Over the past few years, there have been few things more synonymous with the Philadelphia Eagles than under-the-radar players bursting onto the scene. How long that flame burns varies from player to player, but Howie Roseman has been able to find some amazing hidden gems over his tenure and he may have unearthed another in Grant Calcaterra.
Whether it’s Travis Fulgham, Corey Clement, Cre’Von LeBlanc, or a franchise left tackle in Jordan Mailata, the Eagles are no strangers to diamonds in the rough. When looking at Calcaterra’s profile, it doesn’t take long to see why the front office was quick to select Calcaterra with their final selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Who is Grant Calcaterra?
First and foremost, Roseman’s focus may have been moved in Calcaterra’s direction by none other than Jalen Hurts. The Eagles have made a real effort over the last two seasons to surround Hurts with former teammates, friends, and players who will expedite his growth. Hurts played with the receiving tight end during his stint at Oklahoma and the results speak for themselves.
He may have only caught 5 passes for 79 yards while being on the same offense as Jalen Hurts, but that’s an average of 15.8 yards per catch. However, he had to retire from football due to concussion setbacks. Calcaterra later received medical clearance in 2020 and joined SMU to reunite with teammate Tanner Mordecai. He ended the 2021 season with a much stronger stat-line of 12 starts, 465 yards, and 4 touchdowns.
How does Calcaterra fit the Eagles?
Grant Calcaterra is a true receiving tight end with a relative athletic score of 8.5, which should come as no surprise given Howie’s recent focus on athletic monsters.
At 6’4 241 lbs, The SMU product moves like a wide receiver and can clearly cause havoc over the middle. His career average of 13.9 yards per reception speaks volumes. He isn’t a blocking tight end by any means, but a player who earned second-team All-AAC honors in 2021, which is crazy considering he medically retired two years beforehand.
So, the Eagles have added a big-bodied receiving tight end who has a ton of finesse and athleticism to his routes. Why does this matter?
His path to the top
As things stand, the TE depth chart is pretty congested:
Dallas Goedert is the obvious TE1 candidate here, and Tyree Jackson should be the logical TE2. However, injuries ripped the rug from under his feet in 2021 and a promising summer was stagnated. Beneath this pairing, you can argue that Jack Stoll and Richard Rodgers are blocking tight ends, while Noah Togiai is more of a receiving TE. As for JJAW? Not a clue.
My point is that even Tyree Jackson’s spot isn’t exactly safe. He has the size at 6’7, 249 lbs, but we also have to remember that he has only been working as a TE for a few years having originally signed with the Bills as an undrafted QB.
Grant Calcaterra has more in-game experience at the position than Jackson, and has a skillset that’s much closer to his than any other TE on the depth chart. Factor in the previous bond with Jalen Hurts and it’s easy to see why the Eagles wanted to take a punt. If, for whatever reason, Tyree Jackson is unable to pick up steam this offseason, Calcaterra is almost by default the secondary receiving option at the TE position
Let’s talk personnel
The Eagles have invested heavily in their offense this offseason, but all of the acquisitons have been centered around the passing offense. One has to wonder what impact this will have on an offense that led the league in rushing last season.
If 12-personnel is going to be the name of the game, then a tight end who can burst down the seam and threaten a defense vertically would be a perfect complement to what Goedert can do as a blocker. If it’s 13-personnel, there’s no reason he can’t be released as an option-route while the other two tight ends take on blocking responsibilities.
I don’t think we’re going to be seeing Grant Calcaterra leading all TE’s in receiving just yet, but there’s absolutely a palce for him in an offense that is built with optionality in mind. If defenses have to respect those vertical threats all across the line of scrimmage, it’s only going to give more leeway for Jalen Hurts to exploit on the ground as a rusher.
Training Camp is still some way off, but Grant Calcaterra is absolutely going to be a name worth watching. He comes in at the bottom of a depth chart that while plentiful in numbers, should be pretty easy to climb. Just how brightly is this hidden gem going to shine? We won’t have to wait long to find out.
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