Eagles

Can Eagles afford to keep 3rd-string stud Trey Burton?

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Can Eagles afford to keep 3rd-string stud Trey Burton?

He doesn't get that many chances. When they come, he never fails to produce.

Welcome to the world of Trey Burton, who is essentially the Eagles' third tight end but is talented enough that he could probably start for a lot of teams out there.

With Zach Ertz out with a concussion, Burton had a career day Sunday, with five catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles' 43-35 win over the Rams at L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

Burton's previous high was 65 yards against the Redskins last year, but Sunday's game came on the heels of a 4-for-42 performance a week earlier in Seattle. Two weeks before that, he was 2-for-41 with a touchdown against the Broncos.

Here's a list of previous Eagles tight ends with 70 yards and two TDs in a game in the last 50 years: Charle Young vs. the Saints in 1973, John Spagnola vs. the Saints in 1985, Chad Lewis vs. the Giants in 2000 and Ertz vs. the Cowboys the last day of last season.

"I just did whatever needed to be done," Burton said. "Zach was out, which we don’t like, we love having Zach in there, he makes so many plays. But somebody needed to step up and Brent and I both did what we needed to do."

Brent Celek caught a touchdown pass and Burton caught two, making this the first game in four years in which Eagles' tight ends caught three TDs. In early December 2013, Ertz had two TDs and Celek had one against the Cardinals.

Burton is a remarkable story.

Undrafted out of Florida. Didn't catch a pass until his 26th NFL game. Didn't have a touchdown until his 32nd NFL game. Didn't surpass 50 receiving yards until his 38th NFL game.

But in 20 games since Week 8 of last year, Burton has 42 catches for 426 yards and four touchdowns.

That's awfully good production for a third tight end. And he still plays fewer snaps than Celek.

"We're probably the only team in the league that can have one of the best tight ends go down and not play in a game and feel the degree of confidence that we have in the guy that's stepping up for him as far as a route runner with Trey and then with the things Brent can do," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said.

"Trey deserves a lot of credit. He's got a great skill-set and is a great playmaker."

Despite averaging only 20 snaps per game on offense (along with 20 more on special teams), Burton is 12th in the NFL among all tight ends with four touchdown catches.

Nobody on the roster has better hands than Burton, who in recent weeks has made challenging catches seem routine.

“Celek and I are just good players," Burton shrugged. "I think Zach would do the same thing if he (played vs. the Rams)."

Burton could start for a lot of teams. But he said he doesn't get frustrated at his lack of playing time or targets.

“Can’t control it," he said. "I can’t pout, I can’t be angry. I’m sitting behind one of the best in the NFL right now. Love that dude to death, extremely happy for him and Celek, all the opportunities that they get. Couldn’t be happier for them."

Then there's his contract.

Burton is playing on a one-year, $2.746 million deal he got this past offseason.

It's a deal that really reflects his value on special teams as well as a situational tight end. And it's an unusual amount of money for a backup tight end.

But the way he's played so far this year, Burton would be in line for a long-term deal worth much more this coming offseason.

Will it be here? Will it be elsewhere? Will the Eagles cut ties with Celek — who's been here since 2007 — in order to free up money to keep Burton? Releasing Celek would clear $4 million in cap space the Eagles desperately need. Or can Howie Roseman squeeze all three tight ends under the Eagles' 2018 salary cap?

Celek turns 33 next month and is still a capable blocker and receiver, but Burton just turned 26 and keeps getting better.

It would be tough to let Burton go.

Whatever is going to happen, Burton says he isn't even thinking about it.

“No, not at all," he said. "I can’t control that right now.”

The Eagles have a few months before they have to make these decisions.

And there's a first-round bye and home-field advantage to clinch at the moment.

"Trey’s a tremendous athlete," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He works extremely hard. He’s a core special teams player for us. Really, Trey hasn’t probably gotten a lot of offensive plays this year, but when he has … he’s made the most of his opportunity.

"He did that (against the Rams). Real proud of the way Trey played."

QB clash in NFC title game is what makes sports great

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QB clash in NFC title game is what makes sports great

Life is just too darn predictable. Death, taxes, partisan politics, some form of Law and Order running on cable, Liam Neeson rescuing someone.

That predictability often seeps into the sporting world as well. Alabama playing for a national title, the Cleveland Browns playing for no title and the Patriots owning the NFL. We’ve been there, done that, too many times.

That’s why the Nick Foles-Case Keenum South Philly showdown for the right to play in the Super Bowl is an awesome, unexpected gift bestowed upon us by the sports gods.

Think about the premise of someone suggesting to you prior to the season that Foles and Keenum would be playing for an NFC title. You wouldn’t even have gotten to the point of laughing them off. You would have dismissed that person and probably sought an intervention for them before it even got to that point. But that’s what makes this matchup so unique. Take last year’s final four quarterbacks for example. Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. Three Hall of Fame locks. With the exception of Ryan, all have won a ring and all are perennial Pro Bowlers. The blue bloods of the league. Predictable.

This year’s box of QB chocolates is what makes sports great. Foles and Keenum were overlooked, written off, one-time starters who washed out at their previous stops. Foles even contemplated retirement. Yet here they are, one guaranteed to be playing in their sport's ultimate game. If you throw Blake Bortles into the mix in the AFC, three of the four quarterbacks left standing would have been completely unthinkable prior to the season.

It’s also what makes this Eagles season and this run that much sweeter. Even if they had stayed healthy all season, few of us saw them playing for the right to take home the Lombardi Trophy. Let alone with Foles, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jake Elliott and the fill-in crew. Foles' and Keenum’s success could also go a long way in dispelling the myth that if your starting quarterback goes down, your season is over. Granted, the Eagles, Vikings and Jaguars all have phenomenal defenses, which helps quite a bit. 

Both quarterbacks have their work cut out for them considering the ferociousness of those defenses they will be facing. But taking into account what both have been through to get to this point, I don’t think either will be daunted. One thing we also know for sure, the game and the quarterback matchup will be anything but predictable.

Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

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Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

How do you turn being a home underdog into a good thing? Use it as motivation to win a football game.

How do you turn being a home underdog into a great thing? Raise money for Philadelphia schools and win football games. That’s what Lane Johnson is doing.

After the nation doubted the Eagles against the Falcons, Johnson and Chris Long donned dog masks after divisional round win, embracing the role of underdogs. Now, Johnson has his own T-shirt and is raising money. A lot of it, too.

Shirts can be purchased at lj65.shop for just $18 and Johnson tweeted that more than 3,000 have already been sold.

Hopefully, the home dogs continue to eat this weekend against the Vikings.