Dallas Goedert hasn’t looked like a rookie. During spring workouts, which concluded on Thursday, the Eagles tight end caught pass after pass. He did so against safeties or linebackers, man-to-man defense or zone. He seemingly has the necessary speed, size, and athleticism to compete in the NFL.
It’s far too early to predict Goedert’s future at this level – practices were non-contact – but the first glimpses of the top draft pick confirmed that the South Dakota State product, at the very least, looks the part.
Goedert did not, however, arrive fresh-faced. He had a straggly beard that eventually became a source of amusement for his new teammates and coaches.
“People started telling me I look Amish, so I had to get rid of it,” Goedert said Wednesday.
Good-natured ribbing is a part of the rookie ritual, but the best jokes are often reserved for those who clearly belong. The Eagles’ veterans – tackle Lane Johnson first came up with the Amish tag – have accepted Goedert because they see what Eagles brass saw when they traded up in the second round for the 6-foot-5, 256-pound tight end.
“He’s really smart. High football I.Q. guy,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “He’s picked up the offense extremely well. He keeps it light in the meeting room. He’s starting to come out of his shell.
“When you’re rookie – especially with me, I’m so serious all the time – you’re serious at the beginning. But now he’s kind of let his personality show and he’s fun to be around.”
Goedert wasn’t brought in to be Ertz’s heir apparent, merely a complement – at least for the time being. But he does have big shoes to fill in the sense that he’s entering after Brent Celek and Trey Burton left. Doug Pederson likes his two- and three-tight end sets, and if Goedert continues to progress, the Eagles coach should have the necessary personnel.
The Eagles signed free agent Richard Rodgers to a one-year contract before the draft – giving Pederson a third option – but Goedert’s performance over the last few weeks suggests that it’s only a matter of time before he supplants the former Packer as the No. 2 tight end.
“I feel like [I’m] getting more comfortable with the offense, getting more comfortable with the NFL tempo,” Goedert said. “I feel like I’ve improved quite a bit since rookie minicamp, so it feels good to be out there basically knowing what you’re doing on every play, not halfway guessing.”
>> READ MORE: What we learned during spring workouts
Before the Eagles had even drafted Goedert, Ertz stressed how difficult learning the Eagles’ playbook is for rookie tight ends because of their pass-run responsibilities. But Ertz couldn’t participate in most of his first offseason because of the NFL’s graduation rule. Goedert has another advantage because of the similarities between the Eagles’ offense and his college one.
Still, many first-year receivers have felt similarly only to suffer setbacks when the pads came on in training camp, defenders were permitted to use their hands and defensive coordinators started throwing more complex looks at the offense.
“It’s going to be a big jump. It’s going to get a lot more physical,” Goedert said. “But I play football for the physicality. I love that stuff.”
Goedert averaged a gaudy 8.2 yards after the catch last season and broke a NCAA-best 12 tackles. The Eagles list him as only six pounds heavier than Ertz, but their builds are different, as are their styles. Ertz typically creates space because of his precise routes, whereas Goedert tends to use his body more.
“He’s bigger than I am, for sure … He’s definitely been using his body well,” Ertz said. “It stood out [Wednesday]. He’s leaning on guys, creating separation, using his body and his frame.”
It should make Goedert, who caught 21 touchdowns over his collegiate career, an instant red zone threat. He dwarfs safeties, runs faster than linebackers, and in some cases, has an edge in both categories. On Thursday, he was split wide vs. Corey Nelson and easily shook the linebacker for a back-shoulder touchdown pass from Carson Wentz.
Goedert couldn’t recall dropping an uncontested pass this spring.
“The athleticism right now that you see pops,” Pederson said. “He’s getting a lot better in his detail of his routes. … He [has] great hands. He’s a big target, made some plays in the red zone.”
The competition will get stiffer, whether it’s against the first team defense in training camp, or when the preseason starts, or when the lights really go on in the regular season. There’s also the matter of blocking. Goedert, like Ertz, didn’t do much in college, and Pederson will need both tight ends to do their share with Celek gone.
The Eagles used two- and three-tight end sets 31 percent of the time last season, which may not seem like a lot unless you consider the depth they had at receiver and running back. Pederson isn’t likely to cut that much into his three-receiver sets, but he may have to if Goedert makes an immediate impact.
There’s no reason to rush the youngster. With his new kempt beard, Goedert looked a few years younger than he did pre-trim.
“I didn’t take too good a care of it,” Goedert said. “I’m thinking this time when I grow it out I’ll try and take better care of it. Make it look like [center] Jason Kelce’s.”
The kid learns fast.