The Eagles scored two touchdowns in their win over the Bears during Wildcard Weekend, and while it’s no surprise that the first score came thanks to a catch by a tight end, the fact that it was rookie Dallas Goedert, and not Zach Ertz, stood out.
From Goedert’s big score, to Avonte Maddox coming thiiiis close to creating a turnover — on more than one occasion — it’s safe to say that the Eagles rookies shined in their first taste of playoff football in the NFL.
Many make the argument that the most helpful thing for teams in the postseason is experience, but the Eagles rookies proved that preparation and a little bit of confidence can go a long way in contributing in big moments.
Let’s start with the rookie tight end. Goedert has been quietly effective all season, taking on more of a blocking role than receiving — but the Eagles have Ertz for that. Despite his primary role, he’s come up big more than a few times this season, nabbing 33 receptions for 334 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season.
He went on to get his fifth TD of the year on Sunday against the Bears, which accounted for half of his receptions on the day (2), and half of his receiving yards (20). Goedert was on the field for 30 offensive snaps, 44%, and 11 special teams snaps, 42%. His dual usage with his massive 6’5, 256-pound frame is just another benefit he brings to the Eagles.
.@NickFoles to @goedert33, and the #Eagles have the lead.#FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/MBqJJtyHPC— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) January 6, 2019
We’ve all seen how successful the Eagles have been and continue to be when the utilize 12-personnel, and having Goedert on the field and effective so early in his career should allow them to really capitalize schematically. His added value as a blocker, particularly with Brent Celek no longer on the roster, is also a big help to a sometimes struggling offensive line, as well.
The Eagles secondary has been in a unique position all season. Littered with injuries, young guys were forced to step up and they finally hit their stride at the right time. Still, it’s rare that you see a rookie line up for 100% of the snaps, and yet, that’s exactly what Maddox did for the Eagles on Sunday. Not only did he play all 64 defensive snaps, but he also took 11 special teams snaps (42%) against the Bears.
Sure, there isn’t a lot of room for rotation with such a thin cornerback situation, but Maddox didn’t get that much playing time out of necessity, he was a guy they would have been foolish to pull for even one play.
The defense was playing on another level during Sunday’s Wild Card matchup, and early on, Maddox had several interception opportunities, and found himself jumping the Bears routes more than once — just narrowly missing a pick despite a pretty impressive toe drag. The thing that will take Maddox from promising rookie, to experienced player, is actually making those interceptions when he’s in position to do so.
Still, those near picks were enough to keep the Bears offense from continuing more than one drive on Sunday, and he continued that effort in the second half. Maddox got a little extra confident on some plays, and tried to jump the route only to be burned down field by the receiver, but with the good comes the bad, and the rookie playing with swagger will do more to benefit the team down the road than anything else.
.@2live_AM with a pair of strong plays, and Chicago is forced to punt again.#FlyEaglesFly— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) January 6, 2019
The fourth-round draft pick finished his first playoff game with five total tackles and three pass breakups, but his contributions were far more than what shows on the stat sheet. This is also a guy who was limited in practice just days before the Bears game with an oblique injury, too.
Maddox has been moved all over the secondary this season as injuries have required, and he’s had success in various corner positions and at safety. His versatility and success are already building an incredible foundation for the coaches to develop over the course of the offseason and duration of his rookie contract. He’s one guy that the team shouldn’t be dealing any earlier than they have to.