If you're looking for one reason the Eagles think they can create favorable matchups in this offense in 2020, look no further than the tight end position. There, the Eagles have two options to drive defenses crazy in annual Pro Bowl selection Zach Ertz and third-year man Dallas Goedert. The two combined for 146 receptions, 1,523 yards, and 11 touchdowns in 2019.
They're back for even more in 2020.
"We can get mismatches on the field no matter what," Goedert said. "If they play base (personnel), it's either going to be a safety and a linebacker on us or if we get both safeties (in coverage), the running back gets a linebacker (in a matchup) and there's nobody deep for DeSean (Jackson, wide receiver), so being able to have us both, if they put in nickel (an extra cornerback), we can run the ball. And then they're short in the run game. There are so many different things that we can do, so many things that both of us bring to the table and we can cause a little bit of nightmares for defensive coordinators."
That's the idea. Cause nightmares. Dreams for the Eagles, nightmares for the defense.
"I think it's going to be a lot of fun, no doubt," Goedert said.
The Eagles employed 12 personnel – one running back, two tight ends – more than 60 percent of the time in 2019, relying on Ertz (88 catches, 916 yards, 6 TDs) and Goedert (58 receptions, 607 yards, 5 TDs) to move the chains when injuries took Jackson and Alshon Jeffery off the field and the Eagles went with Greg Ward, off the practice squad, rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, used more in the blocking game than as a passing target, and practice squad promotions like Robert Davis and Deontay Burnett. It wasn't easy. And it wasn't pretty at times.
But the Eagles learned a lesson in 2019 about reinventing the offense. It's been part of the offense's subtle progression in Doug Pederson's four full seasons as the head coach.
"The fact is, when I first got here, they used the tight ends a lot. Zach was getting a ton of targets, but he was also the first one to put his hand in there to block the defensive end. The more we're able to do, the more they're allowing us to do," Goedert said. "That's an awesome feeling for tight ends."
Goedert spent his offseason in California and maintained his "normal" routine in a very abnormal world. He's a great target for quarterback Carson Wentz with his speed and size (6-5, 256 pounds) and as the Eagles add "a new little wrinkle," as Goedert said, his role will only expand, along with Ertz's responsibilities.
The Eagles want to be variable with the offense and they want to keep defenses off-balance. They want to dictate at the line of scrimmage. They're going to roll in a lot of different personnel groupings, with the idea that both Ertz and Goedert – the latter of whom played 781 snaps last season, 66 percent of the offensive snaps – are going to be heavily involved.
"Whatever they ask, I'm fine with that," Goedert said. "I've said that from Day 1. It's about winning football games. Of course, you'd like to be targeted all the time, but that's not realistic. You just want to do your part."
Goedert's part, in his third season, is to continue improving his game as a rising young player in the NFL. The Eagles are planning on the 1-2 punch at tight end a whole lot this season. It is, in many ways, the definition of the offense. By using two of them at one time, the Eagles double their options and the potency from a tight end position that has evolved in Philadelphia to become the envy of the league. Any way you want to dial it up, Goedert is going to be a huge part of things in the ever-changing offensive structure that is so nuanced and multiple that the real fun will be seeing how it all comes together when the schedule opens in Washington.