Amid the Eagles' deluge of injuries this season, the team’s depth has been exposed as lacking at some positions. At tight end, though, Richard Rodgers perseveres.
Had the Eagles entered the season with a Rodgers-level veteran backup offensive lineman, wide receiver, linebacker, or safety, they probably wouldn’t be 2-4-1 as they begin preparations for a visit from the Dallas Cowboys.
Thursday night, with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert sidelined by ankle injuries, Rodgers led the Eagles with six catches for 85 yards, as they edged past the Giants.
It wasn’t the first time he’d ever been counted on – the Packers drafted Rodgers in the third round back in 2014, and in 2015, he caught eight touchdown passes, including a famous final-play Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary that beat the Lions. But it was the first time he’d carried the load in a good long while.
“Richard Rodgers, gosh, I’ll tell you what, he played tough, physical. He played fast,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "He made some really good catches.
“Not only some short, intermediate catches, but the [30-yard] deep throw in the fourth quarter to help us win that football game. I’m really glad Richard is on the team. He’s a good complementary piece when both Zach and Dallas are out there. He filled in really well. Expect more of that, hopefully, moving forward with him in that position.”
Rodgers left the Packers and signed a one-year deal with the Eagles in 2018, but he spent nine games on injured reserve after sustaining a preseason knee injury and caught one 7-yard pass in seven appearances, playing mostly on special teams. He signed a two-year contract here the next spring, got cut in September, was brought back at Christmas, played five offensive snaps in the season finale, then three in the playoff loss to Seattle.
This year, he signed with the Washington Football Team – where his father, Richard Sr., is an assistant defensive backs coach – but was released Sept. 5. Three days later, Rodgers was an Eagle again. He called the decision to return “a no-brainer.”
Goedert went down in Week 3 and Rodgers started getting about a third of the offensive snaps, until Ertz limped off the field in the Week 6 loss to the Ravens.
Before the Giants game, in which he played 85% of the offensive snaps, Rodgers talked about getting the opportunity to show what he could do.
“I’ve been preparing for three years now, really, and I haven’t seen the field,” he said. “It’s fun to know that your hard work and preparation is starting to pay off.”
Monday, he was asked if he ever wondered where his career was going; in his first two years as an Eagle he played 47 offensive snaps, 22 fewer than he logged Thursday in helping the Eagles beat the Giants.
“That’s always a concern, especially with injuries, because you don’t know how you’re going to bounce back from an injury, and that’s definitely in the back of your head. But I’ve always tried to stay positive,” he said.
Rodgers, still just 28, is under contract for this season only, at a bare-bones $910,000. He probably will have several weeks to show he can be more than a spare part going forward; the Eagles might part with Ertz after this season, since his contract has just one more year to run and he and management are far apart on Ertz’s value. Rodgers could be a solid backup to Goedert. Failing that, Rodgers can excite another team’s interest.
“You guys know all my answers. I’m not really concerned about my status [in the league] as a tight end, or anything like that,” he said. "Like I’ve said a million times, I’m just trying to help the team wherever I can.
“There were a couple of spots last game where I was able to get open. I just try to catch the ball when it’s thrown to me.”
Rodgers didn’t seem too impressed with his numbers last week, the best he has posted since that famous Hail Mary game, when Rodgers caught eight passes for 146 yards, including that 61-yarder to win, on Dec. 3, 2015.
“The way I look at it, whoever’s in the position to be the No. 1 or No. 2 guy, you’re going to get production, no matter what,” he said.
Rodgers said Ertz and Goedert are his friends, and “just holding it down for them while they’re out, that’s important to me.”