Through the opening two weeks of the season, the Eagles offense has already seen plenty of compliments and criticisms. After a tough loss against the Niners, a magnifying glass has been placed over the box scores, only to find that both Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert have had a pretty minimal impact so far.
We’re so used to seeing the two tight ends at the top of the pecking order when it comes to both targets and receptions that seeing anything different seems alien. Under both Doug Pederson and Andy Reid, there was a conceited effort to get players such as Zach Ertz and Brent Celek the ball regularly. Ertz went on to establish himself as one of the top TE’s in the NFL and the arrival of Dallas Goedert gave the team a formidable duo.
In 2020, things changed. Ertz had an uncharacteristically quiet year and Goedert continued to flash brilliance only to struggle with durability and concentration drops. With both players entering contract years in 2021, many expected strong showings from the two. However, under Nick Sirianni, that was always going to be an uphill battle.
It’s not like tight ends have Ever been the main focal point of the offense under Nick Sirianni’s guidance. The Colts played out of 11-personnel (1RB, 1 TE) 69% of the time in 2020, 62% in 2019, and 72% in 2018. Their second-most used grouping was a 13-personnel setting, pushing a heavy emphasis on play-action and a lethal ground attack.
Mo Allie-Cox led the Colts TE’s in receiving last year with 395 yards, while Jack Doyle did so with 448 in 2019, and Eric Ebron before him with 750 in 2018. The Colts seemingly switched their focus onto a versatile backfield and receiving group to keep things varied, living out of 11 and 13 personnel groups to emphasize the growth of both. It should come as no surprise then that the Eagles have opted to go down a similar route in 2021.
Through two games, Dallas Goedert has caught 6-of-7 balls thrown his way for 66 yards. Zach Ertz has caught 3-of-4 for 40. In 2019 (before everything went wrong), Ertz averaged 9 targets per game and Goedert averaged 5.8. Already, this season is becoming a stark contrast.
This is only further amplified when you consider that Goedert has played in 69% of snaps so far and Ertz has played in 60%. The tight ends, as expected, are being used predominantly in blocking roles. We saw a lot of evidence of this against the Niners and if you want clarification, look no further than the passing chart of Jalen Hurts.
If you want to get really tin-foil hat-level analytical about it, you could absolutely draw a line between the TE usage under Sirianni and the fact that Howie Roseman has not paid either of the two yet. There’s no need to pay a premium for Dallas Goedert if the Eagles aren’t going to get their money’s worth, and that may ultimately prove to be the case.
What it all comes down to is perception vs reality. The perception among Eagles fans is that the tight ends should be focal points of the offense and that comes from nothing but a sense of comfort and normality. The reality is that Sirianni does things differently and providing that formula works, there shouldn’t be a push to change it.
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