Good morning, everyone. Hope you’re all doing well. In a bit of a surprise move Wednesday, Doug Pederson canceled practice and held a walk-through instead. After losing several key players to injury in Sunday night’s four-point loss to Atlanta, Pederson wants to keep his team as fresh as possible for the challenge of playing two games in five days — Sunday at home against Detroit, then a tough Thursday night game in Green Bay. Six players didn’t participate in the walk-through: tight end Dallas Goedert (calf), wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (calf) and DeSean Jackson (groin), defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (foot), running back Corey Clement (shoulder) and offensive tackle Jordan Mailata (back). None of the six are expect to play in either of the next two games.
— Paul Domowitch (firstname.lastname@example.org)
While most of the focus Sunday night was on the injuries to wide receivers DeSean Jackson (groin) and Alshon Jeffery (calf), the one that probably had the biggest impact on the game was the pregame calf injury to the team’s No. 2 tight end, Dallas Goedert.
Goedert is an excellent receiver who had 33 receptions and four touchdowns last year as a rookie. He also had a 10-yard touchdown catch in the Eagles’ 16-15 playoff win over Chicago.
But the 6-5, 256-pound South Dakota State product also has rapidly developed into one of the league’s better blocking tight ends. His absence Sunday was a big reason the Eagles had such a difficult time running the ball against a Falcons defense that had allowed 172 rushing yards to the Minnesota Vikings a week earlier.
“When they lost their only tight end who can really block, they lost any kind of a strong-side run game, and they lost any kind of a play-action game,’’ said NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger, who was an offensive lineman in the league for more than a decade.
Baldinger didn’t mean that as a shot at the Eagles’ other tight end, Zach Ertz. He was just stating a fact.
Ertz is, first and foremost, a pass-catcher. Caught more passes last season — 116 — than any tight end in league history. He’s worked hard to make himself into a serviceable blocker. But he’s not a guy you want to regularly line up next to your tackle.
“Zach’s a terrific receiver, but he’s just not a great blocker,’’ Baldinger said. “If you ask him to go to the front side and handle defensive ends and outside linebackers, it’s just not good. He doesn’t have enough lead in his pencil, and he gets pushed around and he gets in the way.
“He’s a Pro Bowl tight end if you ask him to go catch 100 passes a season. But if you ask him to be the strong-side blocker [because] you want to run power or anything like that, he’s not good at it.’’
Without Goedert on Sunday, the Eagles used “11’’ personnel — one tight end and three wide receivers — the entire game and threw the ball 48 times. They ran the ball just 21 times for 49 yards. Didn’t have a run longer than 5 yards.
Goedert almost certainly will miss at least the next two games. The Eagles promoted Alex Ellis from their practice squad for Sunday’s game against the Lions.
The Eagles had carried three tight ends on their roster in each of Doug Pederson’s first three seasons as the team’s head coach. This is the first year they elected to go with two. Baldinger thinks it was a mistake.
“I didn’t agree with their decision to go with only two [tight ends],’’ he said. “I felt it was going to eliminate a lot of the formations that I thought they were really good at.
“When they won the Super Bowl two years ago, the strength of Doug and his play-calling was the versatility, especially with their three tight ends — Ertz, [Brent] Celek and Trey Burton.
“If you look at what [former Eagles offensive coordinator] Frank Reich is doing up in Indianapolis, they’re a big three-tight end team. And it really creates a lot of problems for a defense.
“You can protect the edges with your tight ends. You can run the ball with them. You have guys that can get down the seams. It just gives you a totally different dimension offensively.’’
What about using one of their offensive linemen — Halapoulivaati Vaitai or rookie first-round pick Andre Dillard — as a third tight end in “13’’ personnel packages?
“It’s not the same when those guys aren’t any kind of pass receiving threat,’’ Baldinger said. “I think you’ll see some of that this week. But it’s not the same as having Goedert out there.’’