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Post-Snap Read: Tight ends remain a vital part of the offense

TE Zach Ertz

The Kansas City Chiefs have played in the Super Bowl for each of the past two seasons, and the Eagles' offense went blow for blow with them for most of Sunday's game. Obviously, it resulted in a disappointing loss, but I thought there were some impressive takeaways from this matchup. The offense moved the ball all game long against the Chiefs, and they did so in a variety of ways.

DeVonta Smith had his first 100-yard game in the NFL. The screen game was huge. Jalen Hurts found his running backs underneath on checkdowns. The coaching staff scripted well-designed throws, and Hurts made some big-time passes as well.

However, one theme that has been consistent going back to Week 1 is that the tight ends are a big part of the pass game. Eagles fans (and fantasy football fans) were interested to see if both Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert could both be featured parts of this offense, and through the first month it turns out to be the case.

Through four games, both Ertz and Goedert have played a ton of snaps (179 for Goedert, 145 for Ertz). Both rank in the top four in terms of target share in the pass game (Ertz has been targeted 19 times, Goedert 18), falling behind only Smith (33) and Jalen Reagor (20) in the pecking order from a pure volume standpoint.

Both players are achieving this production without the Eagles living in 12 personnel (two-tight end sets). The Eagles have consistently ranked at or near the top of the league in those looks since Goedert arrived in 2018, but through four games they rank 23rd in the NFL with just 21.5% of their snaps coming in 12 personnel.

When targeting tight ends, Hurts is 29-for-37 for 357 yards and three touchdowns (per Pro Football Focus). Let's take a step back though and look at Hurts' production when targeting these two guys when compared to the rest of the league.

As of Monday morning, only four quarterbacks in the NFL have thrown more passes in the direction of their tight ends than Hurts. Patrick Mahomes and Derek Carr (who plays on Monday night) have thrown 44, while Matt Ryan and Mac Jones have thrown 41 and 39, respectively. Only one (Mahomes) has thrown for more yardage to his tight ends (again, Carr has yet to play his fourth game).

When combing through this data, however, there are two numbers that stand out:

• 24 quarterbacks in the NFL have attempted at least 20 passes to the tight end position. No one averages more than Hurts' 9.7 yards per attempt.

• Hurts is the only one of the seven quarterbacks who has attempted at least 37 passes to the position and not have what PFF describes as a "Turnover-worthy Play."

What do those two numbers mean to me? Not only are the Eagles creating bigger chunk plays than the rest of the NFL with both Ertz and Goedert, but Hurts is not putting the ball in harm's way while doing it. There are a lot of reasons for both of those things, and we'll go to the film to briefly explain why, looking just at clips from Sunday's loss.

On these Ertz catches, you see two examples of great gameplanning and design from the coaching staff. On the first one, you get a well-designed "slide" route from Ertz where he comes from the opposite side of the field, works opposite the play fake, and sneaks underneath the defense where he is uninhibited by any linebackers or safeties, and catches an easy throw from Hurts in the flat for a nice catch-and-run. Hurts doesn't have to make much of a decision on this play. He just has to roll right, hit Ertz accurately on the run, and let Ertz do the rest for the first down.

On the second play, the Eagles have a good idea of what the coverage will be pre-snap, because they dial up the ideal "beater" for that scheme. The Chiefs disguised the play beforehand too! But Hurts drops back expecting Cover 2, confirms it when he gets the ball, and puts this on the money to Ertz along the sideline. Great job gameplanning by the coaches and outstanding execution from everyone on the field for the first down.

There are some similar things from Goedert here, right? You get a well-defined throw on the play-action pass down the pipe early in the game. That's a throw from Hurts that the coaches know should be open based off the design of the play.

On the same drive, Hurts has faith in Goedert winning on this route vs. man coverage. And he does! Goedert runs an outstanding route, working inside vertically before snapping back towards the corner, and attacking the ball for six points. Goedert showed off his route-running chops later with the first down over the middle of the field, settling into the soft spot of the coverage and creating an easier throw for Hurts (credit Hurts, as well, for stepping up in a muddy pocket and delivering the ball from a crowd).

The crazy part about the production from the tight ends in this game? They could have stuffed the stat sheet even more! The Eagles had three touchdowns come off the board due to penalties against the Chiefs, and two of them went to their two star tight ends.

This is a team that is working towards putting together a complete game like they did back in Week 1 in Atlanta. The mistakes, in critical situations, have been killer for this team on both sides of the ball. That said, there are a lot of really impressive things. On the offensive side alone, the involvement of young players like Smith and Kenny Gainwell along with the proven depth along the offensive line are real positives to take away from Sunday.

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