PALM BEACH, Fla. – Doug Pederson considers tight ends important. Very important.
So, it was unsurprising the Jaguars focused there at the start of the NFL 2022 League Year – and equally unsurprising when their head coach praised their new tight-end acquisition early this week.
Pederson is a fan of tight ends. And he sounded like a fan of Evan Engram this week.
"I just love his athleticism, his route running," Pederson said this week during the 2022 NFL Annual Meeting at The Breakers Palm Beach. "He's a tough guy. He's a willing participant to block."
Pederson likes those elements of Engram, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent earlier this month. He also likes how the former No. 23 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft by the New York Giants fits in a position group that already included veterans Dan Arnold and Chris Manhertz and second-year veteran Luke Farrell.
"He really complements that tight end room," Pederson said. "He really makes that room better. We feel that's one of the stronger positions on our team right now and he really adds some value there."
Engram, who has started 51 games in five seasons with 262 receptions for 2,828 yards and 16 touchdowns, spoke extensively upon signing with the Jaguars of Pederson's reputation for using the tight end – something he said was a major reason he signed with the Jaguars.
Pederson while the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles from 2016-2020 used the tight end extensively, with players such as Zach Ertz, Trey Burton and Dallas Goedert playing effectively for the Eagles during that span.
"If you look at any successful quarterback in the league right now, tight end is probably at the top of the list for a quarterback," Pederson said. "That one position: Everything's kind of right over the ball, right in front of the quarterback. You also have to have a dynamic receiver as well, but that tight end position becomes the quarterback's best friend."
Pederson this week discussed the defensive approach under coordinator Mike Caldwell, saying the Jaguars will run a three-lineman, four-linebacker scheme featuring elements of three- and four-man lines in base defense. "We're going to base it out of a 3-4, but it's so multiple in nature," Pederson said, adding that the trend of NFL offenses increasingly playing in three-receiver sets mean defenses increasingly play in "nickel" defenses more than base sets. "The base will be 3-4, but offenses are playing so much 11 personnel that you're going to be in four-down line, four-two configuration a lot. It will be multiple in nature." Caldwell, who played linebacker for 11 NFL seasons from 1993-2003, played with Pederson with the Eagles in 1999 and the two coached together with the Eagles from 2009-2012. "Mike and I go way back; I've always had a lot of respect for him," Pederson said of Caldwell. "He and I have a great relationship. I'm excited to watch him work and call defenses and go to work this year." Caldwell worked under current Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles with the Arizona Cardinals from 2013-2014, with the New York Jets 2015-2018 and with the Buccaneers the past three seasons. "I also worked with Todd Bowles – and when Todd left [coaching positions], he always took Mike with him," Pederson said. "So, I've always followed Todd and Mike, their defenses – whether it was in New York, Arizona or Tampa Bay. I always felt Mike would make a really good defensive coordinator one day given an opportunity."
Pederson on left tackle Cam Robinson, on whom the Jaguars placed the franchise tag earlier this month: "The decisions to bring guys like Cam back are to protect your quarterback. We want that offensive line to be solidified. We want guys up there who have been around. Cam is a big part of that and is going to be a big part of that. It's hard to find really, really good left tackles in this league. We feel like Cam is one of those good tackles. We feel fortunate to be able to franchise him, keep him here and hopefully work out a long-term deal with him so he's around more than just a year. Knowing his experience and knowing his expertise really made it easy for us to keep him around."