Eras end. That's just the way it is in the NFL. Chad Lewis was the tight end around here in the early 2000s, replaced by L.J. Smith. Then along came Brent Celek, who manned the position as a starter until Zach Ertz matured and took over the reins. Ertz was traded last week to Arizona, so now it's Dallas Goedert's turn to be the starter, something he's been working toward since the Eagles selected him in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Starting Sunday, Dallas Goedert steps up as a full-time starter for the first time in his career.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity in front of me and making the most of it," said Goedert on Friday, a day after he was cleared from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and took part in his first practice since before the team's win in Carolina.
General Manager Howie Roseman let Goedert know about the Ertz trade and had a special message for Goedert as the Eagles turn the position over to a player they think has all the skills to be a top-flight tight end – great receiving skills, big-play ability after the catch, a solid blocker, and a matchup advantage for the Eagles.
"He just said, 'Really excited for you. I'm excited for you to be the guy, the one tight end who is in there all the time, the three-down tight end that I think I can be.' Really excited for me," said Goedert, who said he felt sore and tired and very, very bored during his time away from the team. "I'm stepping into a little bit more of a leadership role in the tight end room and in the locker room as a whole. I've always been waiting for this. I want to be able to play every play. I want to be a three-down tight end."
Goedert, in the final year of his rookie contract, and Ertz split reps in the last three-plus seasons and were extremely productive as a duo. Individually, Goedert's numbers were healthy in 2018 and 2019 when he caught 33 and 58 passes, playing 48 and 66 percent of the offensive snaps, respectively. Last season, Goedert played in 11 games, with nine starts, and caught 46 passes for 524 yards and three touchdowns. In five games this season, Goedert has 15 receptions for 216 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
He is a big target who is athletic and who fights for everything. The Eagles are ready to see him in a full-time starting role and Goedert is eager to respond positively.
"I think we know what we have in Dallas Goedert," Roseman said last week when the team announced the trade of Ertz. "Obviously, when we talk about Zach and how good of a player he is and how great of a player, really, he's been. To do this, you have to have a confidence level in the guys behind him. And so, we have expectations of Dallas. That was kind of the conversation this morning about what we expect from him. We've seen it, but he's never really had the opportunity to go out there and just be the guy and play 80 percent. ... We have high expectations. This isn't something, like, we have to see a certain number of things before we know. I think we know in Dallas who he is, but at the same time, he's got to take that, and he's got to take that baton and run with it."
The Eagles also want to see what they have behind Goedert with an interesting mix of younger players and an older one who has been around for some time here. Rookie Jack Stoll is the No. 2 tight end for Sunday's game at the Raiders, and young prospect Tyree Jackson – who transitioned from quarterback at the University of Buffalo to tight end here and wowed observers in Training Camp – is on Injured Reserve recovering from a back injury suffered in the summer and returned to the practice field this week as his 21-day window to the return to the 53-man roster opened.
Second-year man Noah Togiai is on the practice squad along with veteran Richard Rodgers, who is able to step right in and help the team week to week. But, for now, Goedert is the centerpiece of the new era at tight end.
"For me, it will be easier to get into the flow of the game, stay in the flow of the game, and I'll just have more plays," Goedert said. "Even plays that aren't designed for me, I can set up other plays that might be coming along. This is something I've been waiting for and I'm going to take advantage of my chances."