Eagles Steal Human ‘Video Game’ Off Panthers Practice Squad

Hakeem Butler

Getty The Eagles poached TE Hakeem Butler from the Panthers practice squad.

The Eagles have added Hakeem Butler to the active roster and placed Dallas Goedert on short-term IR.

The two moves came during a hectic day of transactions for Philadelphia who picked up Jason Croom and Michael Jacquet on Tuesday morning, then activated receiver Quez Watkins to the 21-day practice window. The Eagles also released Michael Warren and Jordan Franks to make room. The team will fly cross-country this weekend to take on the San Francisco 49ers in another must-win game.

The Eagles had been hurting on offense after losing Goedert (ankle), along with DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (lower body) in Week 3. Watkins (lower body) would give a huge boost to Carson Wentz as starting wideout Alshon Jeffery (foot) continues to slowly progress.

“The thing that we look at now moving forward, we’re going to have to find creative and unique ways to use all our players on offense,” head coach Doug Pederson told reporters. “The tight ends, the runners, obviously, with Carson. And we’ve done this before. We did it at the end of the season last year. We won the four straight [games] to get us into the postseason, and it appears we’re going to have to do that again.”

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Butler Set Single-Season Receiving Record

Meanwhile, the Eagles stole Butler off the Panthers’ practice squad in a mini-coup. He should provide an instant upgrade over Richard Rodgers as the secondary tight end in “12 Personnel” with Zach Ertz.

The 6-foot-5, 227-pounder was a fourth-round pick (103rd overall) in 2019 out of Iowa State where he set the single-season record for receiving yards (1,318) as a junior. Butler, who ran 4.48 in the 40, finished his collegiate career with 110 receptions for 2,149 yards and 18 touchdowns in 34 games. He operated as a big “video game” wide receiver for the Cyclones and Arizona drafted him to be their “jump-ball” receiver and red-zone specialist.

He fell victim to a numbers crunch in the desert after missing his entire rookie year with a broken hand and the Cardinals cut Butler to give him a “fresh start” in the NFL. The Panthers were trying to stash the tight end on their practice squad until the Eagles swooped in and stole him.

“For Hakeem, he’s a talented young man,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said, via 98.7 FM Arizona. “It’s just one of those deals — sometimes it’s better for both sides to have a fresh start, and we felt like that was one of those instances. He has a tremendous upside and we still think he can be a really good player in this league.”

The scouting report on Butler is very encouraging, via Bleacher Report, calling out his “mean streak after the catch” and “massive catch radius.” He was noted for making one-handed circus catches at Iowa State but sometimes struggled with drops. He was a two-sport star in high school (football, basketball) and his towering twin cousins play professional basketball.

Watkins Looking to Make Impact

Watkins, the sixth-rounder out of Southern Miss, has yet to make his NFL debut after suffering an undisclosed lower-body injury at the end of camp.

The speedster — second-fastest 40 time among receivers at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine — was super impressive in summer practices where he developed instant chemistry with Wentz. He was threatening for the fourth receiver spot, ahead of fellow rookie John Hightower before the injury.

“He’s a really good guy,” Watkins said of Wentz. “I kind of trained with him when I was in Houston so we’ve been talking for a while, and now he’s just picking my brain a little bit and seeing where I’m at and really we’re just trying to grow a connection as we go.”

The Eagles have 21 days to add Watkins to the active roster and don’t have to make a corresponding roster move until then. He should see significant snaps considering the injury situation at receiver.

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