For the first time in what feels like forever, there is no noise at the tight end position for the Eagles. Zach Ertz is flourishing in Training Camp, Dallas Goedert is reportedly working on a contract extension, and there’s even a shiny new project TE in Tyree Jackson to watch this preseason. The next step for Nick Sirianni is making sure he utilizes all of the talent in the room, even if it’s just for one year.
Zach Ertz might play his way above Philadelphia’s pay-grade if he can shine as he once did this season, breaking up the tandem that combined for 1,523 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019, and 1,899 yards and a further 12 touchdowns in the campaign before that. Sure, the 2020 season was disappointing for many reasons, but there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic. The only issue Nick Sirianni has is going to be one of balance.
Dallas Goedert has featured in at least 47% of offensive snaps per season since entering the league, while Ertz played in 91.5% in 2018 and 80% in 2019 before missing 5 games in 2020. 12-personnel was a staple of Pederson’s offense for very obvious reasoning and the versatility of the two created some terrifying matchups.
In Indianapolis, that wasn’t the case. Eric Ebron, who led the team in receiving with 750 yards in 2018, played in just 55.8% of snaps that year, which is a stark contrast to what we saw in Philadelphia. Jack Doyle played in 74% of snaps one year later, leading the position, and again in 2020 with just 49% of snaps. The team slowly shifted to a focus on an eclectic wide receiving corps and dynamic backfield.
As far as target-share goes, tight ends were targeted less than both receivers and running backs on a three-year average, sitting at just 24.4% of QB targets. If we contrast this to the Eagles’ three-year average of 34.9%, it becomes clear that the Colts offense was built in a very different manner.
In fact, the Colts ran personnel groupings that featured two or more tight ends on a lowly 29% of the time in 2020. Since 2018, the Colts ran 12-personnel (1 RB, 2 TE) just 20% of the time on average. The former Colts offensive coordinator spoke to reporters on Tuesday to discuss analytics and how they play a role in how his offense will look, potentially alluding to how the TE’s will be used.
So, you’ve got to think it’s always, always, always, always about the players first. That’s regardless of – you know, when we talk about game planning – that’s regardless of whether you see a great play on tape or the analytics tell you something. It’s still – I guess the old saying goes, ‘It’s about the Jimmys and Joes not the Xs and Os.”Nick Sirianni
That last sentence is an old adage that has been tossed around NFL circles for decades. As far as this year’s Eagles are concerned, it’s crucial. We know that Sirianni wants to mold his offense around the players that make up its nucleus and even if it’s just for one season, a large chunk of that comes from the TE position.
There was a lot of buzz last week about 21-personnel, which involves a pair of running backs and one tight end. This would be saucy to implement with players like Miles Sanders and Kenny Gainwell bringing different traits to the offense and giving defenses plenty to worry about, but it means that like in Indianapolis, tight ends aren’t going to be the Kings of the Castle, unless there’s a balance which seems almost impossible to find.
Sirianni has stayed true to his word so far, but it’s not going to be easy finding a way to get tight ends 30%+ of QB targets when there is so much appeal on the outside an a diverse backfield being built under center. But with only one guaranteed year of having two top tight ends on the roster, it would behoove the rookie Head Coach to implement them as much as possible.
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