You Don’t Know Jack – But You Should
Obscure Birds Backup TE Embraces Super Role Doing Dirty Work
PHOENIX – Despite operating in relative anonymity on gameday, Jack Stoll has a tendency of standing out amongst the crowd.
The mullet-sporting second-year tight end, seemingly isolated on his own island, banished to a back table inside the Hyatt Regency’s Komatke Ballroom, looked on as teammate Britain Covey was being interviewed at a neighboring station.
With the exception of the occasional exchange with tablemate Grant Calcaterra, Stoll sat idly as the minutes ticked away during the Eagles’ final media availability before Super Bowl LVII.
As a seldom-utilized skill player buried behind one of the elite at the position, Dallas Goedert, Stoll’s neglect became old hat over the past two seasons.
While innocuous in the public eye, the average day for Stoll begins early – he typically arrives at the NovaCare Complex 45 minutes before meetings commence – before running through his morning routine that includes stretching and breakfast with teammates.
After the numerous meetings, Stoll would have lunch, practice, and prioritize recovery before ultimately clocking out for the day and heading home to review film and hone in on that week’s gameplan.
As a result of this process, Stoll has made significant progress in his second season, despite its redundant nature, eventually unlocking the mental aspect of the game that hindered his effectiveness as a rookie.
“I think one of the bigger things – it comes with being comfortable in the offense – is understanding my assignment,” Stoll said on Thursday. “Your rookie year, you come in, and in general, you understand ‘Do this, do that,’ but you don’t understand why. I think I’ve tried to understand why a lot better this year. And I think once we got that understanding, it allows you to play free out there. You’re not thinking about, ‘Oh, I just gotta do X, Y, or Z.’ You understand the whole picture and just let your instincts fly. So, I think that’s a huge part that’s improved this year.”
Known primarily for his selfless blocking and tenacious toughness that’s aided many of the team’s explosive plays, the blocking-centric Stoll has quietly come into his own as a pass-catcher in his second season, corralling 11 of his 14 targets for 123 yards.
Incremental as those improvements may seem in the public eye, Stoll’s distinct development was hardly lost on his position coach.
“I think Jack came in obviously as a rookie, a guy that was an undrafted guy – a lot of guys didn’t know a lot about him when he came in – his work ethic and the way he goes about things obviously flashed early in terms of how he handles himself,” said tight ends coach Jason Michael. “But I think just the mental part of coming in as a rookie and being able to grasp the system – early on, it was Jack, Dallas and Zach [Ertz] was still here – and after Zach moved onto Arizona [Jack] filled a little bit more of that role. And I think what Jack’s been able to do, is the dirty work part of things, to be able to free Dallas up to where he doesn’t have to do some of those things that he had to do in the past.
“I just think as you look at the tight end room, no matter where you are, you’re trying to find guys with different roles. It’s a position that’s evolved over the years, especially more late. There’s so many different types; you got the Y blocking type, you got the receiver, and then you got all those guys in between. I always say tight end is the second hardest position to play because you’re playing offensive line, you’re playing running back, you’re playing wide receiver. You’re doing it in a right-handed stance, left-handed stance, movin’ all around. So, the intelligence has gotta be there, to be able to play, and adapt and play different roles and different positions. I think it just speaks a lot of Jack, how he’s been able to handle that mentally, and then the physical part of being able to do it.”
The aforementioned Goedert has also served as a valuable resource and mentor for Stoll. And when Goedert landed on injured reserve following the loss to Washington on Nov. 14, Stoll, who saw his snap share increase in the interim, was prepared to answer the bell.
“He’s taken me under his wing since day one,” Stoll said. “He’s been an unbelievable guy. Since I stepped in the building, he makes me feel like you’re family. Even when I’m out there on the practice field, he’ll pull me aside and say, ‘Hey, try this, do this.’ And he’ll get us together off the field. He’s done an unbelievable job. He’s been a great leader in the tight end room. I have nothing but great things to say about him.”
In the five starts in Goedert’s absence, Stoll yielded seven receptions for 74 yards, averaging nearly 77 percent of the snaps. Stoll enjoyed a career afternoon in the team’s 35-10 rout over the Tennessee Titans, logging three receptions for 41 yards, and his unrelenting blocking prowess contributed to a unprecedented three-game stretch in which the team rolled up 683 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns on 104 carries.
“I will say this,” Michael said. “I have one of the best groups in the world, in terms of all of them. These guys get along. When Dallas was down for a couple of games, there was no one cheering for Jack and for Grant to play well more than Dallas was. But it’s a close-knit group. We like to have fun in a good way, but they’re always goofing off about something and riding each other about something. But every serious whenever they have to be. Jack’s very detailed in what he does in terms of about how he goes about his preparation and things. And you can tell in the meeting room. It’s a good group of guys; they like to have fun, they work hard, they compete against each other, and they make each other better.
As has been the case throughout this Super Bowl run, when someone has gone down, the next player has ably filled the void. No one will confuse Stoll with the ultra-dynamic Goedert, and the Nebraska product will never be a focal point in the Eagles’ passing game, but Stoll has embraced his role as the hard-nosed, gritty blocking specialist all the same. And it’s been the selflessness from contributing pieces like Stoll and wide receiver Zach Pascal that enhance the offense’s functionality.
“It’s different,” Stoll said. “But for me, I love it. Playing ball has been something I’ve always wanted to do. Like I’ve always said, ‘Just keep cleats on my feet as long as I can,’ has been the goal. That’s kind of what it’s about, it’s just going out there and doing the jobs that some people don’t want to do.”
“I think everyone in this game is a little crazy, especially those guys. You got a little somethin’ in ya. But it’s just going out there and doing it for those guys. And when you get this tight as a team like we have this year, you got no problem going out and doing some of the grime work for other people.”
Sunday’s matchup-driven showdown at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., between the Eagles and Chiefs will be highlighted by the likes of quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts and high-profile skill players such as Travis Kelce, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Jerick McKinnon. A player in Stoll’s mold is merely an afterthought.
“You always talk about this when you get into these big games,” Michael said. “You never know when you’re gonna be called upon. You have these role, this and that, but you gotta be ready at any point. I think that both Jack and Grant, when those situations have come up and they’ve had the opportunity to make plays, they’ve done that. You never know when it’s gonna happen, but at some point it’s gonna come up whenever he’s gonna be called upon. It may not go to the first or second progressions, and then the ball gets checked down, and he’s gotta be ready to make those plays.”
When Stoll takes the field for pregame warmups on Sunday afternoon, there will probably be little fanfare. But despite his winding path to prominence, the former undrafted free agent will have the privilege of playing on the game’s biggest stage, a sentiment he has already considered.
“I’ve thought about it,” Stoll said. “Who knows. To be honest with you, I think it’ll be one of those deals where you can think it’s one thing, but when you go out there and experience it, it’ll be totally different. I’m just excited for it and just doing everything I can to prepare getting there.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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Great article Andrew. Appreciate all the insight your website and podcasts give us EAGLES fans.