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Jason Michael Offers a Deep Dive Into the Eagles' Tight End Hopefuls

The TE coach explained what he has in the young TEs behind Dallas Goedert

PHILADELPHIA - There isn't much drama when it comes to the Eagles' roster as the team gets set to kick off its preseason schedule on Friday night against the New York Jets.

If you were able to Kafka (not Mike) your way into the kind of metamorphosis that turned you into a fly on the wall in Howie Roseman's office at the NovaCare Complex, you'd quickly realize there isn't much debate going on when it comes to the initial 53.

Everything is fluid of course and injury could quickly change that sentiment but one position coach who still has some doubts about who he might be working with on the active roster come September is tight ends coach Jason Michael.

There is certainty at the top of the depth chart in Dallas Goedert before things become murkier, although Jack Stoll seems to be the leader in the clubhouse at the TE2 after proving to be a capable blocker as a rookie.

Jack Stoll readies to make a catch

Jack Stoll readies to make a catch during a recent training camp practice

From there rookie sixth-round pick Grant Calcaterra impressed early as a flex receiver before a hamstring shut him down, opening the door for Noah Togiai, who has used the extra reps he's gotten to put himself in the conversation.

On Wednesday, Togiai made the play of the day with a one-handed stab of a Gardner Minshew throw over the middle.

Michael handicapped his young players after practice, which also includes the embattled J.J. Arcega Whiteside, who is attempting to make the difficult transition from receiver to TE.

Calcaterra was the standout early until momentum was stopped by his injury.

"He's done a great job of missing some time and being able to take advantage of the meetings, seeing things on film," Michael said. "We're continuing in meetings when you ask questions and all those things to make sure you guys are on top of those things. 

"He's done a good job of staying on top of that. You'd love to get the actual reps and he's just got to take the mental reps now, and then when he gets that opportunity, take advantage of that."

Eagles TE coach Jason Michael

Tight end coach Jason Michael

One man's adversity turns into another's opportunity, and that's where Togiai entered the picture.

An undrafted free agent out of Oregon State in 2020, the Eagles hoped to sneak the Utah native through waivers that year and onto the practice squad but he was claimed by Indianapolis where now-Eagles coach Nick Sirianni was serving as the offensive coordinator under Frank Reich.

Togiai stick with the Colts through the season but was ultimately released off injured reserve in September of 2021. About a month later the Eagles brought him back with a PS offer.

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There was no groundswell for Togiai this time until the last week or so when he's consistently shown up in practice with the extra work.

"He's done a good job of getting himself in the right position," Michael said. "And he's capitalized this offseason just in terms of the way he's gone about things. 

"You know, the things you see on the field as well as behind the scenes with his nutrition and his physical part. And when a guy goes down, he's really stepped up and made some plays."

The long shot is Arcega-Whiteside after making the move from king-sized receiver to undersized tight end by putting on 12 pounds to get to 237.

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside from last season

"Anytime you're doing something different, there are facets of the game that you're going to do the same, you know, as a receiver or as a tight end when it comes to route running," Michael assessed. "And then J.J. was in some of those situations as a receiver doing some of the blocking or the things on the edge in the past. So some of that was carryover.

"... He's as hard-working as a guy there is, he's worked his tail off physically, mentally. And he's making strides every day."

Stoll is the tortoise in a race where slow and steady seems to be winning.

"I think just being another year into the system, he's taken advantage of his opportunities in terms of being able to mix things and he's another guy that's worked hard this offseason of changing his body and getting stronger and more powerful, working on the route details of what he's done," said Michael.

The evaluator in this competition is a former offensive coordinator with Tennessee, who offers each of his students the opportunity to better understand the entire offense.

"This position has evolved, maybe more than any other position in terms of skill, specific things," Michael said. "... I've always said this as a tight end, you're playing running back, you're playing offensive line, you're playing receiver. So you've got to understand the big picture of what's going on."

Michael's past of tutoring quarterbacks and piloting offenses gives each TE hopeful a unique advantage.

"Everything revolves around the quarterback and if the guys know the why of what the play is, I think they have a better understanding of what their responsibility is," Michael explained. "I've always referred to it, whether it's a release on a route, whether it's a certain technique that you're doing, as a quarterback looking at you if you do a certain thing, he may be off you quicker.

"So, it may be something in terms of how to attack, how to release, but I think when you can give players the why the big picture from a coordinator, from a quarterbacks perspective, especially in the passing game, it makes the picture more clear for them of what they have to do and what their responsibilities and details are."

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's Eagles Today and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Sports. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talker Jody McDonald, every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on YouTube.com and JAKIBSports.com. You can reach John at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen