Is Dallas Goedert among NFL’s top tight ends? Eagles certainly think so

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The list of the best tight ends in the NFL is usually short. It often starts and ends with Travis Kelce. For a time, George Kittle of San Francisco was also there.

In Philadelphia, however, the Eagles believe one more name needs to be added to that list.

“You know, I thought I should be mentioned in this breath since I was a rookie,” Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert said this week. “But that’s the confidence in myself that I have.”

It’s not just their own confidence, but their teammates and coaches believe as well. And they believe he was on track to prove it to everyone this season before suffering a broken shoulder in Week 10. Goedert was even on the verge of joining Eagles wide receivers AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith in the 1,000 yard club before being forced. losing five games at the end of the season.

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His final numbers were still good — 55 catches, 702 yards, three touchdowns in 12 games — but they don’t quite tell the story of how much Goedert meant to the Eagles, or why he could be the difference-maker for them . Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game (3 p.m. ET on FOX).

The Eagles have known about Goedert’s potential for some time. The former walk-on at South Dakota State was considered by some to be the best pass-catching tight end in the 2018 draft, even though he played at an FCS school. The Eagles traded up in the second round to get him, one pick ahead of the Dallas Cowboys, who were on the verge of losing tight end Jason Witten in their first draft, even though they already had tight end Zach Ertz.

But they didn’t see Goedert as a second tight end, the guy who usually sticks around to block or run trick routes. They saw him as another weapon, another dangerous target for then-quarterback Carson Wentz.

That’s how Goedert has always seen himself, too, as a weapon in the passing game. He takes it so seriously that when he studies film of other players, he doesn’t usually see other tight ends. He said he studies wide receivers like the Chargers’ Keenan Allen and Tampa’s Julio Jones so he can try to mimic their moves. And he said he also learns a lot in practice while watching Brown and Smith.

“A lot of the time we would be looking at the tight ends, but the wide receivers seem a little more fluid, a little better in the route,” Goedert said. “I feel like that benefits me because ultimately that’s what I want to do. When I’m running routes I want to look like a receiver and when I’m blocking I want to block like an O-lineman. Watching receivers is more beneficial to me just because his only job is to run routes.”

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It has worked because he is one of the best tight ends in the NFL, possibly right behind Kelce. He may never match Kelce’s stats — 110 catches, 1,338 yards, 12 touchdowns this season — because Kelce is the focal point of Kansas City’s offense, while Goedert is the third option in a passing game. Philadelphia offense that prefers to run.

But the Eagles understand they can go to Goedert whenever they want, any way.

“He’s a special player,” Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said earlier this season. “You can do almost anything you want with Dallas. Obviously, we throw him screens, we throw him verticals, we throw him intermediate routes. We do a lot with him because he’s a special player.”

Defenses know it, too, which creates all kinds of problems, especially when quarterback Jalen Hurts is out of the pocket. Defenders can’t leave Goedert to chase Hurts, which opens running lanes for the quarterback. At 6-5, 256, Goedert is also too big and strong for most safeties and corners, and too quick to be covered by a linebacker, especially if he gets downfield.

“You don’t have to throw the ball downfield for it to create a play, a big play,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “You don’t have to throw him the ball down the field 30 yards. You could throw it to him at the line of scrimmage, 5 yards, 15 yards, and he’s going to be able to make a big play.”

That’s what Kelce does, time and time again. It’s what Kittle has done consistently throughout his career. It’s what everyone expects from a growing list of dangerous receiving tight ends, including Minnesota’s TJ Hockenson and Baltimore’s Mark Andrews.

Goedert and Kittle are “good friends,” the Eagles tight end said. They train together in the offseason at Tight End University camp in Nashville, and text and talk during the regular season. Goedert has come to admire Kittle’s toughness and “mentality” and the way he plays “super physical” every time he touches the ball.

“He comes out and he’s not going to let anybody beat you,” Goedert said. “He’s going to go full speed through your face. Marshawn (Lynch) probably said it best: People can’t take it over and over again. You keep going through somebody’s face, eventually they’re going to give up. George does great job on that.”

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Goedert is also doing very well, although he has yet to achieve national recognition. He probably will soon. He sure could if he has a big game on Sunday.

For now, though, he said he’s not bitter when he’s not mentioned with Kelce or Kittle. He knows how good it is.

And he knows the Eagles know it too.

“It doesn’t bother me whether people think so or not,” Goedert said. “I don’t really worry too much about other people’s thoughts. Obviously, the people in this building think very highly of me, and at the end of the day, that’s who I’m playing for. That’s what I really care about.”

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him on Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.

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