TE Trey Burton primed for bigger role with Eagles


TE Trey Burton primed for bigger role with Eagles

In most NFL offenses, the third-string tight end is seldom used — primarily as a blocker if at all. In the Eagles’ offense, the third tight end can be akin to a secret weapon.

James Casey caught only three passes in that role for the Eagles in 2014, but two went for touchdowns. With Casey out of the picture, the job figures to fall to Trey Burton, who has the potential to do a lot more with it.

As tight ends go, Burton is about as versatile as they come. At the University of Florida he also lined up wide receiver, running back and even quarterback. Last year for the Eagles as an undrafted rookie, Burton racked up seven special teams tackles, a blocked punt and helped ice a 27-0 shutout over the New York Giants with five carries in the fourth quarter.

Burton is what Eagles head coach Chip Kelly would refer to as a Swiss Army knife. For right now, however, the focus is on being that No. 3 tight end.

“It’s night and day, knowing what I’m supposed to do,” Burton said of entering his second season. “[Tight ends coach Justin] Peele and [tight ends Brent] Celek and [Zach] Ertz have done an unbelievable job helping me out and bringing me up from where I was last year, basically teaching me the position.”

Kelly would agree that Burton has come a long way in a short period of time, stressing that he’s looking at how to fit him in the rotation behind two proven, talented options in Celek and Ertz.

“Trey stepped up,” Kelly said last week. “It’s Year 2 for him. He was a key special teams player for us last year. We’re really putting a little bit more on his plate as a tight end because he's moving into that third tight end role with James Casey not being here.

“We’re trying to figure out exactly how he can fit into being one of our weapons because he's a really good offensive player.”

Burton has enjoyed a strong training camp this summer. He stood out as a receiver on a near daily basis — you simply don’t come across that many tight ends with 4.6 speed. It’s translated only to three receptions for 36 yards during preseason, although that’s not entirely his fault.

Burton nearly took the top off the defense on the first play from scrimmage in the preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts, but Mark Sanchez’s pass was underthrown and broken up. Later in the game, he was open again over the middle, but Matt Barkley's pass was a little behind the intended target and batted away again.

But not surprisingly, Burton has demonstrated his value in more ways than one. He’s also a capable and willing blocker, making one of the key seals on Kenjon Barner’s 9-yard touchdown run in the same contest.

“I take a lot of pride in it,” Burton said of blocking. “Last year, coach Peele was the assistant tight ends coach, so he got to spend a lot more one-on-one time with me. The work he put in with me last year, and just hanging around Celek and Ertz and taking pride in it has got me to where I’m at now.”

The third-string tight end on this roster is under the microscope even more so than usual, because there’s a chance Burton will be No. 2 on opening day.

Ertz underwent surgery for a core muscle injury two weeks ago. Initially, he was expected to miss only the preseason, although there seems to be some doubt as to whether he’ll be ready for the opener against the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 14.

Undrafted rookies Eric Tomlinson, Andrew Gleichert and Justin Tukes form the rest of the depth at the position. It’s possible the Eagles carry four tight ends, as they did last season with Burton, although he played almost exclusively on special teams.

If Ertz misses any time, Burton could be tasked with filling some big shoes for awhile. Ertz finished third on the team last season with 58 receptions and 702 yards.

Whatever is asked of Burton this season, he’ll give it a shot. That means No. 2 tight end, No. 3 tight end, blocking, receiving, rushing, special teams — anything.

“I’m open to whatever," Burton said. "Coach Peele knows whatever they want me to do I’m open to do it. I’m just here to help the team win. I would like to help bring a Super Bowl to Philadelphia.”

Top pending free agents from NFC East

Top pending free agents from NFC East

By now, you know which Eagles are set to become free agents on March 13 (see story), but do you know how they stack up against the other pending free agents in the division? 

The Eagles are set to lose some pretty significant pieces compared to the rest of the division. 

With less than a month until the start of free agency, here’s a look at the top 10 free agents from the NFC East: 

1. DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Cowboys 

Lawrence isn’t just the top pending free agent in the NFC East, he might be the top free agent in the NFL. It’s either him or Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney. Lawrence won’t turn 27 until April 28 and he’s already turned into a perennial Pro Bowler. His career got off to a relatively slow start, but his last two seasons have been great. In the last two years, Lawrence has had 25 sacks. Just three players in the NFL (Aaron Donald, Chandler Jones, Ryan Kerrigan) have had more in that span. Lawrence has also been very good against the run and has had 29 TFLs in the last two years. The Cowboys can’t afford to let him go. 

2. Nick Foles, QB, Eagles 

After the Eagles picked up his option year and then Foles immediately told the Eagles he’d pay back $2 million to buy his freedom, the former Super Bowl MVP is set to become an unrestricted free agent. The Eagles could prevent that by slapping a franchise tag on him, but if they don’t, he’ll be free to choose his next team when he becomes a free agent on March 13. (The tagging window is from Feb. 19 through March 5.) There probably aren’t a ton of landing spots left for Foles, but a couple of them might be in the division. Jacksonville and Miami make some sense too. 

3. Landon Collins, S, Giants 

Collins just finished out his rookie contract as a second-round pick and has been a Pro Bowler his last three years. He hasn’t stayed at his All-Pro level from 2016, when he was on the short list to be the Defensive Player of the Year, but he’s still been pretty damn good. The Giants probably can’t afford to let him walk, so if they can’t get a long-term deal, they’ll probably have to slap a tag on him. 

4. Brandon Graham, DE, Eagles 

BG is 30 now and is coming off a season where he had just four sacks, but he’ll still be a highly sought-after free agent. The former first-round pick has played all nine of his NFL seasons in Philly, but will likely get to test the free agent waters. Graham isn’t the top DE in this free agent market, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get a big deal. 

5. Preston Smith, LB, Redskins 

The former second-round pick hasn’t lived up to his potential with 24 1/2 sacks in four seasons, but he’s just 26 and has been a pretty big part of Washington’s defense. Washington probably still has some hope that Smith has room to grow. 

6. Golden Tate, WR, Eagles 

He came over from Detroit halfway through the season and the Eagles struggled to get him involved. Eventually, Tate did make a game-winning catch in the playoff game against Chicago, but is that enough for the Eagles to want to re-sign him? A YAC master, Tate will be 31 by the start of next season and had gone over 1,000 yards in three of his four previous seasons before 2018. 

7. Ronald Darby, CB, Eagles 

Darby tore his ACL against the Cowboys in November and is still recovering, which might delay his signing. In two seasons with the Eagles, he’s had two pretty significant injuries; the dislocated ankle in 2017 and the ACL tear in 2018. But when he’s been on the field, he’s been pretty good. The problem might be that the Eagles now seem to have some depth at corner. Maybe they still try to bring him back. 

8. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Redskins

Washington traded a fourth-round pick to the Packers at the deadline to bring in Clinton-Dix, who then played nine games with the Skins. He was a Pro Bowler in 2016, but has had an up and down career overall. But after releasing D.J. Swearinger, it might be important for Washington to keep Clinton-Dix. 

9. Jordan Hicks, LB, Eagles 

Because of his injury history, Hicks is one of the hardest free agents to figure out. When he’s on the field, he’s been a really productive player, but he has also missed 21 games over his first four years because of injury and that doesn’t include missing the Super Bowl run in 2017 after tearing his Achilles. 

10. Cole Beasley, WR, Cowboys 

It’s hard to believe, but Beasley just finished his seventh NFL season. He’s been unhappy with his usage in Dallas, which could mean he’ll be ready to get out of town. In 2018, he had 65 catches for 672 yards and three touchdowns. His best season came in 2016, when he caught 75 passes for 833 yards and five touchdowns. 

Notable mentions: David Irving, DT, Cowboys; Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins; Jay Ajayi, RB, Eagles; Russell Shepard, WR, Giants

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Malcolm Jenkins reacts to settlement in Colin Kaepernick collusion case

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Malcolm Jenkins reacts to settlement in Colin Kaepernick collusion case

In the wake of news that the NFL had settled collusion cases brought forth by Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, fellow activist and Eagle Malcolm Jenkins has weighed in. 

Despite some disagreements between the men in the past, Jenkins has always maintained that Kaepernick and Reid belonged in the league and thought NFL owners colluded to keep Kaepernick and Reid out of the NFL. 

Reid is now employed by the Carolina Panthers, but Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016. 

You’ll remember in October, Jenkins and Reid got into a heated exchange before the Eagles-Panthers game at the Linc. And after the game, Reid called Jenkins a sellout and a coward (see story).  

That day, Jenkins refused to get into a war of words. 

"I would never get up here and say anything bad about somebody who I know [their] intentions were about helping their communities, especially another black man," Jenkins said on Oct. 21, after the game. "I'll leave it at that."

The exchange between Jenkins and Reid that day stemmed from lingering animosity about the way the Players Coalition — led by Jenkins — brokered a $90 million deal with the NFL to help with projects dealing with racial inequality. 

On Friday afternoon, the NFL released the following statement: 

"For the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL. As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances. The resolution of this matter is subject to a confidentiality agreement so there will be no further comment by any party."

Because of the confidentiality agreement, we don’t know how much this settlement is worth, but it’s likely to be very significant. It’s also unclear if the NFL admitted any wrongdoing in the settlement. 

The grievances began when Kaepernick and Reid claimed they had been blacklisted by the NFL for demonstrating during the national anthem. Kaepernick began those protests by sitting and then later taking a knee. 

Jenkins raised his fist during the anthem but stopped once his Players Coalition brokered that deal in 2017. Jenkins raised his fist in the Eagles’ preseason opener in 2018, but did not during the 2018 season. Jenkins has said many times he wants the focus to be on work in the community and not the demonstrations. 

A tweet earlier on Friday falls in line with that. 

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