This weeks predictions will be a bit different because of the way Chip Kelly will use his tight ends, so instead, I will project the role of each tight end.
When Chip Kelly was named the Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach, people began wondering what his offense may look like. Many came to the conclusion that the offense that he will run in Philadelphia will be similar to the one that Bill Belichick runs in New England. Once this connection was forged, it became a forgone conclusion that Coach Kelly was going to acquire more tight ends to bolster his roster.
Besides Brent Celek, the Eagles tight end depth was weak, so starting on the first day of free agency, Coach Kelly began to add talent and versatility to the position. He added two very athletic and versatile tight ends to the Eagles roster and, by doing so, the Eagles tight end depth is now a strength, not a weakness.
All of the rumors and commotion surrounding the tight end position was proven correct and on the second day of the draft, after drafting Stanford tight end Zach Ertz, Coach Kelly had this to say: “I’ve always been a heavy tight end guy. We don’t play with a fullback, we really use that second tight end and now, a third tight end. So, he’ll go in with Brent Celek and James Casey and add to the mix of what we can do and present a lot of problems for people.”
Now on to the predictions!
Brent Celek, Primary Role: Blocking- This may not be what Celek wants, but it seems like this will be his role. I don’t mean to say that Celek wont be used in the passing game, but that he will be the teams primary blocking tight end. Celek is a very good blocker, which will play a huge role in this decision. The other tight ends on the Eagles roster are more athletic and lack in blocking ability. Due to this combination, and because Coach Kelly will use so many tight ends, Celek will see his receptions and yard totals decrease this season.
Zach Ertz, Primary Role: Receiving- Ertz demonstrated throughout his college career that he can lineup all over the field and create mismatches no matter where he lines up. He is 6’6″ and he has great speed, which makes him difficult for linebackers to cover and safeties to cover.
What will hinder Ertz’s playing time is his lack of blocking ability. However, he will be heavily utilized in the red zone because of his size. Ertz has been compared to Jason Witten because he isn’t the fastest tight end, but he is a great route runner and he has very reliable hands. Expect Ertz to be motioned all over the field and to see plenty of action in Coach Kelly’s tight end-friendly offense.
James Casey, Primary Role: Receiving/Fullback- Casey brings tons of variety to the Eagles tight end group because he has played both tight end and fullback. When Casey was signed, he was expected to be the Eagles backup tight end and his abilities in the passing game was supposed to be heavily utilized.
Since the Eagles draft Ertz, Casey has become a bit forgotten — his role wont change, but his playing time will. In a hurry up offense like Kelly’s, versatility is key because there will not always be time for substitutions and this is where Casey will thrive.
Due to Casey’s experience as a fullback, Casey can line up behind the quarterback and take handoffs as well has go into routes or receive screens. Casey’s abilities will be heavily utilized this year and I expect him to thrive in this offense.