How Good are the Eagles Tight Ends?

Posted: June 28th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 28 Comments »

2013 was supposed to be the year of the TE for the Eagles. There would be 2, 3 or maybe even 4 on the field at once. Chip Kelly was going to wow us all with the way he used his TEs. That didn’t exactly happen.

We don’t know exactly why, but Kelly ended up going with a 3-WR attack for most of the year. He did play TEs more later in the season, but still not as much as was expected. One thing is sure, the Eagles don’t lack talent at the TE position. Brent Celek has become one of the best blocking TEs in the league and he is still dangerous as a receiver. Zach Ertz had a terrific rookie season and showed excellent potential. James Casey was a disappointment, but still is one of the more versatile players in the league.

Chris Wesseling of NFL.com ranked the TEs around the league. He ranked Celek and Ertz. Celek was rated a “Solid Starter”, while Ertz fell into the category of “Production/Potential”.

At age 34, Gates looks like a player about to be bypassed by Ladarius Green. The same torch-passing is going on in Philadelphia with Celek and Zach Ertz.

I think calling Celek a “solid starter” is fair. He’s never been a player that opposing defenses fear, but has always been a productive, reliable player. I also think Celek is one of those players who is going to be more appreciated by people who watch him 16 games a year than those who study a couple of games here and there. If you focus on the numbers, Celek isn’t going to wow you.

Those who watch him fight for every single yard on every single play appreciate his effort and intensity. Celek’s emotion brings some energy to the field and can help fire up his teammates. While you don’t want to overvalue that, you also don’t want to dismiss it. There is value in players who can fire up and motivate their teammates and the fans. Football is an emotional game.

Ertz has big time potential and could become a star TE in a year or two. He showed some of his potential last year as he went 36-469-4. Averaging 13 yards per reception is very impressive for a TE, especially a rookie. Ertz is a gifted receiver. The one area he must focus on is blocking. Ertz knows this and talked about it with PE.com.

There was speculation that Casey might get cut by the Eagles. I don’t think that is going to happen. He didn’t play as much or as well as expected in 2013, but I think Kelly still values his versatility. I also think Kelly wants to use TEs more this season. If so, he’ll need more than just Celek and Ertz.

Emil Igwenagu is still in the mix, as are rookies Blake Annen and Trey Burton. Iggy just isn’t an overly talented player. There’s no question of effort or toughness, but he’s not very big and isn’t special athletically. Annen has very good size and athleticism, but is raw. He could develop into a good backup with time.

Burton is the most interesting guy. The Eagles list him at 235, but he was only 225 at his Pro Day. Burton is a good athlete. He never found a home in terms of position while in college, but made his share of plays.

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  • A_T_G

    They look pretty good to me.

    • A Roy

      That would explain why they released Jackson. The Eagles obviously prefer tight ends to wide receivers.

    • Ark87

      Everybody talks about the smoothies at obscure, but I show up for the shakes. Well that’s my quota for dad jokes on the day.

  • ACViking

    Re: Two Good TEs . . . What About the NFL’s Greatest Coaches?

    From the day he arrived, Kelly’s freely talked about having 2 and even 3 very good TEs around to force mismatches.

    So how ’bout a run down the NFL’s history lane to see what some of the greatest coaches and personnel men did.
    _____________

    If you look at Al Davis’s great Raiders teams, certainly from early ’70-mid ’80s, one the team’s almost immutable characteristics was having 2 good TEs every year. In 1971, the Raiders added Stanford TE Bob Moore (who’d played with Heisman winner Jim Plunkett) to ROY and All Pro TE Ray Chester.

    After Chester was traded, Davis brought in HOF TE Dave Casper to pair with Moore. After Moore was traded, Davis traded for the 49ers All Pro TE Ted Kwalik to pair with Casper.

    Davis then brought back Ray Chester to pair with Casper. Then, after drafting (Camden’s own) Derrick Ramsey to play TE along side Chester, Davis traded Caper. In the meantime, Davis had found former Cowboys 2nd Rd pick Todd Christensen on the waiver wire in ’79 to turn from a fullback to a future All Pro TE . . . something Davis had done back in the AFL with former Heisman winner Billy Cannon, who broke into the AFL with Houston as a FB.

    After trading Derrick Ramsey, and making Christensen the starter at TE, Davis brought in former Pro Bowl TE Don Hasselback from New England (the father of all the QBs).

    Davis valued great TE play. Probably more than any other coach or personnel guy. Especially TEs who could get downfield.
    _______________

    Tom Landry’s Cowboys of the late ’60s to the early ’80s always had 2 excellent TEs. In part because they became, for a time, the players he used to shuttle plays to his QB.

    His first pair were Pettis Norman and HOFer Mike Ditka. Then Ditka and former Ram Pro Bowler Billy Truax. Then Ditka and longtime Eagles nemesis Billy Joe Dupree. Then it was Dupree and Jean Fugett (who jumped to Washington in the Roswell Rule-era of free agency). And finally Dupree and Doug Cosbie.

    The stretch covered 1969-1983. And with the arrival of BJ Dupree, Landry started using a guard to shuttle the play calls.
    _______________

    Don Shula was on the 2 TE train with the Colts and the Dolphins. The fateful ’68 Baltimore team, which lost to the Jets in SB III, had HOF TE John Mackey and a great receiving TE from Bucknell named Tom Mitchell. Both were in fact key contributors in the Colts SB win over the ‘Boys in 1970.

    After Shula moved to the Dolphins before the ’70 season, he added former GB Packer TE — and 3x NFL Champion and 2x SB winner — Marv Flemming at TE. Shula also drafted UMichigan TE Jim Mandich (key catch to set up the ‘Phins SB clinching TD in 1972). Flemming and Mandich went to 5 straight playoffs, 3 straight SBs, and won 2 straight SBs.

    Shula’s 1984 SB losing-team, with Marino at QB, had 3 really productive TEs. Bruce Hardy, Don Johnson, and Joe Rose combined for 74 catches, 878 yards, and 10 TDs.
    ________________

    There’s Bill Walsh. During his great run with the 49ers, Walsh paired former Eagles All Pro TE Charles Young with a converted FB named Earl Cooper (a former 1st Rd pick).

    After Young moved on, Walsh acquired “All World” Russ Francis from New England. Then Walsh coupled Francis with (a guy T-Law mentioned not long ago named) Jon Frank.
    ________________

    Finally, there’s the late Chuck Noll. He never had the kind of talent at TE the other coaches did. But he valued having 2 good-to-very-good TEs.

    There was John McMackin (key block on the Immaculate Reception) paired with Larry Brown, a future Pro Bowl OT. Then it was Brown and Temple’s Randy Grossman. And finally Grossman coupled with Bennie Cunningham.
    ________________

    Bottom line, for me, is that Kelly is emphasizing the acquisition of talent at a position that the very best coaches in NFL history have likewise valued and used to great success.

    Kelly’s such a throwback in so many ways. Including his views on TE.

    • A_T_G

      Another amazing installment of historical context.

      At one point in reading I wondered to myself, if you made this stuff up, would I be able to tell? I don’t think I could. I think it would be fun if, when you write these up, you insert one made up, completely false piece of information and see how long it takes us to find it (with an explanation of the game, of course).

      • ACViking

        Will do

      • JakFTW

        The guy from Miami Vice played for the Dolphins?

        • A_T_G

          That was actually what sparked the thought.

          • ACViking

            Damn typo.

            It’s Dan Johnson.

            But the game will go on

          • Ben

            Don

          • JakFTW

            No fair – I thought Don Johnson really played football between fighting crime and looking good.

          • A_T_G

            Wasn’t Crokett an ex-Florida Gator QB?

    • Dominik

      And don’t forget an active All-Time great HC in Belichick, who brought the two TEs back in the conversation.

      Good article about that development:

      http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2012/09/04/rise-tight-ends-came-result/i66DiZ2mKrKocaJUZ0KoPK/story.html

      It pays dividends if you analyse your season thoroughly. I’m sure Chip does that.

    • ICDogg

      When I think of former Eagles 2-TE sets, Krepfle and Spagnola are the first pair that come to mind.

  • Wilbert M.

    I think Annen is the most interesting of the new guys. He’s probably the fastest TE in the NFL right now. He’s raw, but should get a practice squad slot.

  • Mitchell

    Can Ertz become an above average blocker? Will he be better than Eifert in this offense?

    • Ben

      Ertz has the potential to be a top 5 NFL TE in this offense.
      He has size and speed to do anything.
      He’s like 6’5 and weighs about 250 so blocking should not be a problem.
      I didn’t know Tyler Eifert was in this offense. Just kidding.
      He will not be better than Ertz, especially in THIS offense.
      That’s for sure.

      • Mitchell

        I actually thought Eiffert looked better coming out of college.

    • Adam

      If I remember correctly, the biggest knock on Celek coming out of college was his blocking. I think that is the MO on TEs, draft a pass catcher with some size and teach him to block.

  • bsuperfi

    Ertz had a phenomenal rookie season as far as tight ends go. I love the thought of him growing up in this offense with Foles and hopefully Matthews. If things go according to plan, Ertz will clearly have surpassed an aging Celek in a couple,years as the Super Bowl window yawns wide. They’ll still have different roles, but I’m hoping Ertz turns into a graham/gates level weapon.

    Though, I still hope Celek has a nasty run and catch for TD in the Super Bowl. That would be sweet.

  • Phyxius

    Ertz is obligated to break out this year.

  • Ben

    Great subject Tommy,
    I think the game slows down for Ertz and he really has a huge jump in production.
    If this offense can be consistent as Chip wants it to be then I think both Celek and Ertz could put up impressive numbers.
    I truly believe in Chip and I think that the tempo in which he runs our offense, gives us the advantage before we even get on the field.
    Some defenses we played seemed as though they were unable to keep up with us last year, especially late in games.
    I think we see a lot more of that this season.

  • Dominik

    @ T-Law

    Do you think Chip valued Avants blocking (against CBs) over Ertz blocking (against LBs) and therefore played a lot of 11? Ironically, that would make Avant more of a TE and Ertz more of a WR (in this system).

  • T_S_O_P

    I read somewhere that Casey had been helping Burton which is interesting as both were slash players (QB, RB, TE, WR) in college. He couldn’t have a better mentor

    • Dominik

      And it would speak for Caseys character, because Burton is fighting for Caseys roster spot (at least next year). They are pretty similar player types and Burton is much cheaper.

      A little bit like Avant, who had to fight for his roster spot last year (prior to Macs injury, at least) and still did all he could to help the young WR.

      Even though coaches see that and value that, I don’t know if I could do that. You shouldn’t be a dick, of course, but there are pay checks on the line. If I’m Jason Peters, I have no problem to teach the young O-Liners some tricks. When they are ready (if they are ready) I’m out of the league or I’m still good enough to dominate them. But if I battle for a roster spot for myself, it’s a great trait if you are able to help the young guns. Like I said, don’t know if I could.

  • Brendan Ekstrom

    Did Casey actually play poorly? I thought he just didn’t get in the field much.

    • eagleyankfan

      I think the assumption would be … he didn’t impress enough in training/pre-season/practice to earn more time…