Underappreciated Eagles: Zach Pascal

Bill Streicher, USA Today Sports

Leading up to the Eagles playing the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII on February 12, Sports Talk Philly and Eagledelphia will be taking a look at the underappreciated, unsung players on the Eagles roster that have made this NFC Championship and Super Bowl berth possible. Players who were often overlooked but have become key cogs in the machine despite the lack of recognition.

In this edition, we will focus on receiver Zach Pascal.

College Career

Zach Pascal was a receiver for Dr. Henry Wise high school in Maryland. He was not recruited into Division I football and ultimately signed on with an FCS school in Old Dominion in their 2012 recruiting class.

After redshirting his first season, Pascal became a key cog for Old Dominion’s offense almost as soon as he reached the field. In his redshirt sophomore season, he recorded 534 yards on 41 catches coming off the bench.

That season, he had 90 yards and a touchdown in what became Old Dominon’s first-ever win over an FBS opponent with a 59-38 win over Idaho.

Over the next three seasons, Pascal started 36 of Old Dominion’s 37 games. In those games, he added 24 touchdowns and 2650 yards. He was named Second-Team All-Conference USA in his final two seasons.

During his final season, he helped lead the team to a bowl game and caught the first-ever touchdown in a bowl game. That marked his final game at ODU and, following that, he became the first Old Dominion player to be invited to the NFL Combine.

Zach had an outstanding career at Old Dominion and is one of the hardest working players we had the pleasure of coaching.

Former ODU head coach Bobby Wilder

2017 NFL Campaign

Pascal’s first season in the league was not one that would indicate he was likely to be playing in a Super Bowl, much less that such a scenario would be playing out over five years later.

Despite the fact that he did appear at the combine and became the first ODU player to do so, there simply were not enough waves created to convince an NFL team to use the draft capital on Pascal. He wound up without his name called during the draft and would enter undrafted free agency.

He signed on with Washington and stuck with the team until final cuts when he found himself without a spot on the roster. Two days later, he would sign with the practice squad in Tennessee. While he would be promoted to the active roster for three days, he would not see any action and would be sent back to the practice squad.

Though not ideal, Pascal was in position to compete for a roster spot in an offense he was already familiar with when the Titans signed him to a futures contract.

2018 Indianapolis Colts Campaign

That futures contract did not last until camp as Pascal was released and without a team on June 14. That’s when the Indianapolis Colts claimed the receiver off waivers and gave him a home to work at breaking the 53-man.

Although the Colts had admittedly thin depth at the position behind TY Hilton, Pascal worked his way into the room as a player coming off the bench as the team’s fourth receiver.

He did start in a pair of games midseason due to injuries, but it was not until week 13 that Pascal found himself in the starting lineup for the remainder of the season, including the Colts two playoff games.

Over the course of the regular season, he recorded 268 yards and two touchdowns.

He also added a touchdown on a blocked field goal in the divisional round.

2019-21 Indianapolis Colts Campaigns

Come the 2019 season, Pascal’s second season with any NFL team, he had locked down a role as a starter. He may not have been the top guy, but he was out there on most plays.

Over the course of those next three seasons, the receiver cut by two other NFL franchises would appear in 48 games and make 40 starts, mostly as the team’s slot receiver.

With his size, Pascal hauled in 123 receptions for 1,620 yards and 13 touchdowns over that time with the Colts.

His head coach, former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, said in 2020:

He epitomizes what we’re all about, the toughness, the dependability, great teammate, and just did an outstanding job today and really all year, and especially had a great week this week.

Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich

A hard worker and a success story, Pascal had earned the respect of everyone in the Colts organization. He was a leader for the team and pitched in wherever he could in order to help them win.

He would also make 26 kick returns for the Colts, adding 597 yards that way.

2022 Philadelphia Eagles Campaign

After the 2021 season, Pascal became a free agent for the second time since he had established himself in the league. Although not at the top of the free agent lists, Pascal had a decision he described as a “no brainer”.

Before the 2021 season, one of Pascal’s favorite coaches in Indianapolis (Nick Sirianni) had been hired to be the head coach of the Eagles. Being from Maryland, the team was also far close to Pascal’s home. He joined the Philadelphia Eagles.

While Pascal had been used heavily and frequently started for the Colts, his new role with the Eagles was a much less glamorous one. The acquisition of AJ Brown made Pascal the clear fourth receiver in the room, but no complaints have surfaced from the receiver.

Instead, the receiver has not been seen on the sidelines upset that he isn’t getting the ball as much as he’d like, but he’s celebrating with his teammates and happy for their success. While his 154 receiving yards and one touchdown may not seem all too important in the grand scheme, his contributions to the team are far more than that.

Pascal brings size to the receiver position and frequently replaces the small and quick Quez Watkins. This provides a critical component to the offense: blocking. Multiple times this season we’ve seen Watkins have a ball wrestled out of his possession for a turnover – he simply does not offer the strength that is likely to move a defender and earn extra yards; Zach Pascal does.

Frankly, it may be a surprise to many Eagles fans that Pascal has played roughly a third of the offensive snaps for the Eagles this season. His name doesn’t get called often, but you can be sure that DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert and glad to have him out there blocking on their screens and the backs are happy to have him when they bounce a run outside.

Of course, Pascal also uses his size and speed to assist on special teams – he’s actually registered eight tackles in that role this year, including a tackle in the divisional round against the Giants.

While Pascal, as any competitor, would like to make the game-changing plays himself and be the MVP of the Super Bowl, he’ll be out there doing whatever he can to help his team win, even if it doesn’t get him the attention it might warrant. He’ll be having fun doing it, too.

Absolutely. If I could just touch the ball in the Super Bowl; it’s a dream come true… Regardless, I’m blessed to be playing in this Super Bowl and going out there and having fun with my teammates.

Zach Pascal to 7New Sports (February 10, 2023)