believe last year’s campaign solidified himself into the top three at the position.

And speaking of blocking, who will fill Brent Celek’s role?

Philadelphia’s top four tight ends on the depth chart are more known for their pass catching prowess than blocking. I was waiting for the Birds to either bring Celek back or ink someone else to do the dirty work, but they never did.

The Eagles are apparently hoping that Rodgers could fill that void although he’s never been known for his blocking. Second-round rookie Dallas Goedert possesses the frame to be a good blocker with time, just not right now. He overwhelmed defenders with his physicality as an in-line blocker at South Dakota State, but he won’t be in the FCS anymore and will need refinement in his technique. Where Goedert needs to improve in is locating and blocking targets on the second level. He didn’t play with good balance and lunged forward too much at times.

So if the Eagles don’t have a tight end that can strictly block what are they going to do?

Doug Pederson obviously has a plan. He wouldn’t have went the entire offseason without bringing in a blocking tight end. Does this mean that we’re going to see more of the 13 personnel packages? It’s a look that Pederson liked to use in short-yardage situations, using a pair of tight ends and the other disguised as an offensive lineman. Either we’re going to see more of this or Pederson is extremely confident in his coaching staff that they can turn Goedert and Rodgers into respectful blockers. Tight ends coach Justin Peele has some work to do.

Speaking of Goedert, his pass catching ability is obviously why the Eagles drafted him. He’s essentially an Ertz clone, using his huge frame and athleticism to win in the red zone. He also utilizes his physicality to bull over defenders after the catch.

Philly Special hero and fan favorite Trey Burton saw just 27 percent of the snaps last year, which was still enough for Chicago to see and hand him a fat contract. Pederson was asked if the Eagles would use more 12 personnel in 2018 during the OTAs.

We did spend a lot of time in three-tight-end sets with Trey last year, too, and obviously we put Isaac (Seumalo) in those situations, Big V (Halapoulivaati Vaitai) has been in those situations, along with Celek and 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.

And what kind of matchup problems do the Eagles’ tight ends pose?

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.

If Goedert lives up to his potential, the Eagles might have the best tight end duo since Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in New England.

Ex college wideout Billy Brown heads into his second season with a lot of promise. It’ll be down to him or either Rodgers for that third tight end spot. Brown won’t bring much to the table from the blocking department, but he’s athletic and has sure hands. Brown is Shepherd’s all-time leader in receptions (249), receiving yards (4,071) and receiving touchdowns (43).

Joshua Perkins and former rugby player Adam Zaruba are longshots to make the 53-man roster, although they could crack the practice squad.

You can follow Adrian Fedkiw on Twitter (@AdrianFedkiw) and e-mail him at amfedkiw@yahoo.com. Subscribe to The Bitter Birds on YouTube here. Follow Philly Influencer on Twitter (@PHL_Influencer), Facebook and Instagram.

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