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The sky’s the limit for Dallas Goedert in 2022

Dallas Goedert

Photo Credit by John McMullen/JAKIB Sports

Stateside Front Logo Simple 1200x1200It’s good to set lofty goals. To paraphrase the late Norman Vincent Peale, if you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

Before he ever caught an NFL pass, former Eagles tight end Zach Ertz would look you straight in the eye and tell you that his goal was to be the best tight end on the planet.

He never quite made it to No. 1, but he’s a three-time Pro Bowler with 635 career catches, who set the single-season record for receptions by a tight end in 2018 (116).

Ertz was traded to the Arizona Cardinals last October. But his successor as the Eagles’ TE1, Dallas Goedert, also has some lofty goals, starting with a 200-target season.

“I want to do whatever the team needs me to do to win,’’ said Goedert, who caught 56 passes last year and had the second best yards-per-catch average (14.8) in the league among tight ends.

“Whether that’s catching the ball, whether that’s blocking, I’m all in. Like I say all the time, 200 targets, that would be incredible. But that might not happen.

“Whenever my number is called, I expect myself to make the play. [I expect to] go out there and win on every route, win on every block. And just keep putting the offense in the best position possible.’’

Two hundred targets probably is a bit ambitious, particularly on a team that has the plethora of pass-catching weapons the Eagles have.

Only three players in history have been targeted 200 times in a season – Marvin Harrison (205 in 2002), Calvin Johnson (204 in 2012) and Julio Jones (203 in 2015), and two of those three – Harrison and Johnson – have busts in Canton.

That said, as he enters his fifth pro season, Goedert has a chance to do what Ertz never could: become the best tight end in the NFL.

Last year, in an offense that averaged 38.6 rushing attempts per game in the last 10 games, Goedert still managed to finish sixth among tight ends in receiving yards (830) and first-down receptions (42), second in yards per catch (14.8) and fifth among tight ends in average yards after the catch (6.8).

Goedert also happens to be one of the best blocking tight ends in the league. He had the second best run-blocking rating among tight ends in both 2019 (79.9) and 2020 (81.0), according to Pro Football Focus. He was ranked 10th last year (65.5), but fifth among tight ends with at least 25 catches.

“I’ve always liked Dallas Goedert,’’ said Hall of Fame quarterback and ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Troy Aikman. “Because of Zach Ertz, he probably wasn’t utilized like he could’ve been. But I like what he means to a young quarterback like Jalen Hurts. I think it’s a really good fit.’’

The Eagles lucked out on Goedert’s prowess as a run-blocker. He played in a spread offense at South Dakota State and wasn’t asked to block much. They drafted him because of his pass-catching ability. They had no idea how well he’d be able to run-block at the next level. But when he got to Philadelphia, he took to inline blocking like a duck to water.

Many of the league’s top tight ends are, at best, functional blockers. The best you can hope for is that they get in a defender’s way long enough to slow him down and then lose with dignity. But Goedert is the real thing.

“That’s what special about him,’’ said Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni. “He’s not a receiving tight end and he’s not a blocking tight end. He can do both.

“There aren’t a lot of guys like that who are really exceptional at being able to create mismatches in the passing game and able to get the job done in the run game.’’

The Eagles signed Goedert to a four-year, $57 million contract extension last November, a month after trading Ertz to the Cardinals. His $14.2 million-a-year deal has the third highest yearly average among tight ends, behind only the 49ers’ George Kittle ($15.0M) and the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce ($14.3M). The only two tight ends who received more guaranteed money than Goedert ($35M) were Kittle ($40M) and the Ravens’ Mark Andrews ($37.6M).

It’s going to be interesting to see how Goedert’s role in the Eagles’ passing game will be affected by the offseason acquisition of wide receiver A.J. Brown. The Eagles almost certainly will throw the ball more this year than they did in the final 10 games last year.

But it remains to be seen who is going to get the lion’s share of the targets – Brown and DeVonta Smith on the outside or Goedert in the middle.

“We haven’t had anybody gameplan against us yet,’’ Goedert said. “So, it’s hard to know how they’re going to try and defend us. But any time you have two No. 1 receivers on the outside, it’s going to open up everything in the middle.

“I’m hoping to work the middle. Go against linebackers and just find different ways to get open. I expect big things from all three of us. Four when you include (No. 3 wide receiver) Quez (Watkins). It’s going to be a lot of fun.’’

Aikman agrees.

“I’ve always believed that a receiving corps is only as good as their third receiver,’’ he said. “Because it’s all about matchups.

“A tight end like Goedert who can beat people one-on-one is really important. To have someone who can work the middle of the field, those guys are security blankets for any quarterback, but especially a young one.’’

Two areas that Hurts needs to specifically improve in this season are on third down and in the red zone. Goedert could be a big part of that improvement.

Last year, just 12 of Goedert’s 56 receptions were on third down, though he converted all 12 into first downs. He finished 11th among tight ends in third-down catches.

He wasn’t much of a factor in the red zone, catching just six passes, only two for touchdowns. Twenty-three tight ends had more red-zone TD receptions than Goedert.

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