Taking a deeper look into the Eagles’ biggest roster cutdown decisions

Generally, when teams are nearing final roster cuts, it’s fairly easy to tell who has earned the inside track and who will fall by the wayside. Especially with a roster as stacked as the Eagles, with so many entrenched role players, the final roster is pretty cut and dry. Looking at this year’s roster on paper, it should have been easy enough to figure out a bulk of the remaining spots, with a few camp battles to hash out in the closing hours. In reality, newcomers made the final decisions very difficult which left some fan favorites on the outside looking in. Some decisions we all saw coming from a mile away, whereas others — the decision to take only two tight ends, for example — have some people scratching their heads. So what is there to make of the more controversial moves to chop the roster down to 53?

Only two TEs?

Let’s begin with the obvious. Since seemingly the beginning of time, the Eagles have ran with three tight ends. Their love of 12 personnel and flex formations almost makes it a necessity. An unfortunate injury to Richard Rodgers, who was placed on season-ending IR, may have changed the plans.
To be fair, the team will have plenty of opportunities to swipe a third tight end off the waivers and added Joshua Perkins to their practice squad for safekeeping. However, the Eagles were in the same boat last season and opted to take a gamble on Perkins and add him to the active roster. So, what’s changed?

The Eagles are confident in Zach Ertz’ improved run blocking.

Ever since he entered the league as a pass-catching specialist out of Stanford, Ertz has been hounded for his blocking capabilities — or lack thereof. He wasn’t often asked to block in college and came to the league without a complete skillset because of it. Just take a glimpse at the tight end rankings on PFF, where he consistently falls behind other players with lesser production due to his lackluster. His struggles in that area made Brent Celek an essential component of the offense in their Super Bowl run just two years ago. With Celek announcing his retirement, Ertz knew he had to improve his blocking. Last season, there was a fair share of media attention heaped on the veteran tight end concerning just that.

“He wants to be a complete tight end. That’s just who he is. Zach has got an incredible drive. He wants to be the best, that’s his drive and it’s genuine. That’s one part of his game he’s known he’s had to work on, and he’s attacked it, and I give him a lot of credit for that”

TE Coach Justin Peele on Zach Ertz’ blocking

Ertz had heard the criticism swirling around the NFL ethos and came into the offseason with a chip on his shoulder. “I don’t want to be viewed as a weakness in the pass game, and I definitely don’t want to be viewed as a weakness in the run game. So it’s a little bit of pride kind of thing. You hear certain things, ‘We’ve got to take him out,’ on certain plays early in my career and it’s just something I’ve taken to heart, working extremely hard at. I take a lot of pride in being a complete tight end.”

Last season, while it may not reflect in his PFF grade, Ertz blocking was considerably improved on tape. Putting aside the historic season he had catching the ball, he also was tasked with a huge uptick in blocking snaps. He may never be a dominant blocker, but he is no longer a liability. Proof: in the Eagles playoff game against the Chicago Bears, he was often asked to deal with Khalil Mack one-on-one and held his own.

Dallas Goedert is healthy and going to take the league by storm.

First, the good news. The fact that the Eagles are willing to face the possibility they may enter week one with only two tight ends dressed means that Goedert’s preseason injuries are nearly healed. He may be eased into action, but there is no doubt that he will be a part of the game plan. Already a better blocker than Ertz was at this point in his career, Goedert will likely have to do more dirty work in his second season. Clearly the coaching staff is thrilled to give him the opportunity, and why not? Here’s a look at his blocking performance in the playoff game in Chicago.

The scary part is that blocking is only a small portion of what Godert brings to the table. As a pass-catcher, he is dangerous as any. He understands coverage and is athletic enough to capitalize. Against the Titans in preseason week one, we got a glimpse of just how diverse his route running is.

With Ertz and Goedert on the field, the Eagles must have figured that a third tight end was a luxury they didn’t require. They smartly held on to Perkins with a practice squad slot as an insurance policy, but are ready to lean on their two huge weapons at the position.

“I think we can get more… this is what I like about either of these two players: their willingness to grow and learn. They are not satisfied with their performances. We can definitely use Dallas more. That was one of those things — from self-scouting in the spring, we felt like we could utilize Dallas a little bit more in situations, and I think that becomes a nice personnel group for us with the two tight ends. I could really expect both those tight ends to have good years.”

Doug Pederson on Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz

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Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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