Zach Pascal is everything the Eagles hoped for and more

Zach Pascal is everything the Eagles hoped for and more

Late Friday night, nearly an hour after the Eagles’ preseason opener against the New York Jets ended, a large group of reporters gathered around the locker room of wide receiver A.J. Brown at Lincoln Financial Field, waiting to hear the reaction of the sensational and always popular Eagle acquired in the offseason.

In the next locker, catcher Zach Pascal emerged from the shower, wrapped in a towel, smiling. A reporter wanted to talk to him after a two-catch, 41-yard performance in his Eagles preseason debut after the team signed him early in free agency.

In some ways, it’s a kind of microcosm for the way Pascal has conducted his five-year NFL career, under the radar, understanding that the audience that appreciates his game is large and consists of most who see the value it brings. to a team His coaches, his teammates, are the ones who “get” Pascal the most.

On Friday night, though, everyone got a chance to experience Pascal and what he brings to the Eagles’ offense. On the team’s second possession, he worked his way up the middle of the field and quarterback Gardner Minshew found Pascal for a 9-yard gain to convert a third-and-1 situation. One play later, Pascal ran a short route to the left and the connection from Minshew was not there at all.

In the second quarter, Pascal caught a pass from Minshew and turned the field for a 32-yard gain, finishing the play by dropping his shoulder a few extra steps to put the Eagles in scoring position with less than two minutes left in the the half .

In all, Pascal was targeted four times – creating separation each time – and caught two passes for 41 yards. Considering he had returned to training camp practices just days earlier after missing substantial time with food poisoning that sent him to the hospital for four days during which he lost 16 pounds, that was quite remarkable

And that’s why Pascal was smiling after the game: the hard work he put into studying the details by looking at his iPad while in the hospital and all the strength and conditioning he’s done before the illness and in the days since have paid off in Pascal. .

“I’m not quite the way back to where I want to be in terms of strength, but I’ve been in the weight room every day,” Pascal said. “If we train in the morning, I’m in the weight room in the evening. If we train at night, I still lifted this morning. I’m still trying to get my strength back after the illness.”

This has been Pascal’s MO his entire career. He has worked his way to the NFL after going undrafted following his standout career at Old Dominion. While in Indianapolis, Pascal’s rushing count and starting duties increased, and he also increased his production to a tough offensive output for the Colts last season. The Eagles enthusiastically signed Pascal in free agency, envisioning him as a tough, physical, all-around receiver who would provide depth and leadership for a young wide receiver corps while helping out on special teams.

Even with Brown on hand, the Eagles have big plans for Pascal.

“I’m excited about where he’s at. He’s a perfect fit with the group from a personality standpoint, from a competitive standpoint,” Wide Receivers Coach Aaron Moorehead said. “Football things in general tend to take care of themselves. Everybody has a role to play, and as you move forward and get into the last week of the preseason getting ready to play Detroit (the season opener regular), these papers begin to be a kind of iron.

“And as we know, during the season they change, based on a lot of different things: players playing different positions, guys getting injured, things like that. Zach is doing a great job. Excited to be here, excited to be able to train together. And who is making plays.”

What’s also helped is that Pascal and the receivers got plenty of reps with the quarterbacks in the spring during practices at the NovaCare Complex, so the timing and chemistry was already there before Pascal got sick. So now that he’s back, he’s bringing it back with Jalen Hurts and Minshew.

The expectation, then, is that everything goes in the right direction.

“I feel great and I think we were hitting on all cylinders offensively here,” Pascal said. “Coach is very big on detail and execution. Execution breeds confidence. If we can give him confidence that any play he calls we can execute, we’ve got good stuff. So that was a good way to start.”

It sure was, and Pascal was right in the middle. The right people, the ones that really matter, noticed, and there’s still more for a player who wants to do his part, any part, to help the Eagles win this season.

“That’s the kind of guy Zach is,” Moorehead said. “He can do what we ask of him. He’s very hungry, he’s the type of player we like around here.”

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