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Offense Will Look Different, Just How Much Remains to be Seen

From a personnel standpoint, Lane Johnson returns, but Zach Ertz is no longer around, but what about some schematic changes?
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The Eagles' offense is going to look a bit different when it takes the field in Las Vegas on Sunday to play a 4-2 Raiders team.

At least it will from a personnel perspective.

First, Lane Johnson will return to the offensive line.

Second, there will be no tight end Zach Ertz.

Schematically? Well, it's a wait-and-see answer.

Ertz, of course, was traded to the Arizona Cardinals on Friday for a rookie cornerback and a fifth-round draft pick in 2022.

Perhaps that rookie CB, Tay Gowan, will see some time on special teams as he gets up to speed with defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s defense.

“I know Tay can run, I do know that, out of UCF,” said ST coach Michael Clay on Tuesday. “So, it's exciting to get somebody that can run because you can only teach so much. You can't teach speed. That's one of those given abilities.

“Anybody that comes in we're going to take under our wing and try to get the most out of them, and regardless of what their physical attributes are, we're going to treat them the same, with the utmost respect, and see what we can get out of them.”

As for Ertz, it will be the first time he won’t be a member of the Eagles for a game since he was drafted in the second round back in 2013, a nine-plus year run.

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“I just want to wish Zach the best,” said offensive coordinator Shane Steichen on Tuesday. “Being around him the short time that I was during training camp and these first six weeks, he was an ultimate pro, did everything you wanted, studied the game, loved the game, worked hard and I wish him nothing but the best.”

Steichen said Dallas Goedert’s role will increase, with Jack Stoll’s backup role being more pronounced as well. Noah Togiai may even be ready to contribute after being signed on Oct. 11 as the team waits for the fracture in Tyree Jackson’s back to properly heal.

Goedert missed Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being placed on the Reserve/COVID list on Oct. 11. He remains there, but the expectation is he will be active this week. He has 15 receptions for 216 yards and two scores in the five games he has played.

Then there’s Johnson who will be back at right tackle after missing three games with a personal matter that he admitted on Monday was related to depression and anxiety, a secret he held close for a number of years.

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Perhaps Johnson will explain a bit more in detail when he meets again with reporters, perhaps as early as Wednesday when the players take the practice field again.

“It's great to have Lane back,” said Steichen. “I just saw him for the first time (Monday). Obviously, he's a big part of our offense and we're excited to have him back.”

Johnson’s means a return to the bench for former first-round Andre Dillard, who started the last four games at left tackle. Jordan Mailata, who played the previous two games at right tackle in place of Johnson, will slide back to his left tackle post.

Now, what the offense will look like schematically is another story.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts hasn’t thrown over the middle much in the first six games. In fact, he's done so on an NFL-low three percent of his targets, which have been between the hashes, an area of the field Goedert is capable of exploiting.

Whether or not the tight end does, well, Steichen was asked about that.

“I think when you're looking at plays and what defenses are doing defensively from a coverage standpoint, are they giving you the middle of the field?” said the OC. “If they are, we're going to take it, and if they're giving us one-on-ones on the outside, we're going to take that. So, I think that's a game-by-game basis.”

Also, the running game is another scheme situation that both head coach Nick Sirianni and Steichen want to see increased, especially perhaps earlier in the game.

Running back Miles Sanders had only one first-half carry in the loss to the Bucs.

“I think that's something we've looked at,” said Steichen. “That's something we've been looking at … obviously, we popped some (runs) late in the game where he popped them, and those could have been called runs, they could have been RPOs. From the naked eye just looking at it, you don't really know.

“Not trying to get too schemey with it, but Miles is a heck of a back and we've got to get him going.”

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Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.