Trey Burton, Brent Celek have no problem filling Zach Ertz's shoes

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Trey Burton, Brent Celek have no problem filling Zach Ertz's shoes

Really, it felt like 2009 again. There was Brent Celek making a big catch, bowling over a linebacker and lunging past the sticks for a first down. And there was the crowd at the Linc roaring its approval.

Just like old times.

"It felt great," Celek said. 

Celek, once one of the NFL's most feared pass-receiving tight ends, has been largely a situational blocker since the emergence of Zach Ertz as an even-more feared pass-receiving tight end.

When Ertz was a surprise inactive Sunday with a hamstring injury, Celek and Trey Burton picked up the slack, combining to catch five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles' 51-23 win over the Broncos at the Linc (see breakdown).

The Eagles have tremendous tight end depth. Celek, from 2009 through 2013, ranked sixth in the NFL among tight ends in receiving yards and can still catch the ball and run. Burton, a former undrafted free agent, caught 37 passes last year, which is tremendous production for a third-string tight end.

The Eagles have been losing players all year, and in every case, the backup has performed at a high level.

Celek and Burton kept up that tradition Sunday.

"I'm not surprised by any means," said Ertz, who came into the weekend second among NFL tight ends in catches and yards. "I'm pumped for those guys. Brent and Trey stepped up and did exactly what they needed to do."

Celek had caught just four passes all year and only 27 in his last 30 games. And Burton had just nine catches the first eight weeks.

But Celek caught three for 39 yards Sunday, two for first downs, and Burton added a 14-yarder and a circus 27-yard touchdown — the longest TD catch of his career — as the Eagles improved to 8-1 with their seventh straight win (see Roob's observations)

"When you lose guys — and we've lost a few, (Darren) Sproles, (Jason) Peters — everybody else has to just play that much better, and that's what I tried to do," said Celek, now in his 11th year with the Eagles.

"That's what I have to do. That's what they have me here for. I've got to be ready to be that guy who can come in and help in the run game and help a little in the passing game, and when Ertz goes down, I have to be able to play well. That's what my teammates expect, and that's what I expect."

Safe to say there's nobody on this roster that hardcore Eagles fans appreciate more than Celek.

He's now played in 168 games, fifth-most in franchise history.

The only guy ahead of him who played his entire career with the Eagles is Chuck Bednarik, at 169 games.

So in two weeks, Celek will have played in more games than anybody in Eagles history who played his entire career here.

Nothing better than seeing the grizzled old forgotten veteran show flashes of his old self.

Celek — the only player on the roster who's played in an Eagles' playoff win — has done something rare, transitioning from a big-time starter to a rarely used backup.

"Sometimes that's just what you have to do for the team," Celek said. "If you want to be a team player and you still want to be a part of this organization, that's what you have to do.

"I could have gone in a different direction, but I want to be here. I love this place."

Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

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Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, John Clark and Barrett Brooks are pumped for the start of training camp. Following MLB Commissioner's comments on Mike Trout's marketability, the guys discuss if it's on the player or the league to market an athlete? The Falcons said they will not give Julio Jones a new contract. At what point does a public contract negotiation become a distraction in the locker room?

1:00 - Guys are excited for the start of training camp.
4:45 - Is it on a player or a league to market an athlete?
11:00 - When does a Julio Jones contract situation become a locker room distraction?
18:00 - When money starts dividing a locker room.

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Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Weakside linebacker

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Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Weakside linebacker

As we get near the start of the Eagles’ 2018 training camp, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the key position battles to watch this summer.

Today we’ll look at weakside linebacker.

Names to know

Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, Corey Nelson

What to watch

After years of trade speculation, the Eagles finally just released Mychal Kendricks this offseason. It saved them $6 million in cap room and let Kendricks out of a situation he had been ready to leave for some time. It also left the Eagles with a void. No, Kendricks didn’t play at an All-Pro level last season, but he stepped into a larger role after Jordan Hicks went down and helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl. Now, he’s gone and his old starting gig is up for grabs.

When Nelson was signed this offseason and said he was told he’d compete at the weakside linebacker spot, it raised some eyebrows. That was Kendricks’ job and as long as he was on the team, he wasn’t going to give it up. Now, it all makes more sense.

The WILL linebacker in the Eagles’ system doesn’t play a ton. The Eagles are in their nickel package for around 75 percent of their defensive snaps, which means two linebackers instead of three as the team brings an extra DB on the field. So Hicks and Nigel Bradham will stay on the field for most of the game and the third linebacker will play about a quarter of the snaps. And it’ll be one of these three guys.

What all three guys seem to have in common is the ability to cover. Grugier-Hill and Gerry are both converted safeties and Nelson is much smoother in coverage than Kendricks ever was. All three are good athletes and have shined as special teams players, but are hungry for more responsibility.

It’ll be interesting to see if this competition goes into the season. Bradham is suspended for the season opener, so it seems like two of these guys will start next to Hicks. So read into it how you will … because the guy who plays the WILL in that game might not be the guy who plays it in the next game because the player at the SAM will be on the field more and could possibly be ahead on the depth chart.


Grugier-Hill appeared to be in the lead for this job and I think he hangs on, although this one really is up in the air. I just think his two years in the defense will mean something to Jim Schwartz and it’ll be enough to give him an edge on a second-year player and a veteran special teams player. 

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