The Eagles have two of the top-10 tight ends in the NFL.
What they don’t have is an offense that generally uses two tight ends.
All of which adds up to one of the most intriguing questions facing Nick Sirianni and the Eagles this fall:
How do you keep both Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert happy?
Over the past two years, even with a disappointing 2020 season, Ertz has averaged 48.1 yards per game, sixth-most in the NFL among tight ends (minimum 50 catches), and Goedert is at 43.5 yards per game, ninth-most.
The Eagles are the only NFL team with two tight ends who’ve averaged 30 yards over the last two years.
When Doug Pederson was the head coach and play caller, it made sense to have weapons like Ertz and Goedert (or Brent Celek and Ertz in 2017). Especially when you don't have elite wide receivers.
The Eagles last year led the NFL, running 12 personnel — two tight ends, two WRs, one back — some 35 percent of the time.
How much 12 will Sirianni run? He’s not saying, but everything points to that figure dropping significantly.
In training camp, Sirianni ran a ton of three wides, with the speedy young trio of DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins as the centerpiece of the offense. And the Colts, the team Sirianni came from, ran 12 personnel 21 percent of the time last year, 15th-most in the league. The league average was 20 percent.
What adds a dimension of drama to all this is that Goedert and Ertz are both due to become unrestricted free agents this offseason, and for skill players, the more catches, yards and touchdowns you get, the more money you get.
Off the field, Ertz and Goedert are very close. But they find themselves in a position where their futures depend on how many snaps they get.
And those snaps will likely be at the expense of each other.
Goedert took the high road Monday and said he’s not concerned about his stats or how many snaps he and Ertz will get, that the Eagles are simply a better team with two big-time tight ends, and that’s all that matters.
“Honestly, I feel like it gives more problems to the defense than it does to myself,” he said. “All I’ve ever really known is playing with Zach. To have two of the top tight ends in the league I think is beneficial for both of us. I think we’ll both be utilized. I’m just excited to play with him for another year.”
There’s no way both Ertz and Goedert will be back next year, and there’s a chance both will be gone. Such is NFL economics.
Right now, the only tight ends under contract beyond this fall are Tyree Jackson, a converted college quarterback, and Jack Stoll, an undrafted rookie.
How will Sirianni navigate through this?
If Smith, Reagor and Watkins and Miles Sanders or Kenny Gainwell are on the field, you can’t play two tight ends.
“The better your players are, the harder you're going to be to defend,” Sirianni said Monday. “We feel like we’ve got a lot of different groupings that we can be good in. We have the 12 personnel, we have 11 personnel (one RB, one TE, three WRs), we have some other personnels — 21 personnel (two RBs, one TE, two WRs), 13 personnel (one RB, three TEs, one WR) — there’s different things we can do personnel-wise because we have good players on this roster.”
Goedert has 137 catches for 1,465 yards and 12 touchdowns in 42 games over the last three years. Ertz, who split time with Brent Celek in his first five seasons, has 240 for 2,414 and 15 over the same three-year period.
That’s 377 catches for 3,879 yards and 27 TDs for the Eagles’ two tight ends since Goedert’s rookie year.
“I think if we’re winning games, ultimately I don’t think anybody’s going to be too concerned if they’ve got 5 catches, 10 catches, whatever it is,” Goedert said.
“It’s kind of a losers’ mindset when people start worrying about that. I think if we can go out there and handle business and just keep winning, everything will sort itself out and I think everybody on the team is a team player and whatever’s best for the team I think everyone’s ready to do.”