The Eagles need to involve Dallas Goedert more into their offense. If that idea sounds familiar, it’s because a similar story was written three months ago after the rookie tight end caught seven passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Colts.
Goedert’s snaps did increase. After he played only 23 percent of the time in the first two games, he reached a season-high 67 percent against Indianapolis in Week 3. But he didn’t play more than 59 percent until Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys.
He was hardly used in the first two games after the Eagles acquired Golden Tate – playing only 30 percent of snaps and not catching a pass. And overall, he has been targeted on only 7.4 percent of passes, behind Zach Ertz (26.7), Nelson Agholor (16.9) and Alshon Jeffery (15.3), and just ahead of Tate (6.2), who has played in only five games.
Goedert has caught 25-of-36 passes for 265 yards and four touchdowns and a catch rate of 69.4 percent, ahead of Jeffery (66.2), Tate (63.3) and Agholor (64.6), and behind just Ertz (76.0).
“There is only one ball,” Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh said Tuesday when asked about getting Goedert more involved. “Dallas is making a lot of really good plays and we’re trying to create new ways each and every week to ensure that he’s getting some touches.”
But Goedert has also become the team’s best blocking tight end, and when the Eagles are in “12” personnel – two tight ends – they’ve been their most productive. Overall, they average 6.4 yards per play in “12” personnel, and 5.1 yards when they aren’t.
“I’d be in ’14′ personnel. I’d have all four of us [tight ends] out there if I could,” Ertz joked. “I’d love to have as many tight ends on the field as possible.”
Goedert and Ertz — who has 98 catches and is on pace to set a NFL record by a tight end — present matchup problems for most opponents, especially if they’re on the field at the same time. And yet, coach Doug Pederson said that the way defenses have played Eagles’ “12” package — named “Tiger” — has had more to do with its relative lack of use than anything.
“It’s just predicated on the structure of the defense that we’re seeing that week,” Pederson said.
Why not force the defense to adjust rather than the other way around? If teams are going to stay in base vs. two tight ends, throw the ball. If they’re going to nickel, run it. That is one of the advantages of having versatile tight ends like Goedert, who the Eagles drafted in the first round in April, and Ertz.
Here’s a closer look at Goedert and how the Eagles have thrived when he’s played, and at how the offense may look more like in 2019:
The Cowboys stayed in base vs. “12” on most early downs, and the Eagles went at them through the air on their first possession.
Ertz: You don’t really know exactly what personnel grouping you’re going into the game, that’s why a lot of times you’ll see us go “Tiger” early to see what defense we’re going to get, so we can dictate our game plan off that.
Goedert (No. 88) ran a wheel route out of the slot vs. Kyle Vander Esch (No. 55) and had a step on the linebacker. But quarterback Carson Wentz (No. 11) overthrew him.
Goedert: Any time I’m guarded by a linebacker I take pride in winning. It’s a matchup in favor of tight ends. You don’t want to be that tight end that gets jammed up or doesn’t get off.
It took until midway through the fourth quarter for the Eagles to cash in, though, with Goedert. He ran a corner route vs. linebacker Jaylon Smith (No. 54) and Wentz hit him for a 26-yard gain.
Goedert: I was probably taking too long trying to read the coverage, making sure I was in the right spot. Carson really put it right where it needed to be. As soon as I turned my head it was right there.
Dallas increasingly matched the Eagles’ “Tiger” package with their nickel unit, knowing that the trailing Eagles were more likely to throw. But those matchups can still favor the tight ends.
Ertz: If they’re in nickel, I’ll get the nickel and [Goedert] will get the safety. … Whoever is typically the better of the cover guys, I get.
On the first play of this drive, Wentz hit Goedert on a seam route in which the tight end got inside safety Jeff Heath (No. 38).
Goedert was penalized for pass interference, though, negating a 75-yard touchdown.
Goedert: That might have been my first PI call ever.
Ertz is one of the best route-running tight ends in the NFL, but Goedert has plenty of time to improve. He struggled on this go route vs. a Saints safety last month.
Ertz: I feel like we can present matchup problems for defense when the two of us are out there together because we both can block, we both can run. Are our games different? Yeah. Is there some part of his game that could be better than mine? Yeah. Vice versa? Yeah. But I feel like we’ll be able to push each other to be the best tight ends we can for a long time.
Ertz (six) and Goedert (four) have caught ten of the Eagles’ 22 touchdown passes this season. They’ve caught a combined 16 of 26 targets inside the 20. When they’re both on the field, the Eagles have two big, versatile targets. Two plays after he caught the 26-yard corner, Goedert pulled in a 3-yard touchdown after a double move.
The Cowboys were in nickel, but the Eagles got their tight ends matched up against the linebackers and Smith lost Goedert when he incorrectly anticipated a pass to Ertz.
The Patriots used two tight ends as their base package in 2011 with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and went all the way to the Super Bowl. Could the Eagles go that route next season or at least use “12” and “13” – three tight ends – more than this season (38.9 percent)? Pederson and Groh were noncommittal about the remainder of this season.
Groh: It’s just week-to-week. Depends who you’re playing and the way you think you match up really. No, there is not a downside. ... Sometimes you have better advantage in different personnel groups than others. That’s what we’re doing, trying to figure those things out.
Goedert: I think I’ve been ready for it since I got here. I love being on the field.
The Eagles have increasingly found ways to get the ball in Goedert’s hands. Screens have been the most effective. On this play against the New York Giants last month, he picked up 16 yards, with half of it coming after contact.
Goedert: I like catching those because it gets the ball in my hands and I think I’m effective. I compete pretty well with the ball in my hand. I do a pretty decent job of making people miss.
Goedert is a physical runner and averages 5.3 yards after the catch, compared to Ertz (3.1 avg.), who has a different skill set.
The rookie couldn’t pull in a couple of tough passes – one of which was intercepted — in the opener against the Falcons. But he has essentially caught every pass tossed his way since, and has shown that he has a reliable set of hands.
Ertz: I think he’s very comfortable in this offense. We’re asking him to do things that he’s really good at. He’s big. He’s physical. Great hands. I think he’s going to be a really good player in this league for a long time.
Goedert wasn’t asked to block much in college, but he has taken to the discipline in the NFL and has already surpassed Ertz. He has increasingly been the tight end in “11” personnel on run downs. In the first 10 games, Ertz played 96.6 percent of the time, and in the last three games he’s down to 80.1.
Ertz: I can’t play every snap. Obviously, we got into that early in the year, and it’s just not sustainable.
The Eagles don’t often take advantage of “12” personnel vs. nickel and run the ball. Pederson prefers to run out of “11” – three receivers – on early downs, which has meant more of Goedert. He has responded, as he showed here on this kick block vs. a Redskins defensive end.
Pederson: He’s kind of emerged himself as a primary blocker for us.
Here’s Goedert in pass protection vs. the Giants.
Goedert is typically the move tight end (“Y”), meaning he’ll line up more in-line or be asked to stay in and pass block, while Ertz is the wide (”F”), meaning he’ll line up more in the slot and run a larger variety of routes.
Goedert: His route running skills are kind of unmatched in this league, so that puts him in the best chance to win.
But Goedert could be a top-notch tight end. The question is whether the Eagles will utilize both their tight ends with both under contract for the next three seasons.