Dave Zangaro

Breaking down 6 young Eagles Doug Pederson is impressed with

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Breaking down 6 young Eagles Doug Pederson is impressed with

On Thursday, before the final practice of the long spring, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was asked if there were any players lower on the depth chart who have stood out over the last few weeks. 

Pederson started by mentioning some players who came into the league last year. Eventually, he named six guys. 

Let’s take a look at each of them. 

Rashard Davis
The first name to come out of his mouth. Not bad for a first-year player from James Madison. Davis is 5-foot-9, 175. The receiver also has the ability to return, something we’ve seen him do since he’s been with the Eagles. 

Davis was signed as an undrafted free agent a year ago and spent most of the 2017 season on the practice squad. He was signed to a futures deal after the completion of the season. 

At JMU, Davis was a standout receiver and returner, on his way to being named an FCS All-American. Davis returned four punts for touchdowns and had 42 catches for 530 yards and three more touchdowns as a receiver. 

With the Eagles, he faces an uphill battle to make the roster, but they seem to like his versatility. 

Greg Ward
Pederson mentioned Davis and Ward in the same breath and it’s easy to see why. Both are smallish slot receivers who were a part of the same undrafted class. Ward’s story is slightly different though. At 5-11, 186, Ward was a prolific quarterback at the University of Houston but is making the transition to receiver at the NFL level. 

He was signed as an undrafted player last year and spent the season on the Eagles’ practice squad, at times taking over scout-team QB reps to imitate mobile quarterbacks. 

While at Houston, he proved to be a dual threat. He was a good passer, but his legs made him dangerous. This spring, Ward got some run with the first-team offense and the Eagles seemed to like his trick-play potential. This past week, we saw the offense run some trick plays with him, where he became the passer. On one, he even threw the ball to Nick Foles, sort of like the Philly Special. 

Shelton Gibson 
Last year, Gibson was a fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, but he didn't get to play a ton. He caught just two passes all season and they came in that regular-season finale against the Cowboys. 

But Gibson has looked good this spring (see story). That's a really good sign because he had a terrible spring and terrible summer as a rookie. It was probably in part because he came from a really simple college offense and had to pick up the Eagles' complex scheme. 

This year, he's thinking less and making more plays. 

Rasul Douglas 
It seems a little weird to put Douglas on this list after he was a third-round pick a year ago and then started five games in the Super Bowl season, but he’s buried on the depth chart. 

The thing that hurts Douglas is his body type. He’s strictly an outside cornerback. So while Sidney Jones, De’Vante Bausby and D.J. Killings have gotten first-team reps in the slot, Douglas is planted firmly behind Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby at outside corner. He’s probably behind Jones either way. 

That’s gotta be tough for Douglas, going from starter to being back on the bench. But he’s the perfect example of the depth this team has at the position. Pederson says Douglas has “emerged” this spring. 

Dallas Goedert
It’s no surprise Pederson is bullish on Goedert, whom he said is “going to be a nice fit for us as a tight end.” The rookie from South Dakota State had a great spring. He caught everything and is an athletic specimen. 

There’s a really good chance Goedert can be a monster in the red zone (see story).

Still, a long way to go, and we’ll see what happens when the pads go on, but there’s no reason to think Goedert can’t be a huge contributor as a rookie. 

Aziz Shittu
Probably a name you haven’t heard in a while, but Shittu has stood out as much as any defensive tackle can in non-padded practices. 

Shittu came to the Eagles as an undrafted free agent from Stanford in 2016. But thanks to that stupid college graduation rule he missed all those spring practices. That allowed another undrafted rookie (Destiny Vaeao) to get in front of him and Shittu never recovered. He was brought back to the practice squad in 2016 and then signed a futures contract before last season, but then suffered a knee injury in May and was placed on IR. 

It appears he’s healthy now and is showing some of that burst that made him intriguing to the Eagles in the first place. 

Brian Dawkins got a Super Bowl ring ... and it's perfect

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Brian Dawkins got a Super Bowl ring ... and it's perfect

Just before the Eagles were finally allowed to open their ring boxes during Thursday night’s private event in South Philly, they brought Brian Dawkins on stage. 

Dawkins, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this spring, spoke briefly, but told the Eagles he wasn’t even sure if they realized what they had done. How important this Super Bowl really was for a lot of people, including former players like him. 

As a member of the front office during the Super Bowl season, Brian Dawkins now has a Super Bowl ring. How cool is that? 

And instead of having his last name on the ring like everyone else, Dawkins’ ring actually says “Weapon X.” 

Perfect. 

And just because you probably can’t see it enough, here’s Dawk with a mile-wide smile as he shows off the ring last night. 


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Why Dallas Goedert will be a monster in the red zone

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Why Dallas Goedert will be a monster in the red zone

It’s still really early in his NFL career, but rookie Dallas Goedert has already turned plenty of heads during his first spring with the Eagles. 

The rookie tight end from South Dakota State is big, he’s strong, he uses his body well and he has a knack for making spectacular plays, often in tight windows. 

In other words, this kid has a chance to be dynamic in the red zone. 

This season. 

“If you’re tall and have long arms and can catch the ball, that’s always a good thing in the red zone,” Eagles tight ends coach Justin Peelle said with a smile earlier this week. 

Let’s take a second to think about it. Goedert, the 49th pick in the draft, is already the Eagles’ No. 2 tight end, and we know how much Doug Pederson likes to use two-tight end sets. So he’s going to be on the field a lot, especially in the red zone. 

Goedert is 6-foot-5 and weighs 256 pounds. But more importantly, he knows how to use that size. He also has the ability to catch the ball. His college position coach, after the draft, gushed over Goedert’s play-making ability (see story).

It’s not hard to see why. 

“Catching the ball is one of the reasons we drafted him,” Peelle said. “He’s got phenomenal hands, he’s got great body control. Yes, that is obviously a strength of his. He’s made a couple catches out here. Once we get into live games, put the pads on, where the defense is (facing him) I wouldn’t expect that to change. He’s always had good hand-eye coordination.”

The other part of this is that Goedert is going to have the opportunity. He’s going to see a lot of 1-on-1 coverage against linebackers in the red zone and they’re not going to be able to cover him. 

Think about this: When the Eagles are in the red zone, they have Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor and one of their dynamic running backs. Any and all of those players are going to warrant extra attention. That should be huge for Goedert and will allow him to vulture some touchdowns. 

This obviously isn’t great news for fantasy football owners. Then again, the Eagles simply don’t make fantasy football easy. They’re too balanced. But Goedert might be worth a mid- to late-round pick. Don’t expect double digits, but he should pull in some touchdowns. 

So what’s realistic? 

Well, the most touchdown catches ever for a rookie tight end was Mike Ditka’s 12 back in 1961. More recently, Rob Gronkowski had 10 as a rookie in 2010. 

In the last 10 years, Gronk led the way for rookie tight ends with 10 touchdown catches, followed by Hunter Henry with 8, Evan Engram and O.J. Howard with 6, John Carlson with 5 and four players (Ertz, Martellus Bennett, Jermaine Gresham, David Njoku) with 4. 

After catching 18 touchdowns in his last two college seasons — at a lower level of competition but also as the No. 1 target — Goedert should be able to get around five or six touchdowns as a rookie. If he does, that would be huge. 

“He detailed the routes, he had great hands,” head coach Doug Peterson said. “He's a big target, made some plays in the red zone last week [and] making some plays this week.” 

Now, we’ll see if he can make them when the games come. It’s still really early, but I have a suspicion he will. 

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