Dallas Goedert is having a miserable start to the season. He has 13 catches for just 88 yards, for a meager 6.8 yards per reception, and has yet to find the end zone. He’s had a rough three game stretch before, in 2019 he had three straight starts totaling 14 receptions for 104 yards, or 7.6 yards per reception, though he did have a TD. But a four game stretch this unproductive is setting off alarm bells.
But first, we need to acknowledge that it’s getting harder to pass in the NFL.
Teams are completing passes at a higher rate, but for fewer yards per catch.
It is TEs who are seeing the drop off most this year. Last season 26 TEs averaged at least 2 receptions a game, and those 26 TEs averaged 10.6 yards per reception. This season 32 TEs have at least 2 receptions a game, and they’re averaging 9.7 yards a reception. Even if we take just the top 26 this year, they’re still down to 10.1 yards per reception. A similar sample of WRs of 4 catches per game (29 last year, 28 this year) has just a 0.1 yards per reception drop.
So this is not just a Dallas Goedert issue, other tight ends are suffering. George Kittle is down from 12.8 to 10.6, Evan Engram is down from 10.5 to 9.3, Travis Kelce is down from 12.2 to 9.1, TJ Hockenson is down from 10.6 to 8.1, though he was at 8.7 last season with the Vikings.
But to go from 12.8 to 6.8 yards per reception is more than just being a victim of a league wide trend. Here’s where we enter a small sample size alert. Goedert of course didn’t catch a pass in the season opener, and though he only caught two passes against Washington, they were for 8 and 17 yards. So we’re really talking about two games of poor efficiency, though four games of low totals.
So the question, that several people had in our BGN mailbag this week, is what is going on with Goedert specifically?
One thing that I have seen, and I am not claiming that this answers all the issues, is that defenses are trying to slow the Eagles passing game by disrupting Goedert when possible. When he is not isolated pre-snap he’s getting bumped off the snap, or he is being bracketed by two defenders, or in some cases both. That is notable because it wasn’t how teams were defending him at the end of last season. In the playoffs neither the Giants, 49ers, nor Chiefs game planned for him like that, he was allowed to run free off the snap on nearly every route run in early possessions during those games, and he was generally matched up one v one rather than bracketed and passed off to a second defender.
But this season, defenses are going after him early, and it’s largely working. All of these are from the first or second possession, before defenses are into full on in-game adjustments.
Here Goedert is chipped by Matthew Judon, then bracketed by a LB shallow and a safety deep. Hurts has eyes on him since the result was a check down to the middle of the field, perhaps if Goedert had a free release he’s into the second level sooner.
Here the LBs converge on Goedert before his route is finished. Hurts, again looking down the middle of the field, bails.
Similar to the last clip, two defenders are on him before his route finishes. And when the play breaks down he gets a pointless shove from Harrison Smith-it created separation- which would fit in with a go after Goedert when you can game plan.
Admittedly this is a weak example, but again he’s bumped off the snap, and Hurts, looking down the middle of the field, ditches against a three man rush.
This one is clear, Goedert is pressed before being handed off to a deep defender, but by then Hurts has checked down to Jack Stoll (with a really poor pass).
Here he gets a slight push to reroute him, but then he’s again got two defenders converging on him before his route is finished. And again Hurts scrambles after looking his direction.
Another pretty clear one, Goedert is double teamed off the snap. Hurts, looking right at him, then resets in the pocket for no reason and by the time Goedert has come open Hurts has already bailed.
This may be a designed throw to D’Andre Swift, if so it’s poorly executed. Whatever it is, two defenders start to jump on Goedert before his route is finished again.
None of this is anything revolutionary. But this kind of defending of Goedert wasn’t happening at the end of last season. With an offseason to grind tape on the Eagles offense, it seems that defenses are choosing to try to slow down Goedert and disrupt timing and rhythm in the Eagles passing game when they can. AJ Brown and Devonta Smith can easily be moved around to find the right matchup, as we saw against Washington when the Eagles forced matchups with Brown vs. undersized rookie Emmanuel Forbes. But you can’t do that with a tight end, not all the time, and if you can disrupt an early read you can force a QB into a bad position. That’s happened so far in every game, and it’s worked.
There are other contributing factors to his low production. BGN’s Jonny Page has noted that they’ve gotten away from some of the concepts that worked really well for him, and that Hurts has missed some reads. Fran Duffy had a piece this week showing how Goedert is opening up things for others even if he isn’t getting thrown to. And Nick Sirianni has said “we need to get him the football.”
Adjustments are coming.