June 24, 2024   8 MIN READ

Time Will Tell

Birds TE Has Waited For Moment To Prove He Belongs In Pros


Dashing toward the left sideline of one of the NovaCare Complex practice fields, with a hook defender in his sights, Eagles tight end E.J. Jenkins whipped his head around while coming out of his break before repositioning his body.

The back-shoulder throw was delivered on-time and with touch, placed only where Jenkins could reel it in.

The timing-based sequence was one of several between Jenkins and quarterback Kenny Pickett during spring practices.

Their relationship, however, was hardly forged by happenstance. The synergetic connection between them had been initiated months earlier.

“Me and Kenny, we started our chemistry in March,” Jenkins explained in an exclusive with Inside The Birds. “Because he was down in Florida, and we got to meet up and throw a couple routes with each other before we actually started at OTAs. So, we had a little head start there.”

Jenkins, training in Fort Lauderdale at Bommarito Performance Systems, had some supplementary company in Eagles second-year wide receiver Joseph Ngata, who connected Jenkins and Pickett and was also training at the facility during the offseason.

EJ Jenkins

Photo credit: Terence Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. After years of transitioning from wide receiver, Eagles TE E.J. Jenkins is ready to show he belongs in the pros.

Ensconced in a supportive environment promoting individual development and growth, the pass-catchers each day would work out together in some capacity, continuously pushing each other.

“Joe was always basically finished with his workout before I even walked in,” Jenkins said. “So, I don’t even know what time Joe really got in there, because I was in the building every day at, like, 8.

“Joe is definitely a hard-working guy. Just talking to him on a daily basis and knowing where he’s coming from and his mindset, he’s a real hard-worker. So, it motivates me to keep pushing as well.”

Jenkins, now 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, is up 15 pounds from his listed weight of 245. He emerged as one of the Eagles’ more prominent spring climbers, displaying wide receiver-esque movement skills, nimble route-running and a penchant for attacking the football.

The 25-year-old, who showed a consistency in creating separation at the top of his routes, was a popular intermediary target for Pickett and second-year quarterback Tanner McKee.

But it wasn’t his receiving acumen that Jenkins most wanted to convey to coaches.

A wide receiver since he was 13, Jenkins has been navigating a transition to tight end upon entering the NFL as a rookie free agent in 2023 with the New York Jets.

This spring, his objective was to maximize his 1-on-1 time with Eagles tight ends coach Jason Michael and drill the subtleties and nuances of the blocking process.

Jenkins was fixated on developing his hands and technique with regards to blocking, an area of his game with which, he admits, he wasn’t always comfortable.

His devotion toward refining his prowess as a blocker ultimately began during offseason training at Bommarito, where Jenkins worked with some of the offensive linemen there, mastering the particulars of footwork.

Spring OTAs in Philadelphia provided Jenkins the chance to showcase his blocking development to Michael and to continue his work, which included sled drills and film study with Michael, with a watchful eye on footwork detail, a major component of outside and inside zone runs.

They would then slow it all down and walk through before ultimately putting the pieces together and go full speed.

The blocking work helped Jenkins add more to his resume, and despite the 15-pound increase, Jenkins maintains he’s just as fast as before the weight gain.

The burst and explosiveness, he said, can be attributed to squatting two or three times a week, emphasizing going slow on the way down and accelerating on the way up, making the pressure on the knees feel the same at his new weight.

Jenkins said he’s been able to preserve flexibility through hip-stretching and Pilates.

While the receiving part of the job has always come easily for Jenkins, his transition to full-time tight end has been years in the making, through no fault of his own.

In light of a running eligibility clock – and Saint Francis [Pa.] University cancelling its 2020 season due to the pandemic –  Jenkins entered the transfer portal.

While Cal and multiple SEC schools had shown some interest, South Carolina was the first school to extend an offer.

EJ Jenkins

Photo credit: Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Eagles TE E.J. Jenkins tried to move to tight end in college, like at South Carolina, but kept having to move back to receiver.

They also made an offer to Jason Brown, Jenkins’ quarterback at Saint Francis and teammate at Chancellor High [Va.] School. The decision to become a Gamecock, he said, was an easy one.

Jenkins initially entered the spring as a tight end, but a crowded house at the position — including future NFL talents Nick Muse and Jaheim Bell – necessitated a move back to wide receiver by the summer.

Turning to the transfer portal once more following his one year in Columbia, Jenkins then landed at Georgia Tech, where he joined the tight end room for summer workouts.

The Yellow Jackets had numbers at tight end, however, so when the wide receiver room was ravaged by injuries, Jenkins was once again asked to revert to his natural position.

Approaching the 2023 NFL Draft, most teams saw Jenkins as a tight end, while a handful viewed him as a flex player in the slot.

Some scouts during the pre-draft process told Jenkins he needed to get stronger.

At 228 pounds, Jenkins also needed to add weight, a venture which began immediately following his final college game, when he traveled down to Florida in December 2022.

His diet included a hefty breakfast of several eggs, a mainstay in Jenkins’ diet.

He would then have a snack between breakfast and a big lunch, followed by another snack between lunch and dinner.

After dinner, Jenkins would enjoy another snack before going to sleep, typically a granola bar or a couple of bananas to load up on potassium for next-day fuel.

Abiding by the same demanding regimen, Jenkins gained 17 pounds by Georgia Tech’s Pro Day.

“I was eating hummus like a dog,” he recalled. “A whole bunch of hummus, a whole bunch of protein shakes. It was insane.”

In advancing his weight from 245-260, Jenkins was quick to credit his girlfriend, whom he praised for being “amazing through the process,” prepping all his meals and keeping him on his toes.

Following stints at three different colleges and a few different NFL teams, Jenkins is settled and no longer an NFL nomad.

The familiar faces and welcoming culture in Philadelphia have made for a pleasant transition. Everything is in front of him.

Jenkins struggled to hide his excitement for joining the Eagles, praising the organization as first class and appreciating the passionate fanbase.

Jenkins had come to Philadelphia this spring with some understanding of what it’s like, having been signed to the practice squad in November for a cup of coffee.

“All together, last year, I had 13 workouts,” Jenkins said. “I might’ve been going to workout No. 9. I was supposed to be going to Arizona, so I’m at the airport and I’m in the line ready to board.

“And before I got on [my agent] called me and he was like, ‘Don’t get on the plane.’ I was like, ‘What do you mean? What’s going on?’ He said, ‘The Eagles are signing you.’ I ran through the airport. I was so happy.”

But this time, Jenkins is hoping for an extended stay.

This time, Jenkins brings with him a well-rounded skill set to go along with an enhanced physique.

Special teams will play a prominent factor in assigning the final roster spots, a phase that’s been been a major emphasis for Jenkins during his career.

He even offers the ability to long-snap, which he plans on demonstrating at some point for coordinator Michael Clay when the players reconvene in July for training camp.

Depth concerns behind starting tight end Dallas Goedert also offers opportunity, with a host of reserves seemingly on relatively equal footing entering training camp.

In less than a month, the second-year tight end will have an opportunity to build on his progression, giving him the chance to show that his recent flashes were more than merely spring fodder.

“I’m really just putting my head down and working day in and day out to my best ability to try to at least get one percent better,” he said.

“And this offseason, I definitely built my confidence – not just for everybody else to see – but for me to see as well, that I truly belong here. And hopefully, this will be a place I stay long-term.”

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

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