How 2023 Jaguars may mimic the 2018 Eagles in tight end usage

The Jacksonville Jaguars have a pair of premium tight ends in Evan Engram and Brenton Strange. Here's a look at how head coach Doug Pederson could potentially deploy them in 2023.
Wild Card Playoffs - Los Angeles Chargers v Jacksonville Jaguars
Wild Card Playoffs - Los Angeles Chargers v Jacksonville Jaguars / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

In 2018, with the 49th overall pick, the Doug Pederson-led Philadelphia Eagles selected Dallas Goedert, tight end out of South Dakota State. This pick came after three consecutive years of 70+ receptions and 800+ yards by fellow tight end Zach Ertz, who signed a five-year extension after the 2016 season. Pederson is now the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and he could use 2023 second-round pick Brenton Strange the way he used Goedert as a rookie in 2018.

With Evan Engram now under contract through the 2025 season, here are some trends from the 2017/2018 Eagles to keep an eye out for in the 2023 Jaguars. On a side note, make sure to check out how to approach the Jaguars' Tight End room for the 2023 Fantasy Football season!

The Eagles went from run-first to pass-first in Dallas Goedert's rookie year

From 2017 to 2018, the Eagles climbed from a passing rate of 56.7 (24th in the league) to 62.7 percent (seventh). Part of this was due to LeGarrette Blount and his 173 rushing attempts leaving in free agency, but the shift toward a TE-heavy system certainly had an impact.

The 2022 Jaguars averaged a 58.9 percent pass rate (12th). With a similar increase, you could expect close to a 65 percent rate this season, which would put Jacksonville in the top-5 in the league:

The Rise in 1-2 Personnel, the Jaguars ranked 8th in 2022

I was unable to find reliable personnel data for the Eagles’ 2017 season, but in the 2018 season, they fielded a league-high 36 percent of 1-2 personnel (one running back and two tight ends). For reference, the NFL average in 2018 was 17 percent.

In 2022, the Jaguars ranked eighth in 1-2 personnel at 22.4 percent (NFL Average: 18.1), also ranking eighth in EPA/pass in 1-2 personnel:

The target share for Eagles tight ends jumped significantly

From 2017 to 2018, the Eagles saw a significant shift in the positional breakdown of their passing attempts. Wide Receivers saw a nearly 10 percent decline as a position group, with tight ends picking up over six percent additional targets. While the addition of Calvin Ridley may make this change less significant, you should certainly expect to see a more tight end-focused offense:

Side note, Carson Wentz and Nick Foles each saw a target in 2018… could Trevor Lawrence see the same?

First down TE target rate skyrocketed for the Eagles in 2018

What was most significant to me was the first down breakdown. In 2017, the Eagles' tight ends saw 31.3% of first-down pass attempts and this rose to 42.2% in 2018. This comes along with an overall increase of first down pass attempts by 2.5 percent. The 2022 Jaguars averaged a 34.9 percent first-down pass rate, and we can expect a decent increase this season:

The Jaguars have the personnel to run a TE-heavy scheme in 2023

While Dallas Goedert’s rookie season was nothing to write home about (33 catches, 334 yards, four touchdowns), the 2018 season saw a Zach Ertz explosion. He saw a career-high 116 receptions, 1,163 yards, and eight touchdowns, stats he hasn’t reached since that season.

No two players are the same, and certainly no two offenses are the same. But if we can take anything from the 2017/2018 Eagles story, Doug Pederson is no stranger to working with multiple high-profile tight ends in one offense.

Should Evan Engram play at the level he did in the final seven games of 2022 and if Brenton Strange assimilates well into the offense, we should see one of the most valuable tight end rooms in the NFL and, most importantly, a deep supporting cast for Lawrence to build on in his second season in the Pederson system.

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