Eagles

Look for Golden Tate to have a bigger role with Eagles vs. Saints

Look for Golden Tate to have a bigger role with Eagles vs. Saints

The Eagles made a huge splash at the trade deadline, bringing in Golden Tate for a third-round pick. 

Then they didn’t play him. 

In his Eagles debut last week, Tate played just 18 snaps (29 percent) against the Cowboys. He had just two catches for 19 yards, his worst output in a game since early in the 2016 season. That’s not good enough. 

Doug Pederson eventually explained they went with more tempo on offense and Tate was more comfortable with the huddle. That wasn’t an answer that explained the misuse away, but at least it was an answer. Pederson said going tempo won’t affect Tate this week, now that he’s been here for three weeks. 

So expect Tate to play more and have a bigger impact this weekend in New Orleans. 

Here was Doug Pederson’s assessment of how much further along Tate is this week: 

He doesn't know it all, because we're not throwing it all at him. But he has a really good handle now going into, like I said, his third week really with us. And really just the amount of practice reps that he gets and seeing it over and over and over again. He has a good grasp of kind of what we're doing and how we're kind of positioning him, each and every week.

While it’s not entirely clear how much Tate will play this week, you can bet he’ll be out there more in New Orleans than he was against the Cowboys. And this is probably the perfect week to make a concerted effort to get Tate involved. 

The 30-year-old has played three career games at the Superdome and has put up big numbers: 21 catches (on 23 targets) for 286 yards and four touchdowns. That means he’s averaging nearly 100 yards per game and over a touchdown in each game in New Orleans. 

And in his career, Tate has had big success overall in domes. He has averaged 67.6 yards per game indoors, compared to 44.0 yards per game outdoors. In 49 dome games, he has 21 touchdowns. In 71 outdoor games, he has 13. 

Of course, those stats don’t mean anything if the Eagles don’t play Tate on Sunday. I think they will. If they don’t, it’s coaching malpractice. He can help an offense that has averaged just 22.0 points per game this season. 

Earlier this week, offensive coordinator Mike Groh was asked at whose expense will Tate’s extended snaps come. 

“I think that's probably to be determined, and it depends on the play,” Groh said. “You know, what the play is that’s called and what we're trying to get done with it. Just trying to put guys in spots where they do things the best. So if we make that determination where it's a good play for Golden, then he'll be in there.”

The obvious answers to that question are Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews. Tate will fit best in the slot — which is where he got most of his reps the first week — which means Agholor will lose time. But it’s also possible the Eagles try to keep Agholor on the field too, perhaps as an outside receiver instead of Matthews. It’s likely both Agholor and Matthews will lose some playing time as Tate gets more. 

But that’s what needs to happen. 

“We brought [Tate] here to play him a lot,” Groh said. 

That should start this Sunday. 

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Darren Sproles can still help Eagles as long as Doug Pederson doesn't get carried away

Darren Sproles can still help Eagles as long as Doug Pederson doesn't get carried away

You probably know the reasons why it didn’t make sense to bring Darren Sproles back like they did on Friday evening. He’s too old. The team needs to get younger. They can’t rely on him to stay healthy. 

How’s this for one reason the Eagles were right to bring him back? 

He can help. 

Yeah, I know Sproles is 36. I know he’s played just nine regular-season games in the last two years. I know he had a minor hamstring injury that turned out to be a not-so-minor hamstring injury last year. 

I also know that the Eagles are better today than they were yesterday. Because as long as Doug Pederson doesn’t get carried way, Sproles can still help the Eagles in 2019. 

That is a key point, though. During his three years as head coach, we’ve seen Pederson at times rely on Sproles a little more than he probably should. If he does that this time around, it might not help. But if the Eagles can settle Sproles into a role where he’s a punt returner and a change-of-pace guy on offense (primarily as a pass-catching threat), this can definitely work. 

Pederson loves Sproles. He hasn’t tried to hide that. At the owners meetings this offseason, when asked about Sproles and the possibility of a return for one more season, Pederson said openly, “I would love to have Darren back.” 

Now that it has happened, it’s up to Pederson to not run his favorite veteran Swiss Army knife into the ground. 

And because the Eagles will enter this season with a former Pro Bowler in Jordan Howard, a second-round pick in Miles Sanders and a Super Bowl hero in Corey Clement also on the roster, it should suppress the temptation to over-play Sproles. 

Sproles will be the Eagles’ punt returner. He can play on third downs. He can be used as a utility-type receiver hybrid on offense. 

I’m thinking somewhere in the range of 8-10 touches max per game is about right.  

Nick Foles got an overwhelming amount of credit for helping the Eagles push their way into the playoffs last season, but Sproles deserves a ton of credit, too. After many had written him off when his severe hamstring injury lingered, Sproles came back in early December and gave the Eagles a spark that helped propel them into the postseason. 

In the last five regular-season games last year, Sproles had 110 rushing yards, 138 receiving yards and three offensive touchdowns. 

The Eagles were 5-1 with him in the regular season (4-1 down the stretch) in 2018 and 6-2 overall. 

And without him, they probably don’t win that Dec. 23 game at home against the Texans. In that one, Sproles became the oldest Eagle ever to have over 100 yards from scrimmage in a game. 

Sproles comes into this season just 162 all-purpose yards behind Tim Brown for fifth in NFL history. If he can stay healthy, he should have no problem easily overtaking Brown in 2019. 

And he might just help the Eagles make another run in the process. 

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Will Zach Ertz be a Hall of Famer?

Will Zach Ertz be a Hall of Famer?

Zach Ertz is the latest in a series of stories looking at the Hall of Fame chances of current or recent Eagles who are still active in the NFL

Friday, July 19: Fletcher Cox
Today: Zach Ertz
Sunday, July 21: DeSean Jackson
Monday, July 22: Jason Kelce
Tuesday, July 23: LeSean McCoy
Wednesday, July 24: Jason Peters
Thursday, July 25: Darren Sproles

Numbers: Has 437 catches for 4,827 yards and 29 touchdowns in his first six seasons.

Postseason numbers: Caught 31 passes for 316 yards and two TDs in six career playoff games, including the game-winning touchdown catch in Super Bowl LII against the Patriots.

Honors: Ertz made his first two Pro Bowls in 2017 and 2018.

Favorite stat: Ertz is the only player in Super Bowl history to catch a fourth-down pass on a game-winning fourth-quarter drive.

Records and rankings 

• Ertz set an NFL record in 2018 with 116 catches, breaking the mark of 110 set in 2012 by Jason Witten.

• Ertz’s 437 receptions are most in NFL history by a tight end in his first six seasons. He broke the record of 434 set from 2010 through 2016 by Jimmy Graham.

• Ertz’s 116 catches broke the Eagles single-season record of 90 set in 2007 by Brian Westbrook.

• Ertz already ranks third in Eagles history in receptions, behind only Harold Carmichael (589) and Pete Retzlaff (452).

• He doesn’t turn 29 until November, but Ertz already ranks 31st in NFL history in career receptions by a tight end. He’s only 153 out of the top 10. At his current rate — 5.8 catches per game since becoming a full-time starter in 2015 — that’s only 26 games away.

Analysis 

Maybe it’s silly to project Ertz as a Hall of Famer before his 29th birthday, but if he can stay healthy and keep stringing together the type of seasons he has been, it’s going to happen.

Since becoming a full-time starter four years ago, Ertz has averaged 86 catches, 914 yards and 5 ½ touchdowns.

If he keeps up that pace for six more years and plays until he’s 34, which most top tight ends are able to do, he’ll have 953 catches, 10,311 yards and 62 TDs after the 2024 season.

Not to mention a game-winning late fourth-quarter TD catch in a Super Bowl.

If he does that, nobody is going to keep him out of Canton.

Verdict: Will be a Hall of Famer.

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