Philadelphia Eagles training camp 2015 is fast approaching. Coaches and players report as soon as Saturday, August 1. The Eagles training camp schedule, including information on practices open to the public, can be found by clicking here.
As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles roster. We start off by taking a look at the tight end position.
Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton, Justin Tukes, Eric Tomlinson, Andrew Gleichert
"Zach Ertz is ready to have a breakout year" is already a headline you read last offseason. After putting up impressive stats as a rookie, many thought Ertz was going to bust out as a stud in 2014. While Ertz didn't look bad by any means during his sophomore campaign, he didn't quite make the leap many expected. Part of the reason why Ertz was held back was due to the presence of Brent Celek. The Eagles' offensive line was in shambles and his blocking skills were arguably as important as ever. The problem with relying on Celek too much, however, is that he's no longer much of a big threat as a pass catcher.
Heading into 2015, Ertz might be closing the gap on Celek. The third-year tight end seems to be training harder than ever this offseason. He's sought out advice from one of the best tight ends ever to play in the NFL, Tony Gonzalez. He's also worked on his blocking with former legendary Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach Hudson Houck. Philadelphia tight end coach Justin Peelle noted that he already sees improvement in Ertz's blocking, which could potentially lead to more playing time. Blocking will be as important as ever to the Eagles in 2015 if the team is truly committed to getting back to the run game. Celek has had the advantage over Ertz in the past. It's up to Ertz to overtake the veteran.
Ertz had a very good showing this spring. He got open often and he caught nearly everything thrown his way. He was the favorite target of most quarterbacks, but especially Sam Bradford. That's good news for Ertz considering Bradford is likely going to be the starter.
Behind Ertz and Celek used to be James Casey, who played a few offensive snaps here and there a game. The team valued his ability as a blocker. With Casey gone, it's up to versatile backup Trey Burton to assume a bigger role. Burton really impressed last year on special teams. He's not the blocker Casey was but he does offer more as pass catcher. It's safe to say Burton is locked in as the third tight end.
The Eagles haven't been shy to keep four tight ends on their roster in the past. They did it for the first few weeks of 2013 before then doing it for all of 2014. Kelly has said in the past that he wants to "stockpile" tight ends. The Eagles currently have undrafted free agent rookies Justin Tukes, Eric Tomlinson, and Andrew Gleichert battling it out for a fourth spot. None of them might be good enough to make the roster, but one could earn practice squad consideration.
The Eagles might look to add a fourth tight end via the waiver wire should someone they like spring available after final cuts.
How will it play out?
From what I wrote earlier this offseason: "Ertz jumped from playing 40.8% of the team's offensive snaps in 2013 to 49.9% in 2014 while Celek dropped from 76.5% in 2013 to 69.3% last season. I could see those 2014 numbers getting a little bit closer in 2015, but I think Celek will still have the edge." Ertz sure has the potential to overtake Celek, but I'll believe it when I see it.
Meanwhile, Burton will make the team as a third tight end. The team won't be shy to keep a fourth player if he deserves it.
Who could be a surprise cut?
Nobody here. Based on what I've seen so far, it would be a bit of a surprise to see if one the undrafted rookie free agents earned a spot.
Speaking of cuts, Celek is safe for now but this could be his last year with the Eagles. He's due $5 million after this season and none of that money is guaranteed.