Sunday, January 16, 2022

Eagles anticipate big shake-up in the tight ends room

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Dallas Goedert has blossomed as a regular since taking over from Zach Ertz. The tight end of the fourth year spoke honestly of wanting to be number one on the Philadelphia Eagles’ pre-trade depth chart and showed it. He’s sneaking up on a 1,000-yard season: 830 yards on 56 receptions with four touchdowns.

More importantly, Goedert has remained healthy, which was a major concern when he signed an insane $57 million deal. It worked surprisingly well. He’s missed just two games in 2021 (COVID-19, concussion), except for a healthy scratch in Week 18. The Eagles, however, are dealing with a new problem behind Goedert after Tyree Jackson’s cruciate ligament tear put him on injured reserve.

The Eagles installed rookie Jack Stoll as a backup tight end, with plans to lift veteran Richard Rodgers off the practice team. Noah Togiai remains in the mix after seeing 24 snaps against Dallas last week.

“As for the plan for the tight ends, I think Richard Rodgers has done a good job every time he’s had the opportunity to play. He brings good leadership qualities,” said head coach Nick Sirianni. “He brings great blocking ability not only on the first level but on the second level as well, so he’s going to be the one lifted up and ready to go.”

Rodgers made two catches for 11 yards against Dallas last week while seeing 51% of offensive snaps. Everyone knows his story with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. He’s a real pro with big hands, in his seventh NFL season. And Noah Togiai remains in the mix after seeing 24 snaps in Week 18.

“We also have faith in Noah,” Sirianni said. “Right now it looks like Rich, but we also have faith in Noah.”

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The running backs room has been plagued by injuries throughout the year, including missing six games for Miles Sanders due to various ailments. Injuries were the story of his young career. The Eagles have also defeated Jordan Howard (Neck Stinger) and Boston Scott (COVID-19) in recent weeks. But one man’s absence was another man’s gain and rookie Kenny Gainwell took full advantage of that. He had 12 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown in week 18.

“We have a great group of defenders that we trust all these guys to,” said offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. “And every time these guys get a chance to get up and play ball the way Kenny has a fair amount of reps, he took his opportunity. He’s developing as a young player, learning from the veterans and we love where our backfield is at right now.”

Training camp hero Jason Huntley was another bright spot as an explosive runner and Special teams weapon. He ran 13 times for 51 yards while returning three kicks for 84 yards last week. Will he be activated in the playoffs? That remains to be seen.

“You saw how explosive he is as a player,” Sirianni said. “Unfortunately for him he’s in a very crowded space with a lot of good players who’ve had a lot of good reps and we have a lot of depth there.”

The Eagles four players protected at the practice session earlier this week. They also fired running back Kerryon Johnson from the practice team and promoted Jason Huntley to the active roster. With 72 hours to go before kick-off, Sirianni continues to weigh his options on what to do in the end. The Eagles will play the Tampa Buccaneers in the wild card round at 1 p.m. on Jan. 16

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