Tyree Jackson Making Smooth Transition from College QB to Tight End

The 6-7 former signal-caller at the University of Buffalo could earn a spot on the 53-man roster if his development continues at the current pace
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PHILADELPHIA – Greg Ward has done it.

Down in Washington, Logan Thomas has, too.

Tom Tebow is trying to do it in Jacksonville.

Closer to home, on the practice fields of the Eagles’ training facility at NovaCare Complex, Tyree Jackson is making a real run at doing it, too.

So far, Jackson has looked surprisingly smooth making the transition from college quarterback at the University of Buffalo to NFL tight end, the way Thomas did and Tebow is hoping to.

Ward, of course, transitioned to a receiver, but it wasn’t easy.

He was an undrafted free agent in 2017 after playing quarterback for the University of Houston and was waived six times by the Eagles before finally sticking halfway through the 2019 season when he made 28 catches for 254 yards and followed that up with 53 receptions for 419 yards and six touchdowns last year.

It took Thomas, a former QB at Virginia Tech, four seasons before his big breakout season in 2020 with 72 catches, 670 yards, and six touchdowns.

So far, so good for Jackson, who is a monstrous target at 6-7, 245 pounds.

“(Jackson) definitely has to prepare every single day,” said Ward. “Even on off days. It doesn’t have to be him running routes every single day, but to just get used to that position, he needs to do drills, stay in the film room and continue to work on his craft. He can’t take a day off.”

Jackson catches just about everything, runs crisp routes most of the time, and has been targeted quite a bit through the first eight training camp practices. Perhaps more importantly, he has been quick to make corrections.

Eagles tight end Tyree Jakson works on his hands during a training camp practice

Tyree Jackson works on the jugs gun at a recent practice.

Head coach Nick Sirianni said that there was one day in practice recently where “he didn't really stick the route hard and break to the corner. Then (the next day) he ran that one that [QB] Joe [Flacco] threw over the middle on him and he struck his foot in the ground and really separated from the defensive back.”

Sirianni added that “there is a lot of potential.”

Right now, Dallas Goedert is TE1 and Zach Ertz TE2.

Richard Rodgers is another veteran in the group, but at 29, the book on Rodgers and what he can and can’t do has already been written.

Jackson is still penning his career. The same could be said for Jack Stoll, an undrafted free agent from Nebraska who has looked pretty good, so far.

Stoll might be easier to get to the practice squad, though it could depend on what each player does in the three preseason games that are right around the corner to see which one could potentially be safely stashed on the PS.

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Already, Jackson has forced the Eagles to move Hakeem Butler, who had been considered a developmental tight end prospect after a wide receiver’s career at Iowa State, back to wide receiver.

“He’s come a long way,” said Goedert of Jackson. “Even from OTAs to now, he’s improved tremendously. He’s been impressive blocking and his routes have been good. He’s a huge target. He’s got long arms and he’s had great hands all camp.

“That transition is tough going from quarterback to tight end. There’s a lot to learn but it seems like he’s learning it very fast and he’s doing a great job.”

The thing about Jackson is he wants to do all that.

He decided to abandon the quarterback position in November last year and begin working on making the switch with his former coach at Buffalo, Lance Leipold.

“I just love football and I felt like that was where my opportunity to get back into the NFL and to have an opportunity to play football would be that,” said Jackson following Thursday’s practice. “That’s all it really took was to know that, so that’s why I made the switch. I always kind of had that in the back of my head as something I could basically do based off my size.”

Yeah, he’s big all right thanks to a growth spurt that saw him go from 5-9 as a high school freshman to 6-feet as a sophomore then 6-3, then 6-5. In college, he eventually climbed to his current height.

And he is just 23 despite playing his last college season in 2018 when he had a 55.3 completion percentage, 3131 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.

Jackson went undrafted and signed with the Bills but was released as part of the final roster cuts. 

He gave the XFL a try, playing with the Washington Defenders. In five games as a backup to Cardale Jones, he completed 11 of 18 passes for 46 yards and a touchdown, then the league folded under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every day is a day to learn,” said Jackson. “I got great guys in the room with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers, veteran guys I’m just learning from every day, so every day it’s something new to learn.”

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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.