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Eagles preview: This tight end compares favorably to 49ers' George Kittle, and it's not Zach Ertz

Martin Frank
Delaware News Journal

It's starting to become evident that if the Eagles have to choose which tight end to pay either after this season or next, that it will be Dallas Goedert over Zach Ertz.

For one, Goedert, whose rookie contract expires after the 2021 season – the same time as Ertz's – probably won't get a second contract nearly in the price range that Ertz could be asking for. 

Secondly, Goedert, who's 25, is four years younger, and might end up being better than Ertz in a few years. That isn't said lightly, since Ertz has been a premier tight end in the NFL ever since the Eagles made him their second-round pick in 2013, and he's on pace to pass Harold Carmichael to become the Eagles' all-time leading receiver at some point this season.

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But listen to Eagles linebacker Nathan Gerry, when asked if practicing against Ertz and Goedert helps the linebackers prepare for 49ers tight end George Kittle, whom the Eagles will face Sunday night.

Eagles' Dallas Goedert (88) struggles to get through the Seattle defense Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. The Seahawks defeated the Eagles 17-9.

"Yeah, no doubt," Gerry said. "(Kittle) can run all the routes on the route tree, so being able to pair up against Ertz and Dallas in training camp obviously helped us on the back end, and as linebackers."

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Then Gerry added this: "I think it’s a pretty good comparison with Kittle to Ertz and Dallas, because Dallas, he’s really good in the run game when it comes to blocking as well. We’ve been put in certain situations to work on it."

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Granted, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and the rest of the Eagles' coaching staff will ultimately make the decision about which tight end to pay, if it comes to that.

But Gerry wasn't the only Eagles' defender raving about Kittle's ability to both block and catch passes. That makes Goedert, who's currently on injured reserve with an ankle injury, more similar to him than Ertz, who to his credit has improved as a blocker.

"He gives you a lot of different things," safety Jalen Mills said of Kittle. "You see on film where he’s playing a finesse game, then he’s catching the ball. And you see on film he’s playing a physical game catching the ball.

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) runs against Arizona Cardinals strong safety Budda Baker (32) during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

"You have to pick and choose your battles with him. The biggest thing is knowing where he is on the field. He’s their biggest threat when you’re talking about the pass game, everybody knows that."

Kittle missed the previous two games with a knee injury, so he only has 4 catches for 44 yards in one game this season. Kittle had 85 catches for 1,053 yards last season and 88 for 1,377 in 2018.

Ertz, who turns 30 next month, set the NFL single-season record for receptions by a tight end with 116 in 2018. Ertz had 88 catches for 916 yards last season.

Ertz leads the Eagles with 15 receptions this season, but Goedert is only two behind despite leaving the game against the Bengals in the first quarter. Goedert leads the Eagles with 138 yards receiving, eight more than Ertz.

Ertz said he considers himself among the top three tight ends in the NFL. He's not wrong in a group that includes Kittle and Kansas City's Travis Kelce. But both Kittle and Kelce signed contract extensions over the summer averaging at least $14 million per season.

Philadelphia's Zach Ertz (86) tries to break free from a tackle by the Rams' Micah Kiser (59) Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, at Lincoln Financial Field. The Rams defeated the Eagles 37-19.

That would seemingly make it cost prohibitive for the Eagles to pay both Ertz and Goedert, especially considering that the Eagles are projected to be at least $50 million over the salary cap heading into 2021.

Ertz expressed frustration over contract talks last month. That reportedly included a heated conversation with Roseman. Ertz said all of that is behind him and he's focused on the season. 

As for the conversation with Roseman, Ertz said: "I’m going to keep those details personal, obviously. I’m not going to get in the exact words of the conversation. At the end of the day, we’re all on the same page. We’re on the page of trying to win football games ... and everything else will take care of itself.

"I have a lot of conversations in this building with a lot of people, so for me, I didn’t take too much out of it."

The Eagles' DeSean Jackson (10) fends off the Rams' Troy Hill (22) after making a reception Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, at Lincoln Financial Field. The Rams defeated the Eagles 37-19.

All-Star team of injuries

The injury reports for both the Eagles and 49ers is quite a sight to behold.

For the Eagles, four of their perceived top five receivers won't play in DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery and Jalen Reagor, who's on injured reserve, as is Goedert. Then at cornerback, both starter Avonte Maddox and his backup, Trevor Williams, are out.

And on Saturday, the Eagles placed left tackle Jason Peters on IR with a toe injury. 

For the 49ers, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will miss a second straight game with an ankle injury. Running back Raheem Mostert, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, linebacker Dre Greenlaw and tight end Jordan Reed have also been ruled out.

In addition, defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas are on injured reserve.

The Niners are getting Kittle and wide receiver Deebo Samuel back after they missed time with injuries. So far, they have overcome their injuries better than the Eagles have.

"I don’t think there’s one simple answer," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "Our guys just work hard and do as good as they can, and I think we have a lot of good players on our team ... We had a lot of guys step up, and it shows to our depth and just shows to the way our team works."

The Eagles, meanwhile, will likely have a wide receiver unit that consists of Greg Ward, Deontay Burnett, rookies John Hightower and Quez Watkins, and possibly Travis Fulgham.

At cornerback, the Eagles will move either nickel corner Cre'Von LeBlanc or safety Jalen Mills back to the outside.

Prediction

The Eagles botched the early part of their season, coming up winless against two of the worst teams in the NFL in a loss to Washington and the tie to Cincinnati that feels like a loss.

Now, they leave themselves little room for error in a stretch of three games against likely Super Bowl contenders, with Pittsburgh and Baltimore following this game against the 49ers. 

It'll be a challenge against the 49ers, who are ranked second in the NFL in pass defense, allowing just 187.3 yards per game. 

The Eagles will keep it close, but not close enough. 

Score: 49ers 28, Eagles 24

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.