The only remaining challenge for Eagles impressive rookie Grant Calcaterra

Grant Calcaterra was out and running the first 2 ½ days of training camp, catching everything, getting into the end zone, looking for all the world like a polished NFL tight end as a rookie 6th-round selection.

On July 30, just into the third practice of the summer, Calcaterra pulled out.


He did not train again until August 19.

In total, Calcaterra missed 20 days of work, including 10 full practices, four passes and two games.

This is the bulk of training camp, invaluable time for a rookie.

“That was new to me,” he said. “I’ve never had a hip (injury) before.”

With Calcaterra sidelined for three weeks and Noah Togiai enjoying a solid camp, there were some very real questions about whether the Eagles would IR Calcaterra before the final cuts — ending his season — and keep Togiai as the third tight end behind Dallas Goedert and Jack Stoll.

Then Calcaterra returned for the second day of joint practices with the Browns, and somehow it looked like he hadn’t missed a day.

“I felt like I was doing well in camp to start, and injuries are just part of the game,” he said. “I was able to be healthy and practice this week and play in a game, and when it comes down to it that’s all you can ask for.”

After missing the Jets and Browns games, Calcaterra made his NFL debut Saturday night in the Eagles’ preseason finale against the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium, and he was one of the few positives to come out of the game for the Eagles.

In a 2n.d-and-10 on the final play of the first quarter, Calcaterra went wide open on a shallow cross, stretched in the air to reel in a short pass to Reid Sinnett that bounced high, turned the corner onside right (behind a block by Togiai) and left the field for a 24-yard pickup, including 22 yards after the catch, before he was eventually tackled by the 2015 Eagles 2n.d-round pick Eric Rowe.

It was the Eagles’ only passing play of the game of at least 20 yards.

“I thought he had a good week of practice this week and it was good to see him back on the field,” Nick Sirianni said. “And then today I’ll have to watch (the film), but he made a nice catch in the shallows and showed some acceleration after that, which was good to see.”

Calcaterra finished his first NFL game with two catches for 30 yards. Not bad for a guy who only had three practices after a three-week layoff.

“I think I’m learning every day,” he said. “I think I did a good job of taking mental reps (during his layoff), taking advantage of watching film, watching our close games and then this week taking advantage of my playing time.”

We knew Calcaterra could catch the football, but he was never asked to make many blocks at Oklahoma and then at SMU.

And no one expects Calcaterra to become a Goedert-type blocker, but to play in the NFL you have to at least be able to make an effort along the line of scrimmage and block someone.

“Yeah, with some of the ‘F’ (receiving) tight ends that have gotten more threats in college, that’s an adjustment they have to make,” Sirianni said. “They can’t be a liability in the run game. They should be able to get in there and execute. You limit what you ask them to do (but) that’s just something we’re always going to work on getting better with him because he doesn’t have a lot of experience with it right now.”

Calcaterra played 32 snaps Saturday night in Miami — plus 17 on special teams — and much of that time was spent getting live run-blocking reps.

Which was a completely new experience for him.

“It’s definitely been challenging,” he told reporters after the game. “But you know, I feel like every rep I get I’m getting better. Coach (Jason) Michael has helped me a lot. I’ve been able to definitely watch guys like Dallas block, so that’s helped me a lot. And the guys in the room have been talking to me and helping me. So it’s been great.

“I feel like I have a high football IQ and I’m able to adapt well. And, yes, we have great coaches here and so I always feel prepared in practice and in games.”

Final cuts must be made by 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, but now healthy and productive, Calcaterra appears to have made the team.

Which is impressive considering how much time has been wasted.

“My coach specifically told me that they know what I could do in the passing game. So I did a little bit of everything tonight.”

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