‘Quarterback factory’ may well be the hot term when it comes to discussing the Philadelphia Eagles, but they’ve tried to build a factory at another position for years now – Tight End.
We need to go back to 2014 to really understand the foundations of what once looked like an impressive conveyor belt of talent. The Eagles plucked UDFA Trey Burton in the days that followed the NFL Draft. A 6’2, 225 lbs, wide receiver who had quarterbacking experience on his resume (that was handy much later). The idea was simple. Burton would join a roster behind names like James Casey, Zach Ertz, and Brent Celek, slowly climbing his way up the depth chart.
As we now know, this worked out perfectly. Burton stuck onto the roster as a TE4, leading the team in special teams tackles before flashing some receiving ability against the Lions in 2015. One year and a team overhaul later, new Head Coach Doug Pederson opted to try and get Burton more involved in the offense.
Burton caught his first NFL touchdown in week 2 of that season, evolving into a reliable and somewhat secret weapon to unleash on unsuspecting defenses. One year later, Burton caught 5 touchdowns in the regular season, an impressive feat for any player, let alone one sitting behind Zach Ertz on the depth chart. Ending the regular season with 23 receptions for 248 yards, Burton continued to soar in the postseason and of course made that iconic 4th and goal touchdown pass to Nick Foles.
He would then take his talents to Chicago, leaving the Eagles without their explosive receiving threat, who currently resides in Indianapolis. The Eagles then drafted Dallas Goedert to replace him. A big, beefy body out of South Dakota State who already has 941 yards and 9 touchdowns to his name through two seasons. But behind Goedert, the Eagles just…kind of forgot to keep producing.
The team did once have a promising UDFA in the way of Billy Brown, but the Shepherd TE was unable to make the cut on two attempts with the Eagles, floated to Indianapolis, and was waived on April of this year after spending 2019 on IR.
Then there was Richard Rodgers…who spent the best part of two years watching from the sideline on IR.
Slowly but surely, what was once a position ripe with depth has become one that’s so dependent on its leading tandem, that Joshua Perkins continues to be thrown into action when one of them goes down with injury.
After refusing to take a tight end in this year’s draft, the team were quick to pull the trigger on signing former Oregon State product Noah Togiai. Could he finally be the tight end that kicks the conveyor belt back into life and allow the Eagles to experiment with 13-personnel looks once more?
At 6’4, 246 lbs, Togiai has intriguing size for the TE position and signs on the back of recording 44 catches for 406 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2019. While Togiai is clearly an athletic specimen, he lends himself to a receiving weapon as opposed to an in-line blocker. He’s also the sixth Oregon State TE to end his tenure with 1,000+ receiving yards.
It remains to be seen if the former Basketball player can kick-on and make something of this opportunity. He’ll find himself in a triple-threat match with Joshua Perkins and Alex Ellis this offseason over what could be the third and final roster spot at the position, but it’s about time the Eagles begin nurturing talent at TE, which is something they’ve been unable to do to the extent of yesteryear over the last few seasons…and Togiai could be the perfect catalyst to spark up that machine again.
Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports