The tight end position has changed drastically over the course of American football’s evolution. They are, to some degree, an extension of the offensive line, particularly in the run game. Tight ends, as we know them today though, are vertical threats for which the opposing defenses have to meticulously gameplan. As we all know, the Eagles have one of the very best in the NFL in Zach Ertz. In 2018, Eagles receivers as a group accounted for 188 receptions on the season with seven different players contributing. Zach Ertz caught 116 receptions alone, with the tight end position pulling in 155 total. In short, the tight end position is a major strength of the team, and it might get even stronger this season.
Those 116 receptions Ertz hauled in led the team, and he was at the top of the team’s leaderboard in yards as well. He is, without a doubt, one of the premiere players in the league at his position. Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Ertz hold down the first tier of NFL tight ends, and his production doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. In 2018, Zach Ertz was second in the entire NFL in receptions.
To be clear, that was not just tight ends; he was second out of all eligible receivers. In fact, the only player with more receptions than Ertz last season was Michael Thomas of the Saints with 125. That places him as 5th in the single-season reception leaders (Ertz’s 116 slots him at 17th, if you were curious).
The only consistent knock on Ertz is his yards after the catch. More often than not, where Ertz catches the ball is where the offense will be snapping from on the next play. There is a positive lens of which to view this from though. His production is already among the league’s elite, and by sheltering his body from unnecessary hits, he can preserve his seasons, if not career, and continue to produce with the same kind of output for a long time. It’s obvious how important Ertz is to the offense in terms of both the design and as a security blanket to keep the team’s gears moving forward. The team should value his health more than any extra potential yards.
The Eagles’ offense is primed to be even more explosive than the past two seasons with legitimate deep threat DeSean Jackson back in midnight-green. Zach Ertz should benefit from that more than anybody with the middle of the field left slightly more vacant as the opposing defense worries about the team’s over the top threats. Expect Ertz to be at the top of the league in receptions again this season.
The Eagles’ 2018 second round draft pick was selected with the intent of adding another vertical threat at the position to line up with Ertz and create mismatches in the opposing defenses’ secondaries. In his rookie campaign, Goedert caught 33 receptions for 334 yards along with a 75% catch rate. Those numbers should see improvement this season as he’s more integrated in the offense and the playbook is more tailored to two tight end sets.
With a lot of ball to go around though, it’s hard to say confidently whether or not those numbers will inflate the way some people expect. Where he really showed promise, though, was in the red-zone. With his frame and route-running ability, he really does like look like Ertz out there. With Ertz and Alshon Jeffery commanding a lot of the red-zone gravity from defenses, Goedert could potentially see his four touchdowns from 2018 climb to the 7-10 range in 2019. Keep an eye out for Goedert’s red-zone play in the preseason.
Richard Rodgers / Joshua Perkins
The 3rd string tight end is likely an open competition. Richard Rodgers has had some solid seasons before in Green Bay and might get the third spot as a veteran leader who can fill a role in a worst-case scenario. Joshua Perkins, who spent a couple of seasons on the Atlanta Falcons practice squad before getting picked up by the Eagles, actually played more snaps than Rodgers last season, though.
Perkins played in 8.70% of the offensive snaps in 2018, and 36.03% of the special teams snaps. Compare that to Rodgers, who played in only 3.85% of offensive snaps and 17.78% of special teams snaps, and you might get a viewpoint into how the coaching staff feels about the two. Keep watch during the preseason on who has the most success in both run-blocking and pass-blocking situations, as they’ll likely win the spot.
Overall, tight end is a position of significant strength for the Birds. Ertz is elite, and Goedert’s combination of size, speed, and route running should develop nicely both in the middle of the field and the red-zone. Expect a size-able chunk of the team’s receptions and touchdowns to come from tight ends this season.