July 13, 2021
Leading up to training camp (basically whenever there isn't other news to cover), we'll take a look at every player on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster, and how they fit with the team. Today we'll look at the tight ends.
Previous training camp previews
First, a look at the depth chart at tight end:
|Dallas Goedert||Richard Rodgers||Jack Stoll||Caleb Wilson|
|Jason Croom||Hakeen Butler||Tyree Jackson||Zach Ertz|
Presumably, Zach Ertz will be playing for some other team this season, and for the first time in his career Goedert will be "the guy" at tight end. He is clearly a good player, as there are no obvious weaknesses in his game. In 2020, he led the team in yards per game, receptions of 20+ yards, receiving first downs, and his 203 yards after the catch were second only to Miles Sanders.
And yet, it almost felt like something of disappointing season for him, given Goedert's high expectations entering the season, and the added snaps he received as a result of Ertz's absence. Still, Goedert is an above average starting-quality NFL tight end, whose ceiling has yet to be reached.
Rodgers stayed healthy for the first time in his Eagles tenure in 2020, and he actually made some plays in the passing game. On the season, he had 24 catches for 345 yards (14.4 YPC) and two TDs. Still, he is a below average blocker, and he's not exactly an athletic specimen when running with the ball.
Rodgers is now 29 years old, and the Eagles need to get younger. However, they did not draft any tight ends, and assuming Ertz will be playing elsewhere in 2021, they don't have a definitively competent backup, so there was some logic in bringing Rodgers back at the veteran minimum for one more season, and punt the need for a good, young backup tight end to 2022.
Stoll was a priority undrafted free agent signing, as he topped all Eagles UDFAs in guaranteed money ($122,500) and signing bonus ($22,500), per Dave Zangaro. That makes him a near lock for at least the practice squad.
Stoll's career receiving numbers over four years at Nebraska (61-657-6) aren't impressive, but he does offer some ability as a blocker. Stoll's best chance to make the 53-man roster will be as a blocker and on special teams.
In 2017, the Bills signed Croom as an undrafted free agent, and he spent some time on Buffalo's practice squad that season. In 2018, he made the Bills' 53 man roster, appeared in 15 games (including three starts), and posted a stat line of 22-259-1.
Croom missed the Bills' entire 2019 season with a severe hamstring injury. In September of 2020, the Eagles added him to their practice squad, and he was on and off the roster the rest of the season. He played 13 snaps on the season, and caught one pass for a TD on a play in which nobody covered him.
Croom has some legitimate NFL experience, which could give him a leg up on some of the more inexperienced tight ends on the roster in camp.
Wilson was the very last pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, by the Cardinals. He has bounced around a bit, later signing with the Football Team, before finding his way to Philly.
In college at UCLA, Wilson had 114 career catches for 1675 yards and 5 TDs. In his final year at UCLA, playing for Chip Kelly, Wilson had his best season, racking up 60 catches for 965 yards and 4 TDs. He actually led all FBS tight ends in receiving yardage that season, so he has some receiving chops.
The Eagles signed Butler to their active roster during the season last year from the Panthers' practice squad.
Previously, Butler was something of a "Draft Twitter" favorite leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft, as some analysts thought that there was a chance he could sneak into the first round. That didn't happen, as the Cardinals chose Butler with the first pick on Day 3 of the draft (in the fourth round). Many thought that was a steal, given Butler's college production (22.0 YPC his final year at Iowa State), his size, and his athletic measurables as a wide receiver:
In Butler's rookie season in 2019, he made the Cardinals' 53-man roster, but did not appear in any games. In 2020, Butler was waived at final cutdowns, and the Panthers added him to their practice squad.
When the Eagles announced their signing of Butler, they called him a TE. Here's what that spider chart looks like with Butler as a TE.
As we noted prior to the 2019 draft, Butler's hands were inconsistent, and his route-running was concerning. He did have a fun highlight reel, though.
In 2020, on Butler's lone snap on his career, Doug Pederson made an insane fourth down goal line play call to throw a fade to Butler in one of the most critical moments of the season. That did not go well.
That should have actually been pass interference, but whatever. To be determined if the Eagles can get anything out of Butler.
One of the fun players to evaluate this summer will be Jackson, the quarterback-turned-tight end, who is a monster, size-wise. He's No. 80 below, walking with fellow TE Jack Stoll.
I watched Jackson in passing drills in OTAs, and to put it kindly, he needs work, but his size and athleticism is worth trying to mold. His top size-athleticism comp (via mockdraftable.com), interestingly, is Washington's quarterback-turned-tight end, Logan Thomas, who had 72 catches last season.
It'll probably take a year or two to get anything out of Jackson as a TE. We'll see if he can show enough that the Eagles will be willing to have patience in grooming him.
Ertz has been on the trade block for around nine months now, so we'll skip getting into all the details of his contract situation, the likely return (if anything) for his services, likely trade partners, and all the other Ertz trade-related stuff that has been discussed endlessly since last October.
We'll just note that when trading camp finally comes around, if Ertz is still on the roster and he's holding out, it's going to become a big story that Nick Sirianni probably won't want to have to deal with.
Just do it already.
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