June 15, 2024   4 MIN READ

Battle For The Backup

Birds Eyeing Options For Dallas Goedert's Backup


Maybe because of the new offensive scheme ushered in by new coordinator Kellen Moore, Eagles quarterbacks peppered the middle of the field this spring.

The running backs, namely fourth-year pro Kenny Gainwell and rookie Will Shipley, were heavily involved as outlet receivers, snaring the ball on check-downs and turning upfield to churn out extra yards.

But to the observer’s eye, the primary beneficiaries of the short-to-intermediate passing game during the sessions were tight ends.

There was Dallas Goedert, heralded among the top-five players at his position and positioned for a career season under Moore’s influence.

The 29-year-old was on the receiving end of some of quarterback Jalen Hurts’ most notable throws.

Only one instance of miscommunication comes to mind, when Hurts heaved a pass down the right sideline, but it was thrown to Goedert’s wrong shoulder and fell incomplete.

Assuming the mid-range game is still a hallmark of Moore’s reimagined offense, Goedert should eclipse his career-best season of three years ago, when he totaled 830 receiving yards. A 900-yard season appears to be a feasible.

Injuries, of course, could be the obstacle in front of Goedert’s breakthrough season. He’s been sidelined for a combined eight games over the past two seasons.

When Goedert has been hurt, the Eagles have lacked a viable interim solution.

But if the spring sessions are any indication of what training camp could have in store, it revealed third-year tight end Grant Calcaterra’s potential emergence.

“I think Grant’s been having a great spring,” Goedert said recently. “He came ready, he looks smooth. It’s just kind of one of those steps; he’s going into his third year. He hasn’t played a ton of football, but throughout last year and the year before, he gets mixed in here and there.

“And I think this year, without Jack [Stoll] being here, he’s getting more reps on offense, he’s getting more routes. He’s looking really good. It’s something that I hope he continues to grow on. And I hope in camp that he comes back looking just like this, so we can get more two tight ends on the field and have a strong push that way.”

Grant Calcaterra

GETTY IMAGES: Third-year TE Grant Calcaterra could emerge as Dallas Goedert’s top backup, or be off the 53-man roster.

Calcaterra, a 2022 sixth-round pick, has maximized the spring passing camp, breaking free at the top of routes and showcasing hands like a vice grip, reeling in a flurry of short-to-intermediate throws.

Regardless of the quarterback, Calcaterra produced.

But OTAs and minicamps are heavily skewed in favor of receivers like Calcaterra, so context is important.

The true test in separating fact versus fiction comes in late July, when the pads come on and intensity ratchets up.

It might seem presumptuous to project Calcaterra to leap from fringe roster player to top backup, especially since Calcaterra has tallied just 120 receiving yards on nine career receptions in 30 games (three starts).

In the three games that Goedert missed in 2023, Calcaterra, a one-dimensional pass-catcher, logged a combined 25 snaps and yielded zero targets. He was inactive for one of the games.

Likewise, Calcaterra saw only eight targets over Goedert’s five-game absence in 2022. The sample size is small, to be sure, but the data suggests trepidation in Calcaterra undertaking a more prominent role.

But maybe Calcaterra can benefit from increased reps vacated by Stoll’s departure in free agency, which affords him more of an opportunity to establish a rapport with players like Hurts and build confidence.

There’s also an element of urgency that shouldn’t be understated, as it feels as if Calcaterra, entering a critical third season, has reached a crossroads.

Aside from veteran C.J. Uzomah, who currently has the inside track to nail down Goedert’s backup job, Calcaterra will be pushed by Albert Okwuegbunam and E.J. Jenkins – the former, in particular, a big-bodied athlete coming off his first offseason with the Eagles.

Okwuegbunam has the upside and experience to challenge Calcaterra.

Skeptical or not, antennas should be raised on the heels of what head coach Nick Sirianni said when asked about the third receiver role.

Curiously, the first player Sirianni name-dropped is one who has become an afterthought.

Grant Calcaterra has done an unbelievable job,” Sirianni said when asked about a third receiver. “He’s shown toughness – and mental toughness – to get better every single day. He’s a guy that’s in there, you know, I’m pleased with our depth.”

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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