The Philadelphia Eagles outlasted the Dallas Cowboys in a thrilling 28-23 win at home Sunday night to take command of the NFC East. It also gave the Eagles an inside track on the top seed in the NFC and are now one of the top two favorites on the betting market to win the Super Bowl.
However, it did come with a cost. That price tag… an injured Dallas Goedert. The tight end suffered a broken forearm on this play late in the third quarter. Reports have come out indicating that the talented tight end will require surgery, as early as today, to repair the fracture. If there is any silver lining to the injury, it appears Goedert could potentially miss just four weeks and in reality, three games with the Eagles having a much-needed bye in Week 10.
However, there’s no doubt that’s a blow for this offense that has relied heavily on the passing game this season. This marks the second straight season the Eagles will be without one of the top tight ends in the game both as a receiver and run blocker. Goedert missed five weeks last season due to a shoulder injury he suffered ironically just a week shy of an exact year in a Monday night loss to Washington on November 15.
With that said, let’s take a look at who can potentially step up and fill the void.
Is it Time for “Albert O?”
The obvious way to look at this situation is to see who is next in line at the position for the Eagles. The not so obvious answer though is who would be the next option between Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra and Albert Okwuegbunam?
Between the three, they have a total of 76 career receptions (Okwuegbunam, 54, Stoll, 17, Calcaterra, 5). Okwuegbunam spent the previous three seasons in Denver and may have the most upside as a pass catcher for the Eagles from the position. Howie Rosman traded for the athletic tight end back on August 29th. However, Sunday’s matchup against Dallas was the first time he suited up in the midnight green, playing just six snaps after being a healthy scratch for nearly every week of the season.
The former 4th round pick in 2020 out of Missouri has shown flashes of being a tough matchup against opposing linebackers and secondaries with his 6-foot-5, 260 pound frame and has some fans excited about his potential. He certainly has the experience to run routes and make defenders miss.
Stoll played in 27 snaps in the Eagles’ win Sunday ,but is used more as a traditional blocking tight end, only seeing three targets on the year. He has caught two of them for 10 yards.
Calcaterra was out in Week 9 due to a concussion. His status is up in the air, but the bye week certainly will give him more time to recover. A sixth-round pick out of SMU by the Eagles last year has yet to see a target this season. He did have five catches for an impressive 81 yards (16.2 avg) in 15 games last season.
Out of The Backfield
Surprisingly with the additions of D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny (who clearly is not viewed as part of the game plan) to the backfield along with Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott, has not changed their philosophy on designed screens to their backs. You would think with arguably the best offensive line in the league, it would be a wrinkle that they flash, but under Nick Sirianni, that hasn’t been the case.
However, the Eagles do check down to the running backs, utilizing them in the passing game overall, having the second most receptions by running backs in the NFC, trailing New Orleans (61). We may see them even more involved when it comes to the short passing game where Goedert tended to dominate in the flat. Swift ranks fourth on the team in catches (30) and yards (166) and could see an uptick in targets out of the backfield over the next three games.
“Swole Batman” and “Skinny Batman” Might Need a Robin
The superhero moniker for A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins took off last season. Well, without “Fast Batman” in Watkins who’s on the IR with a hamstring injury, it may be time for Robin to appear in the form of Julio Jones or Olamide Zaccheaus. Both new faces from a season ago, they have an opportunity to step up and be that third option for Jalen Hurts on those underneath routes.
Jones, a shoo-in as a first-ballot hall of famer, was a surprise signing by the Eagles a couple of weeks ago. However, Philadelphia isn’t getting prime Julio, and we didn’t see much of him in the Dallas win playing just 19 snaps. He can be a reliable option underneath and still present a bit of a mismatch with his size and physicality as the third receiver. He did haul in his first catch and touchdown with the Eagles in last week’s win over Washington and of course, has the illustrious accolades and numbers to back it up. Perhaps there’s a little left in the tank for Jones, who was very confident in his ability when joining the team.
Zaccheaus, a Philly product and former teammate of Swift in high school, played 26 snaps on Sunday, just seven more than Jones. The former Atlanta Falcon has appeared in all nine games for the Eagles but has hauled in just six catches on 12 targets for 87 yards and a touchdown. Not surprisingly, it’s been the Brown and Smith show through nine weeks with Goedert starting to get into the mix a bit more as of late. An emerging and productive role from either Jones or Zaccheus would be welcomed with open arms.
Not End of the World
There’s no denying missing Goedert will diminish the Eagles’ high-octane offense. However, the tight end missed five weeks last season and the Eagles went a perfect 5-0 during that stretch, albeit against inferior opponents including the Colts, Titans, Giants and Bears. This stretch without the former 2nd-round pick is far more daunting.
Starting the schedule gauntlet off with a win against the Cowboys was crucial. Now with the extra time to prepare and perhaps get the likes of Jones or Okwuegbunam more up to speed, the Eagles could find a way to fill the gap for the time being.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski