Second-Year TE Sees Increased Snaps Vs Giants
It was supposed to be a running play, which likely would have yielded favorable returns for the Philadelphia Eagles, at least enough to pick up a manageable 3rd-and-3 from the New York Giants 17-yard-line against a reeling defense.
Instead, an erratic snap ricocheted off the right hand of Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, tumbling helplessly over his right shoulder.
Hurts, smoothly collecting the loose ball at the 29, briefly shimmied to his left to buy time and rifled a pass to tight end Grant Calcaterra, who was working back to the football.
Upon securing his first reception of the season, Calcaterra alertly spun inside to get vertical and extend the once-broken play.
Calm and composed, Hurts had essentially pulled a rabbit out of his hat, parlaying a third-and-forever for most quarterbacks into an improbable 9-yard pickup, advancing the ball to New York’s 8.
The connection – and conversion – ignited the home crowd, but it was the recipient of Hurts’ pass who was almost as memorable as the uncanny sequence itself.
Calcaterra, who logged 14 snaps on Christmas, entered with just 81 offensive snaps over 12 games.
There were two games in which the second-year tight end failed to play a single offensive snap and another in which he mustered just one.
Against the Giants, Calcaterra reeled in both targets – his first two of the season – for 21 yards.
Could Calcaterra’s sudden inclusion have been part of the remedy for the team’s offensive stagnancy and search for another contributor – or just circumstantial?
“I think I’ve just kinda been banged up,” Calcaterra said. “After the Miami game – I forget what was after that – I think I had a couple ankle sprains. So, I think that definitely set me back a little bit. But I’ve been working hard in practice, and I guess it’s paying off a little bit.”
Calcaterra, the team’s 2022 sixth-round pick, totaled just 81 yards on five receptions as a rookie, but the 6-foot-4, 240-pound pass-catcher was widely expected to carve out a complementary role as a sophomore, especially on an offense in need of optionality outside of A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert.
While it was never feasible for Calcaterra to leap-frog third-year pro Jack Stoll – the team’s standout blocker – he seemingly had a pathway to more targets for a player equipped with a skill-set to serve as a moveable piece who can draw mismatches.
Calcaterra has instead become a rock-steady contributor on coordinator Michael Clay’s resurgent special teams unit, notching 129 snaps.
A finesse, soft-handed pass-catcher regarded for his pass-catching prowess coming out of SMU, Calcaterra was viewed as a talented – albeit one-dimensional – tight end who could contribute situationally behind Dallas Goedert and Stoll.
To factor more prominently into the offense would require development as a blocker, an area Calcaterra quickly pointed to when asked about his improvement.
“Probably run-blocking,” he said. ” I didn’t do that at all in college, so that was definitely an area of improvement once I got to the NFL.”
How’d he do it?
“Just repetition,” he said. “Getting reps in practice, getting reps on the side with my coaches and watching tape.”
Eight different pass catchers generated targets against the Giants – including Calcaterra and wide receiver Britain Covey, who each recorded their first receptions of the season – a notable development for a unit solely built around three players.
Working someone like Calcaterra into the mix consistently, even for a handful of snaps, can force defenses to account for more players and create unique matchups, given his body type, ability to work the seams, and function in space.
The Eagles have the do-it-all tight end atop the depth chart in Goedert, along with the mauler in Stoll and a change-up in Calcaterra, who can threaten the short-to-intermediate levels of the field whether from an inline alignment or detached.
But Calcaterra is perfectly fine with whatever role he’s given, as long as it benefits the team.
“You know, Jack [Stoll] and I go out there a lot of times and do our thing in the run game,” he said, “whether that’s run the ball or play action.
“In college, I spent most of my time as a receiving tight end. But really, wherever they need me; I do a little bit of everything on offense and I play all special teams. I try to do whatever I can to help the team.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.