Eagles tight end Tyree Jackson made a pair of impressive catches during Tuesday’s joint practice with the Patriots. Both receptions required leaping efforts and resulted in touchdowns.
His first occurred in the back of the end zone on a throw from Nick Mullens. Jackson emphatically spiked the ball into the turf in celebration. Several minutes later, Jackson made another eye-opening grab on a pass from Joe Flacco.
However, Jackson landed awkwardly and his entire 6-foot-7, 249-pound frame thudded to the ground.
On Wednesday, the Eagles announced Jackson suffered a bone fracture in his back. The injury won’t require surgery, but he’s expected to miss between eight to 10 weeks.
This is crushing news for Jackson, who recently made a position switch from quarterback to tight end, and has been one of the best performers in training camp. Amid a crowded group, he climbed the depth chart and flashed his athleticism and gentle hands that made him a frequent target for all three quarterbacks.
“Tyree has been awesome,” fellow tight end Dallas Goedert said. “His improvement from OTAs until now has been amazing. He’s a hard worker. He really focuses on the details that coaches give him. He’s a big body, and he goes up makes contested, hard catches. He’s been great.”
Pressed further on his impressions, Goedert offered a blunt assessment of Jackson.
“His entire game [has improved],” Goedert said. “His stance wasn’t very good when he got here. He’s improved that, his route running, him being able to get off the ball. He’s came a long ways.”
The Eagles have a pending decision on the 23-year-old Jackson. If the team places him on injured reserve before final roster cutdowns, he won’t be allowed to practice all year. There’s also a serious risk of losing him to another team if the Eagles try to let him sneak by on waivers.
If the Eagles truly want Jackson to stay and develop in Philadelphia, he’ll make the initial 53-man roster and be placed on the short-term IR, which will open up another roster spot while Jackson recovers and rehabs. If his rehab goes as expected, he could be back on the practice field by Week 7 of the regular season.
As a quarterback at University at Buffalo, Jackson threw for 6,999 yards and 49 touchdowns with a 123.9 efficiency rating over three seasons. He also rushed for 757 yards and 16 touchdowns. Jackson went undrafted in 2019 and was signed as a quarterback by the Bills, who later waived him at the end of camp that summer.
Last year, Jackson didn’t see any NFL action, although he did he appear with the XFL’s DC Defenders. The Eagles signed Jackson to a reserve/future contract in January, and he began his transition from quarterback to tight end.
During the team’s first preseason game, Jackson had two catches for 32 yards against the Steelers.
“Everything is new,” Jackson said earlier in the week. “Running routes, blocking, pass protection. I’m on special teams as well. Just growing and trying to stay consistent each day.”
Heading into camp, the Eagles had a headache of a situation at tight end.
Ertz went into last season wanting a contract extension, but the Eagles were unable to ink him to a new deal. The three-time Pro Bowler had an underwhelming performance and at the end of the year, it became clear he was in favor of finding a change of scenery. The team failed to find a trade partner during the offseason and Ertz arrived to training camp last month ready to enter the final season of his five-year, $42.5 million deal. Through three weeks of camp, the team has yet to make Ertz available to the media.
Meanwhile, Goedert has emerged as a more consistent threat. He finished last season with 46 receptions for 524 yards with a career-high 47.6 yards per game, which ranked fifth among NFL tight ends.
Enter Jackson, who surprised his teammates and coaches with his speedy transition to a new position.
“I’m fortunate to have two superstar tight ends in my room with Dallas and Zach Ertz,” Jackson said. “I have the privilege to watch them in practice every day and how they work individually. I just want to be able to continue to watch and learn with them.”
Unfortunately for Jackson, his development is stalled by the back injury.
“Anytime you hear a quarterback switching to tight end, you wonder, ‘Is he really ready for it?’ ” Goedert said. “But no – he’s ready to do everything. He’s not afraid of contact or collision.”