brent celek

Are 2018 Eagles better or worse at tight end?

Are 2018 Eagles better or worse at tight end?

Brent Celek and Trey Burton are out at tight end for the Eagles. The team’s top pick in the 2018 draft, Dallas Goedert, is in.

Two-thirds of the tight ends are new for this year, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We examine whether the Eagles got better or worse at the position coming off a Super Bowl championship season.

Better

More big play potential

There’s no denying the changes at tight end should make the Eagles’ offense more dynamic. Celek, age 33, could barely move anymore, while Burton is undersized at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds.

Selected No. 49 overall out of South Dakota State, Goedert lists at 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, and the 23-year-old plays “above the rim,” with plus speed and a knack for highlight-reel catches. Even Richard Rodgers, a fifth-year veteran from the Packers and frontrunner for the third tight end spot, is larger than Burton at 6-foot-4, 257 pounds with roughly twice as much career production.

More athleticism. Bigger targets. Defenses are going to have their hands full with this group.

Worse

Intangibles

Celek made up for declining ability on the football field with tremendous leadership off of it. He was a consummate professional, somebody who commanded the respect of his peers. Most of all, he showed young players how to prepare for the rigors of an NFL season, missing only one game in 11 years with the Eagles.

Burton was another positive influence, quietly going about his business as the third tight end despite possessing the talent for a larger role.

The Eagles lost a pair of hard workers. Goedert, a rookie, and Rodgers may turn out to be perfect teammates, but they have a lot to live up to in that regard.

The same

Zach Ertz

Few tight ends are as reliably productive as Ertz, who’s coming off his third consecutive season with at least 70 receptions and 800 yards receiving. He’s a top-five player at his position, 27 and in the thick of his prime.

The unknown

Depth

In the two games Ertz missed due to injuries last season, Burton recorded seven receptions for 112 yards with three touchdowns. Even Celek managed to pitch in with a three-catch, 39-yard outing — by far his most productive game — and hauled in his lone touchdown during the other contest.

Goedert has out-of-this-world potential, drawing comparisons to the likes of Ertz and Chiefs superstar Travis Kelce, but has yet to play a down in the NFL. Rodgers racked up a 500-yard, eight-touchdown season back in 2015, and has accomplished little since.

As long as Ertz is in the lineup, the offense will run smoothly. Beyond him, the Eagles can’t be certain what they have.

Better or worse?

The real sting would be Burton’s departure via free agency, except he was used so sparingly. Rodgers has proven capable of posting TE3 numbers at least.

The Eagles decided Celek was no longer a viable option and released him in March, which was difficult to argue. Whatever hidden advantages he provided, it’s difficult to believe Goedert or a replacement-level player couldn’t outperform him at this stage.

Celek posted 14 receptions for 136 yards in 19 games last season, including playoffs, along with some less than stellar blocking. Sentimental value aside, a Goedert-Rodgers combination looks like a big upgrade. BETTER

More on the Eagles

After long wait, Eagles draft 'exciting' tight end in Dallas Goedert

After long wait, Eagles draft 'exciting' tight end in Dallas Goedert

This sure was beautifully symmetrical. The Eagles made a trade to move in front of Dallas … in Dallas's stadium … to take a tight end named Dallas.

The Eagles on Friday shipped their second-round pick (No. 52 overall) and a fifth-round pick (No. 169 overall) to the Colts to move up three spots and draft South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert with the 49th pick.

The Cowboys, who lost future Hall of Famer Jason Witten to retirement earlier in the day, were expected to take Goedert with the 50th pick.

Goedert, a friend of Carson Wentz, was a backup his first two years at South Dakota State, then caught 164 passes for 2,404 yards and 18 touchdowns over the last two seasons playing on the NCAA Football Championships Subdivision level (formerly NCAA Division I-AA).

The Eagles traded out of the first round on Thursday and moved from 32 to 52 before moving back down to 49. They don’t have a third-round pick, so Goedert is the only player they’ve taken through two days of the draft.

“When you make your head coach wait 49 picks for a player, it’s nice to make him happy,” Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said.

“His reaction when we made that trade, his excitement, that makes us really excited to get a guy like this, to see his reaction and his staff’s reaction.”

This is the second time in six years the Eagles have taken a tight end in the second round.

Zach Ertz is among the NFL’s best and made his first Pro Bowl this past season. But the Eagles love to play a lot of 12 personnel, with two tight ends on the field, and they believe Goedert is NFL-ready.

“It’s exciting thinking about the matchups,” Roseman said. “We have a Pro Bowl tight end right there, and you think about the combinations, it’s exciting to think about what they can do together.”

Roseman said the Eagles expected to get a player at 52 that would have made sense at 32, and he said Goedert is that guy. And they added a 2019 second-round pick along the way.

“We’re really excited about him and his fit as a player and as a person for our program,” Roseman said. “He’s a guy we had our eye on. Coach and his staff are really excited about the way we can utilize him.

“The more weapons we have for our quarterback and our head coach, the better we think we’ll be. It’s a great opportunity for us. He’s among the players we had grouped at 32 and we wanted to make sure we got one of those guys, and that’s why we made the move up. We wanted to make sure we felt good about our first pick.”

The Eagles lost Trey Burton to free agency and released Brent Celek this offseason.  

“It’s going to add some depth and competition to the position,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Tremendous player. Tremendous asset to our offense.

“I think we can utilize him much the same way we did the past two years with Trey Burton having him on the field with Zach. Exciting to have a player like this, a pick like this, that can add to our roster. Shouldn’t take him long at all to get into the mix.”

Goedert was a two-time Football Subdivision All-American. He finished 10th in Subdivision with 1,111 yards last year and 15th with 72 catches

“Dallas is a blue-collar kid that works extremely hard and for him specifically — this is a guy we felt dominated at that level of play the last two years,” Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas said.

“Excellent production. He got hurt at the Senior Bowl but before he got hurt he showed a lot of really promising trends.”

Goedert stands 6-foot-5, 260 pounds. He’s considered a decent blocker, but Pederson said the Eagles don’t really demand a ton of in-line blocking from their tight ends, and Goedert’s explosiveness is what really stands out.

“What you’re seeing with tight ends, it’s changed since I was in the league, where they were more big, physical guys, in-line physical guys,” Pederson said.

“Guys today are route runners that can block in-line, but [receiving] is their primary job, and this kid is one of those guys.

“He’s elusive, runs good routes, has great running ability, route skills. He’s got some refining to do, but we’ll get him caught up. How we block, how we use our tight end in schemes. We’re not a big in-line tight end scheme team, so this will benefit him like it benefited Zach and Trey and Celek, so it’ll be a good fit. Zach will be a good mentor for him.”

Zach Ertz missing Brent Celek as he takes his leadership role

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USA Today Images

Zach Ertz missing Brent Celek as he takes his leadership role

There was a noticeable difference in the NovaCare Complex when Zach Ertz arrived on Monday for the first day of the Eagles’ offseason workout program. 

No Brent Celek. 

Celek, the 11-year pro, was cut earlier this offseason after a tremendous career with the Eagles. For the first time in Ertz’s six-year career, Celek won’t be around. 

And weirdly, Ertz will now assume Celek’s old role as the veteran leader in the Eagles’ tight end room. 

“It’s tough, obviously,” Ertz said on Tuesday. “He was the guy that when they brought me in, he was the guy, the veteran tight end in Philadelphia. He was the guy everyone knew about. And he didn’t treat me as a guy who was a competitor to him; he treated me as the guy who could help him further his career, where he didn’t have to take every snap. So it’s tough. That guy has been with me from the beginning, pretty much taught me how to be a pro in Philadelphia. 

“Even a couple years back, when the playing time began to increase in my way, he let me kind of take on a leadership role. He wasn’t overbearing by any means. He kind of let me lead in my own way. Even though he was the leader of the room, per se, he let me lead and slowly earn more of a leadership role in our room. He kind of set me up for this moment. I owe a lot of my success to Brent, the way he was a dominant blocking tight end, I was able to learn from that for a lot of years. I’m extremely thankful for him.”

While Ertz learned how to be a pro from Celek, he always tried to become a top-notch tight end like the Cowboys’ Jason Witten. He’s long admired his game. While some would argue Ertz finally had a breakout season in 2017, his last three years have been elite. Since 2015, he has 227 catches for 2,493 yards and 14 touchdowns. The only other TEs to put up those numbers or better over that span are Travis Kelce and Delanie Walker. And in 2017, Ertz did something Celek never did: he made a Pro Bowl. 

Celek was released and Trey Burton signed a lucrative deal to become the top tight end in Chicago, so Ertz is the only player left from last year’s tight end room. The Eagles brought in Richard Rodgers as a free agent and have a few younger prospects already on the expanded roster, but the Eagles’ brass has commented about how good of a tight end draft this is, so it would make sense if they add one later this month. 

If the Eagles do draft a tight end, the 27-year-old Ertz is going to try to be a strong veteran presence for the young player … kind of like what Celek was for him. 

“I told the guys the other day, I’m here to help however I can, whether that be talking football or just allowing them to watch how I approach things,” Ertz said. “I kind of was able to learn from Brent how to treat young tight ends coming in, young players coming in, so that’s one of the things that he kind of told me as he was leaving: that I kind of set the blueprint for your success. He didn’t say that verbally, but that’s how I took it. I want to repeat that for whoever comes in.”

Celek is gone, but through Ertz, his impact is still going to be felt in the NovaCare Complex for years to come.