Eagles excited to finally use 3-TE set, hoping it 'presents a lot of problems'

Eagles excited to finally use 3-TE set, hoping it 'presents a lot of problems'

When Trey Burton became healthy enough to return for the Eagles’ second game of the season after missing the opener, it was bittersweet. 

Sure, he was getting back on the field, but he wouldn’t be joined by fellow tight end Zach Ertz, who suffered a first rib displacement. 

“I wish all three of us could be out there,” Burton said before Week 2. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get that somewhere during the season.”

Burton will get his wish this weekend. 

Thanks to the extra time the bye week provided, Ertz has completely recovered from his injury and will play Sunday against the Lions. So will Brent Celek. So will Burton. This will be the first time all year the Eagles will have their three tight ends healthy. 

And with all due respect to Matt Tobin, who filled in as a tight end on a few snaps, this will be the first time the Eagles will get a chance to show off their three-tight end set, which they worked on extensively during training camp. 

“The more tight ends, the better, in my opinion,” Celek said with a smile. “It’s great to just have the whole crew out there. We’ve worked so hard to be able to play with three tight ends. And obviously up until this point we’ve only had two going into each game. It’ll be nice. It’ll be fun, all of us going out there together.”

It’ll be a good week to get all three back, too. This season, the Lions have given up 22 catches for 247 yards and six touchdowns to opposing tight ends. They’ve given up a touchdown to a tight end in all four games this season. And they have given up 18 touchdowns to tight ends in their last 20 games, according to DraftKings’ Adam Levitan

Meanwhile, according to CSNPhilly.com's Reuben Frank, the Eagles are the only team in the league to have three tight ends with 50-plus receiving yards. 

Without having all three natural tight ends active, Tobin played 37 snaps (17 percent) in the first three games, which is a pretty high number to be in 13 personnel (three tight ends, one running back) given that one of them was playing out of position. 

For Tobin, it was an adjustment to a new position and it basically gave the Eagles an extra tackle on either the right or left side of the line. While Tobin was forced to report as an eligible receiver on these plays because he has an ineligible number, he wasn’t much of a threat to catch the ball. Teams knew he was staying in to block. 

Ertz, Celek and Burton are true dual threats. 

“This way, it kind of gets back to what I envisioned us being early in the season,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Obviously in training camp, with three tight ends. I love using all three of our guys. … Looking forward to this week and hopefully future weeks with those three guys.”

Having three dual-threat tight ends can create a mismatch problem for defenses. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said it could create extra gaps in the run game and motioning players could allow them to see how a defense responds to those shifts. 

The first question for a defense is what personnel to put on the field against the three-tight end set. 

“Yeah, it's tough to go nickel (package) against three tight ends,” Ertz said. “Most teams go base or possibly even bigger packages. And you have the ability to kind of spread [Burton] and I out. If you have three really good tight ends who can do both, which in our opinion we can, I think you'd have to ask (defensive coordinator Jim) Schwartz how he would game plan for it, but in our eyes, I think it presents a lot of problems.”

Celek said he isn’t sure how defenses will counteract the three-tight end set because they haven’t really done it before. While he thinks the team had the talent to do it in the past, when it had multi-dimensional player James Casey, it didn’t. 

Over the last three years, under Chip Kelly from 2013-15, the Eagles had three tight ends on the field for just 57 total plays — or 1.66 percent. 

Using three tight ends now not only creates matchup problems for defenses, but it’s also a way to make up for a receiving corps that leaves something to be desired. 

“I don’t really know if a lot of other teams just don’t really use the three-tight end sets or just they don’t have the personnel for it,” Celek said. “But it’s fun being in the room with these guys because we all wish the best for each other and we’re always pushing each other. It’s a fun group to be around.”

Eagles LB Joe Walker named Ed Block Courage Award winner

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Eagles LB Joe Walker named Ed Block Courage Award winner

Eagles linebacker Joe Walker, who missed all of last year with a serious knee injury, has been voted by his teammates this year's Eagles recipient of the prestigious 2017 Ed Block Courage Award. 

Walker joins such hallowed names in Eagles history as Andre Waters, Kevin Turner, Correll Buckhalter, Chad Lewis and Jason Avant in receiving the award, given annually to a player on each team who shows a commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage on and off the field.   

Walker, a seventh-round pick out of Oregon in 2016, suffered a knee injury the second week of training camp last summer but bounced back to make the 53-man roster this year and has played in all six games for the 5-1 Eagles.

With Jordan Hicks hurt in the second half Thursday night in Charlotte, Walker played a career-high 13 snaps on defense against the Panthers. He's played 53 special teams snaps this year.

Ed Block was the Colts’ trainer from 1954 through 1977 after earning a Purple Heart in the Army under General Patton in the tank corps in World War II.

The 32 Ed Block Courage Award winners will be honored at the annual Ed Block Courage banquet in Baltimore this spring.

For more information on the program, go to www.EdBlock.org.

Here is a list of all the Eagles’ Ed Block Courage Award winners since the inception of the program in 1984: 
2017     Joe Walker
2016     Nolan Carroll
2015     Fletcher Cox
2014     Jeremy Maclin
2013     Jason Kelce
2012     Colt Anderson
2011     Mike Patterson
2010     Jason Avant
2009     Michael Vick
2008     Jon Dorenbos
2007     Montae Reagor
2006     Jerome McDougle
2005     Chad Lewis
2004     Derrick Burgess
2003     Correll Buckhalter
2002     Shawn Barber
2001     Duce Staley & Tommy Brasher
2000     Cecil Martin
1999     Mike Mamula
1998     Bobby Taylor
1997     Rhett Hall
1996     Kevin Turner
1995     Charlie Garner
1994     Fred Barnett
1993     Andre Waters
1992     Jerome Brown
1991     David Alexander
1990     Ron Solt
1989     Mike Quick
1988     Wes Hopkins
1987     Gerry Feehery
1986     Jody Schultz
1985     Ron Jaworski
1984     John Spagnola

Despite raising bar in 2017, Philadelphia won't host 2018 NFL draft

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Despite raising bar in 2017, Philadelphia won't host 2018 NFL draft

The City of Philadelphia did an incredible job hosting the 2017 draft.

And it still wasn't enough to keep it. 

The NFL has announced the 2018 draft will be held in the Dallas Cowboys' home, AT&T Stadium. Dallas — or technically Arlington, Texas — will be the third city to host the draft in three years, following Chicago and Philly. 

It has been rumored for months that Jerry Jones had his city as the favorite to host the next draft. Turns out those rumors were right. 

Good luck topping what Philly did in 2017 though. 

“Philadelphia raised the bar by taking the Draft to another level, and this new opportunity in Dallas will enable us to continue the event’s evolution and grow it even further,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We are grateful to the Dallas Cowboys, the cities of Arlington, Dallas, and Frisco, and the Dallas Sports Commission for their leadership in turning this vision into reality.” 

The 2018 draft will begin on April 26. The NFL's release said the draft site will include the field, stands and outdoor plazas. 

According to the NFL, at the 2017 draft, a record 250,000 fans attended the three-day event along the Ben Franklin Parkway. The estimated economic impact for the city was $94.9 million. 

“The Draft was a family-friendly event for Philadelphians and visitors across the country,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “I thank all of our public and private partners, especially the City employees and first responders, who made this event a success and allowed Philly to shine in the national spotlight once again.”

Aside from the numbers, the draft in Philly was aesthetically pleasing. The television shots from the Parkway were gorgeous and the vibe around the entire event was special. 

Things went so well, NFL Senior Vice President of Events Peter O'Reilly said the draft in Philly was a "resounding success." 

It won't be coming back in 2018, but the next time it does, the city will be ready.