Eagles 2019 breakout candidate: Dallas Goedert needs to get on the field

Eagles 2019 breakout candidate: Dallas Goedert needs to get on the field

This week, I’ll be taking a closer look at five young Eagles who have a chance to enjoy a “breakout season” in 2019. We looked at Derek Barnett yesterday. 

Up today: Dallas Goedert

Age: 24

How acquired: 2018 second-round pick 

Entering: Year 2

While Goedert was a second-round pick last year, he was the Eagles’ first pick of that draft. They traded out of the first round but then back up in the second to get Goedert, whom they considered to be a first-round talent. 

Early returns were certainly good. 

As a rookie, the 6-5, 256-pound tight end caught 33 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns in limited snaps. It definitely didn’t matter that he didn’t play at the highest level of college football. 

"We’re very excited about Dallas," Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh said this spring. "He is a very talented guy. He had a very productive rookie campaign. I know he’s just as excited as anybody to get out there and do it again this fall." 

Goedert finished his rookie season with 525 snaps (48 percent) and then played 50 (42 percent) in the playoffs. Based on how good Goedert was as a rookie, the Eagles need to figure out a way to get him on the field even more in 2019, but it won’t necessarily be easy. This is an offense that features a ton of weapons. 

According to SharpFootball, the Eagles used their 12 personnel (two-tight end sets) on 35 percent of their offensive snaps last season. That was tied for second-most in the NFL behind just the Houston Texans (40 percent). So they already used 12 personnel a ton in 2018; can they use it even more in 2019? 

The short answer: Yes. 

Doug Pederson has already hinted at using his two-tight end offense more frequently and perhaps even making that his base offense. I think a near 50-50 split between 11 and 12 personnel in 2019 makes a lot of sense. So if everyone stays healthy, here’s what each package would look like in terms of skill position players: 

11 personnel: Carson Wentz, RB, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz

12 personnel: Wentz, RB, Jeffery, Jackson, Ertz, Goedert

The way this shakes out is that either Agholor or Goedert will be on the field. Now, there will be different variations. The Eagles are multiple and they have players with versatility. Will DeSean work out of the slot sometimes? Sure. But we’re just looking at the basics for now and the basics say either Agholor or Goedert will be on the field. A lot of this should be matchup dependent and based on how teams decide to defend their different personnel groupings. 

So the fact that we’re not just entertaining the thought but saying that Goedert should take snaps from Agholor (who is making $9.4 million this season!) kind of tells you about the expectations for Goedert in Year 2. 

The traits that made Goedert’s rookie season a success were on full display this spring. His hands, body control and leaping ability are going to give him a chance to be a part of a nightmare lineup for the Eagles in the red zone. Think about trying to guard Jeffery, Ertz, Goedert and JJ Arcega-Whiteside inside the 10 yard line. That won’t be easy. 

When the Eagles drafted Goedert, it raised some eyebrows because they already had Ertz. It was viewed as a luxury pick. But Goedert’s early success and possible breakout season in 2019 show why teams can’t draft simply based on position or need. The Eagles took a really good player and it paid off. 

Now, they need to get him on the field. I expect him to do the rest. 

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Predicting Eagles’ 53-man roster after several roster moves 

Predicting Eagles’ 53-man roster after several roster moves 

The Eagles haven’t even practiced yet but their roster has already seen a few notable changes in the last few weeks. 

• Marquise Goodwin opted out of the season 

• Vinny Curry is back on a one-year deal 

• Veteran linebacker Jatavis Brown retired 

With all those changes in mind, it was time for a new 53-man roster prediction a couple days before the Eagles begin non-padded practices. 

Here’s the latest: 

QB (3): Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Jalen Hurts 

These three haven’t changed and they won’t. Kyle Lauletta is the fourth quarterback and has a chance to be on the expanded practice squad this season. Maybe the Eagles really change the way they handle quarterbacks this season but I’m sticking with three on the 53-man roster. 

RB (4): Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Corey Clement, Adrian Killins Jr. 

The top two are locks and Clement has a big lead for the next spot. There is already plenty of buzz coming out of Eagles camp about how good Clement looks after injuries ended his last two seasons. After those three, it’s a competition between Elijah Holyfield, Mike Warren and Adrian Killins. I honestly don’t know who’s going to win. My thinking before was that Holyfield has an advantage because he’s been here but I think Killins has a real shot to show out in practices. I think he might be more of a project but Killins has tremendous speed and that will show at practice more than Holyfield and Warren’s ability between the tackles. It should be fascinating to watch. 

WR (6): DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward Jr., John Hightower, Quez Watkins

The big change here is the removal of Marquise Goodwin, who opted out of the 2020 season. He was the only Eagles player to opt out. Now, coming off an injury in 2019, I don’t think Goodwin was a roster lock, but he was most likely going to make the team. Without him, it probably opens up a spot for both late-round rookies. With Goodwin in the mix, Hightower and Watkins probably would have battled for a spot, but I think both of them make it now. Of the other returning players, keep an eye on Deontay Burnett; he’s the one guy I think has a shot. 

TE (3): Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins

Obviously the top two are set in stone and create the best duo of tight ends in the NFL. After that? Well, it’s not great. Perkins is battling with newcomer Caleb Wilson and UDFA Noah Togiai. With his experience in the offense, Perk is the frontrunner for a job. 

OL (9): Andre Dillard, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Jordan Mailata, Matt Pryor, Prince Tega Wanogho, Jack Driscoll 

My guess is the Eagles keep nine or 10 offensive linemen. A couple years ago they went with eight, but that was uncharacteristically low for them. And as long as they’re healthy, I don’t expect the Eagles to cut their draft picks, Tega Wanogho or Jack Driscoll. The real question for me was about Nate Herbig, the 10th OL and the 54th guy on the roster. I have him off for now. 

DE (6): Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat, Genard Avery, Shareef Miller

The Eagles brought back 32-year-old Vinny Curry on a one-year deal, so we’ve added him. Expect Curry to be the Eagles’ third defensive end, just like he was last year when he lead Sweat in snaps. I also don’t think the Eagles will give up on Avery yet after they traded a draft pick for him last season. The real question was about how many DEs to keep. I opted to keep an extra DE and include Shareef Miller over that 10th offensive lineman in Nate Herbig. I think the possibility that Miller helps you in 2020 is greater than Herbig. 

DT (4): Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Malik Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway

I feel pretty confident about these four. This is a really impressive group of defensive tackles. 

LB (5): Nathan Gerry, T.J. Edwards, Duke Riley, Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley 

I actually didn’t have Jatavis Brown on my last prediction but he’s certainly off the list now. The fifth-year veteran decided to retire, so that means Bradley has a much better shot at a roster spot. I think the top four are locks because the Eagles won’t cut a third-round pick. And I have Bradley edging out Alex Singleton for that last spot. But Singleton has a shot. 

CB (6): Darius Slay, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Rasul Douglas 

If the Eagles keep six corners, Douglas is on the team. If the Eagles go light and keep five, I think they cut him. But based on how many injuries they’ve see at the position in recent years, keeping Douglas around for depth makes sense to me. Heck, the reason he’s played so much in recent years is because guys keep getting hurt. 

S (4): Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills, K’Von Wallace, Will Parks 

Keep an eye on UDFA Grayland Arnold from Baylor in this group. I don’t have him on the team for now, but he’s already making an impression on his coaches and teammates. Still, these four are set. If they keep five, it would go to either Arnold, Rudy Ford or Marcus Epps. 

ST (3): Jake Elliott, Cameron Johnston, Rick Lovato 

No changes here. 

PUP: Brandon Brooks, Alshon Jeffery 

For now, Brooks and Alshon are on the PUP, so I’ll keep them there. The IR rules this season might actually change the way teams handle designations at the start of the season. Guys who are put on IR can return as long as they miss three games. So if the Eagles think Jeffery could be back in Week 4, then IR is actually a better option than PUP in 2020. 

Practice squad (16+ international exemption): Nate Herbig, Kyle Lauletta, Deontay Burnett, Casey Toohill, Sua Opeta, Luke Juriga, Noah Togiai, Grayland Arnold, Alex Singleton, Tremon Smith, Joe Ostman, Mike Warren, Elijah Holyfield, Marcus Epps, Raequon Williams, Michael Jacquet, Matt Leo. 

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You won't believe who the Eagles' most experienced linebacker is

You won't believe who the Eagles' most experienced linebacker is

The Eagles had an unprecedented lack of experience at linebacker.

Then their most experienced linebacker retired.

Jatavis Brown’s surprise retirement Sunday leaves the Eagles with just three linebackers that have played a single NFL defensive snap and none with more than 16 career starts.

Only two — Nate Gerry and T.J. Edwards — were on the 53-man roster on opening day last year. Only one has played more than 115 snaps in an Eagles uniform.

Brown, who the Eagles signed as a free agent in March, has played 56 games and started 23 and has 1,834 career defensive snaps.

He’s played more snaps than every other Eagles linebacker combined.

It wasn’t clear exactly what Brown’s role would be here, but he started seven games at outside linebacker as a rookie with the Chargers in 2016 and 16 more with the Chargers over the last three years. 

In a linebacker room with precious little experience, he's been around a little bit.

The only remaining Eagles linebackers who’ve ever played defense in a regular-season NFL game are Duke Riley, Nate Gerry and T.J. Edwards. 

Gerry started 12 games and played 630 snaps last year and had two interceptions, 2 ½ sacks and four tackles for loss.

Edwards started four games as an undrafted rookie last year and played 115 snaps.

Riley only played 29 defensive snaps after being acquired from the Falcons a month into the season, but he was a part-time starter in Atlanta in 2017 and 2018.

Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley and Dante Olson are rookies, and Alex Singleton is in his second year after playing only on special teams last year.

The entire group has played a total of 1,549 career defensive snaps. Considering that the average NFL game includes about 65 snaps, that means the Eagles’ linebacking corps combined has played the equivalent of about 24 games.

Here’s a look at the games, starts and defensive snaps the Eagles’ current linebackers have under their belts, with their age in parentheses:

OLB Duke Riley (26): 44 games—16 starts—660 snaps
OLB Nate Gerry (25): 39—15—774
ILB T.J. Edwards (23): 16—4—115
OLB Alex Singleton (26): 10—0—0
ILB Shaun Bradley (23): 0—0—0
ILB Dante Olson (23): 0—0—0
OLB Davion Taylor (22): 0—0—0
Total: 109—35—1,549

The good news is the Eagles rarely use more than two linebackers at a time. They only played 109 snaps with three linebackers last year and 11 snaps with four linebackers. That leaves 914 snaps — 88 percent — with two or fewer linebackers on the field.

But it leaves the Eagles very little veteran depth.

When last year began, the Eagles still had Super Bowl starters Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill in the mix, but they didn’t try to re-sign either one. And they cut ties with both promising L.J. Fort and veteran Zach Brown early in the season.

Bradham is now with the Saints, Grugier-Hill with the Dolphins, Fort with the Ravens and Brown is out of football.

The Eagles did replenish the roster with young linebackers this offseason.

Taylor was a third-round pick out of Colorado — the highest Howie Roseman has selected a linebacker since second-rounder Mychal Kendricks in 2012. Bradley was a fifth-round pick out of Temple via Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly. Olson is undrafted out of Montana.

And Singleton is a former CFL star who was the Calgary Stampeders’ defensive MVP in 2017.

Gerry plays hard and is productive. Edwards showed flashes. Riley had his first offseason learning the defense.

Maybe they can all stay healthy and be productive. Maybe Taylor can contribute off the bat. Maybe one of the other youngsters can find his way onto the field. Maybe Roseman can scrounge somebody decent off the street. 

But with Brown gone, an already thin group is even thinner. 

It’s a precarious situation. And in a season where everybody expects players to come and go all year — if there is a year — the Eagles have a glaring lack of experience at linebacker 34 days before the season is scheduled to begin.

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