The Tyree Jackson experiment has gone from wild, longshot pipe dream to a realistic project, and Tyree Jackson helped move it one big step forward in the Eagles’ preseason opener.
Jackson, the 23-year-old QB-turned-TE, caught two passes for 32 yards in his first game ever at any level as a tight end and had a third catch for nine yards negated by a penalty.
He ran good routes, caught the football, played tough and physical after the catch and held his own blocking.
All of which is pretty remarkable considering he never played tight end before in his life.
“It was fun,” Jackson said after practice Saturday. “Anytime you get a chance to go out there and play football you’ve got to enjoy it and cherish it. It was definitely new, but it was awesome.”
Jackson isn’t technically a rookie because he spent 2019 training camp with the Bills (as a quarterback) and spent some time in the XFL as well.
But as a tight end, he’s definitely a rookie.
Jackson decided in November to make the switch from quarterback to tight end, and here he is nine months later catching passes from Joe Flacco in a preseason game against the Steelers at the Linc.
And looking comfortable doing it.
Flacco and Jackson have connected repeatedly at practice over the last couple weeks and that continued Thursday night, when the former Super Bowl MVP hit Jackson for completions of 13 and 19 yards on a second-quarter field goal drive.
Jackson seemed unimpressed at what he achieved Thursday night. He's not interested in patting himself on the back for a couple preseason receptions.
“We’ve been running those plays all through training camp, and it was fun to finally do it in live action, but there’s so much more work to be done and so much more improvement that can be done,” he said. “I just do whatever our coaches tell us and get to the spot where they draw the play up, and the quarterbacks get it to the right place every time.”
Flacco loves throwing to Jackson, and why not? He’s 6-7, runs good routes and catches the football.
“It’s not like you’re looking all over and then, ‘Oh, there he is,’” Flacco said Saturday. “He’s a big guy, he’s a huge target, he’s really long, he runs really well, he has a really good feel for how to find the open window and get his eyes to the quarterback, so he does have a lot of those natural things, it’s just getting used to playing the position and making some mistakes at full speed and getting better because of it.”
If Jackson ever catches a pass in a regular-season game, he’ll be the tallest Eagle with a reception since 6-8 Harold Carmichael, who went into the Hall of Fame last weekend.
The Eagles have had three 6-7 tight ends – Dave Lince in 1966 and 1967, Clark Hoss in 1972 and Evan Moore in 2012. None ever caught a pass.
Future Hall of Famer Jimmy Graham is obviously the prototype for tall tight ends, with over 8,000 yards in his 11 seasons so far.
“I’ve watched a lot of Jimmy Graham, a lot of bigger tight ends, just watching those guys and taking little things that I can learn from,” Jackson said. “But I’m fortunate to have two superstar tight ends in my room with Dallas (Goedert) and Zach Ertz, so I get the privilege of watching them in practice every day and and learning from them.”
This experiment is getting close to the point where it’s not an experiment anymore.
Jackson can play. That’s been clear to anybody watching practice, and it was clear to everybody watching Thursday night.
“Every day you just have to take it day by day but I do feel comfortable,” he said. “But football’s so humbling you could feel comfortable one day and the next day you’ve got to install plays and you’ve got to work on this or a new technique that the defensive end might play. So I’m just working at it day by day and trying to get better.”
Jackson played 20 snaps Thursday night and a couple on special teams, which is also new to him.
It’s never too early to start thinking about the roster. If Ertz is here, there’ll be one spot for a tight end after Ertz and Goedert, and if Ertz is gone, there’ll be two.
Richard Rodgers is a solid pro and performed at a high level last year when Ertz was hurt.
But with each passing day, it gets harder and harder to imagine the Eagles not keeping Jackson on the 53. He’s come so far so fast it’s intriguing to imagine where he’ll be later this fall or in a year or two.
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