Dallas Goedert caught almost 200 passes in college. In his final two years at South Dakota State alone, he pulled in 164 passes for 2,404 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Eagles, when they selected the tight end in the second round of the 2018 draft, did so mostly because of his receiving skills. Blocking tight ends don’t get drafted that high, if at all, in today’s NFL.
But Goedert hasn’t had the luxury of being a catch-first, block-second tight end with Zach Ertz not only ahead of him on the depth chart but also a significantly better receiver than blocker. If Goedert wants to play substantial snaps in his early years, he has to fill the role essentially held by Brent Celek before he arrived.
And he has, to great success. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t pine to be more of a receiver.
“If I had a choice, I’d run routes every single play,” Goedert said Monday. “But that’s just not realistic. You have one of the best in the business [in Ertz]. You got receivers who get paid to do that, too. … Obviously, I want to be on the field, and if I can block well, that’s going to help me be on the field.”
Goedert’s blocking, particular on run plays, played a vital role in the Eagles’ 34-27 victory over the Packers last week as the running backs rushed for 163 yards on 27 carries (6.0 average). When Goedert missed the Falcons game in Week 2 and most of the Lions game the following week, the ground attack just wasn’t the same.
His athleticism and strength allow him to block anyone from safeties to defensive tackles. It also permits Ertz to line up more in space and utilize his superior receiving skills. Goedert can catch the ball as well and has shown more than glimpses since his rookie season.
Confidence sure isn’t holding him back. During training camp, when he was asked on how many NFL teams he would he be the No. 1 tight end, Goedert said 29, excluding only the Eagles (Ertz), Chiefs (Travis Kelce), and 49ers (George Kittle).
“Those are three pretty good tight ends,” Goedert told The Inquirer. “Just put me at No. 4, and I’ll be content.”
That remains to be seen. And he might not get the opportunity to show it for years, even in Philly. But that would be a down-the-road question. Goedert, for now, has accepted his role.
“I think he’s done great with it,” Eagles tight end coach Justin Peele said. “His attitude is that he just wants to play, and he wants to do whatever helps the team win, and right now he’s doing that. You’d like to get him more involved in the passing game if we could. But he takes every opportunity and goes out and plays ball.”
Here’s a look at the film of Goedert’s blocking in the Packers game and of a few passes thrown his way this season:
It’s a small sample, but of 93 snaps Goedert has played this season, he’s been asked to block on 58 (62.3 percent). Ertz, by comparison, has blocked on 112 of 262 snaps (42.7 pct.). Most of Goedert’s blocks have been on run downs (49 of 58). More often than not, he’s typically tasked with having to fend off 4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers.
He did well as a rookie, but his coaches said he has improved this season.
Goedert: I feel like I’ve been a pretty good blocker ever since I got in the league. I think just knowing defenses more, studying tendencies of defensive ends, what they’re going to do, where the [running] back is at … helps me out.
On this early Jordan Howard (No. 24) 19-yard run, Goedert (No. 88) helped seal the edge vs. Packers linebacker Preston Smith (No. 91).
Peele: He’s come a long way in that short time. He’s obviously physical at the line of scrimmage. He’s got some great strength. And he’s starting to understand the finer details of blocking.
Peele spends time on blocking. And Eagles tight ends work some with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland in the spring. But it pales in comparison to the amount of work spent on the passing game.
Goedert: We’re undersized, understrength. Defensive ends – that’s all they do is work on that stuff.
Goedert (6-foot-5, 256 pounds) isn’t much smaller than Smith (6-5, 265), though. As the above clip displayed, he has obvious power. But his technique is sound as well. On this Howard 10-yard carry, the Eagles were backed up and went with six offensive linemen. But Goedert had to again fend off Smith, this time in space.
Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh: He has strong hands when he can get his hands on you. He plays with a balance and a base, and he can really move people.
Goedert can also move himself. He’ll win more than his share of battles vs. safeties. But getting to them can often prove difficult for tight ends. Not for Goedert. He climbs to the second level here and drives safety Will Redmond (No. 25) completely out of the play.
Groh: Athletically, he’s so good out in space that he can cover these guys up, and he’s got the length, and once he gets his hands on them, he’s able to move them out of there.
Goedert hasn’t been often asked to block bigger linemen head on, but on certain inside zone runs, he’ll have to pull and stop defensive tackles. On this Howard 6-yard tote, he helped sealed a lane against the Packers defensive tackle Kingsley Keke (No. 96).
Miles Sanders gained 4 yards on a similar play later on.
Eagles center Jason Kelce: Any kind of trap is designed to exploit the aggressive nature of the defense. If guys are coming downhill or shooting gaps, or conversely if backers are scraping over top all over the place, they got to try and find out which gap they’re going to fit in.
Goedert: Blocking a defensive tackle’s kind of tough. They’re a little bit bigger than us. I told the coaches to change the formation, so they don’t see it coming.
Eagles coaches didn’t change the formation, but when they ran the split zone rush a third time, defensive end Dean Lowry (No. 94) didn’t see Goedert coming. Sanders (No. 26) gained 30 yards.
Goedert: They didn’t change the formation, so I was a little upset. So I just came in there and took out my anger on the d-tackle.
Goedert: I was pretty excited about the block. I looked over at the sideline [and] nobody’s really celebrating besides [backup quarterback] Nate Sudfeld. He saw it.
Ertz doesn’t have quite the same amount of strength as Goedert, which could be one reason why he’s not as good of a blocker. He’s improved over the years, but it’s a small consolation to make considering how good he’s been as a receiver.
On this 16-yard tote from Howard, Goedert and Ertz worked in unison like two offensive linemen to take out linebacker Kyle Fackrell (No. 51) and safety Adrian Amos (No. 31).
Goedert isn’t asked to stay in and pass block very much. But he’s almost as adept against rushers.
Stoutland: I love the angles this guy takes. … So being able to get off the snap count and run the proper angle to intercept maybe the d-end on the backside, does as good a job as I ever seen as a tight end.
The Eagles didn’t complete either pass on these two examples, but Goedert held off linebacker Rashan Gary (No. 52) before getting assistance from guard Isaac Seumalo (No. 73) here.
And he straight up denied Gary when he tried an outside speed rush here.
Goedert may be currently the most versatile blocking tight end in the NFL.
Peele: There’s not a lot of guys in the league that can do that right now. He takes pride in it, and he’s learning. I think the more he’s knows about defenses and how guys are playing, the better he’ll be. He’s got natural strength. He’s enjoys doing it. He takes pride in doing it.
But Goedert wants to be known primarily as a receiving tight end. He’s caught only four passes this season, although he missed most of two games. Last season, he caught 33 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns.
The Eagles have had as much success as any team over the last two seasons when in “12” personnel (two tight ends). Goedert’s blocking has allowed Ertz to line up more in the slot and outside and to utilize his route running skills. But when both line up as receivers, defenses – depending upon their personnel -- have to decide how to cover both.
Goedert: Zach’s always going to get the safety. For me, it kind of depends on what defense they’re in. Sometimes it’s a safety. Sometimes it’s a linebacker. And all of those matchups are good.
On this play inside the Packers 5-yard line, Goedert was in the slot. At first, no one lined up over him, and he tried to get the attention of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
Goedert: Nobody was in front of me and I’m like, ‘Car, snap the ball. Let’s go. Just throw it to me. Let’s get an easy one.' And then he kind of said the same thing. When he saw [Redmond] running out to cover me, he thought he’d over-play, and I’d be able to beat him inside.
Goedert dropped only two passes on 43 targets last season. He flubbed this beauty from Wentz against the Lions, but before that, he blew by the linebacker.
Peele: I think he just got caught in between to go up with forwards or backwards. It’s not something I’m concerned about at all.
While Ertz isn’t known as much for his runs after the catch, it could be a focal point of Goedert’s game. He averaged 4.88 yards after catch in 2018 vs. Ertz’s 3.04 average. The Eagles haven’t run may screens this season, but they called his number here.