The biggest hurdle in JJAW's switch to tight end

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Dallas Goedert heard about J.J. Arecega-Whiteside’s position switch a little early.

The two Eagles teammates share an agency and were training together in California this offseason when Arcega-Whiteside began to mention that he might be switching from receiver to tight end.

Goedert was happy to help.

JJAW ran routes with Goedert and asked plenty of questions before it was official that he was becoming a tight end. Now that Arcega-Whiteside has TE next to his name, Goedert is looking forward to sharing a position room with him.

“I’m really excited for him,” Goedert said. “I’m really excited to see how he embraces the role and to see what he can do.”

At this point in Arcega-Whiteside’s career, this position switch isn’t about his living up to being the No. 57 overall draft pick just a few years ago. This is about the 25-year-old trying to find a way to stick in the league and the Eagles trying to find a way to use him.

It’s an uphill battle.

So what will be the toughest part?

“There is a lot that tight ends have to know just because we’re linked with the pass and the run game,” Goedert said. “I think the transition with the passing stuff will be pretty easy because he paid attention to that, it’s in the concepts.

“The run game as a receiver, you don’t have to know about the fronts and stuff like that. So I think just learning the O-line side of tight end, the blocking, the points, the IDs, stuff like that will be the hardest thing for him to learn. But I don’t think he’ll have any problem. I mean, he went to Stanford so …”

Still, it seems like a longshot that Arcega-Whiteside will be able to make this transition and land on the roster this year. And his odds definitely decreased when the Eagles used a sixth-round pick on tight end Grant Calcaterra out of SMU. But after Goedert, there’s some clear opportunity for other tight ends. Jack Stoll returns for Year 2 but Tyree Jackson is overcoming an ACL tear and the only other tight ends on the roster are Richard Rodgers and Noah Togiai.

After the Eagles used JJAW as a blocking receiver last year, the switch to tight end makes sense. He’s listed at 6-2, 225 pounds and has been bulking up.

But perhaps Arcega-Whiteside has a leg up over other receivers who might try to make the switch. Last season, JJAW played a total of 170 offensive snaps but caught just 2 passes and was targeted just 5 times. His responsibility last year was the block for the Eagles’ run-heavy offense.

Sure, it’s different as a tight end. But the Eagles think of JJAW as an “F” tight end and not someone who will line up on the line of scrimmage.

“Last year he was our … what you would call our enforcer, our hockey enforcer,” head coach Nick Sirianni said earlier this month, “as far as you go in there and you block this guy and get physical with him, and he did a really good job with that. I think we saw the talent there that he's got some nastiness to him, some feistiness to him. He showed it on special teams as well. And now he's going to try to do that at tight end."

In his career, JJAW has just 16 catches for 290 yards and 1 touchdown. There’s no way around it: He’s been an incredibly disappointing second-round pick and now he’s entering the final year of his rookie contract without almost anything to show for it.

That’s why the Eagles look at this position change and think there’s nothing to lose. If he doesn’t make the team, no harm done. He probably wasn’t going to make the roster as a receiver anyway. And if it works out, then at least the Eagles found a use for a player who otherwise wouldn’t be here.

"We are excited about the project that we have at hand for him,” Sirianni said.

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