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This will totally be Zach Ertz’s year, for real this time

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Eagles training camp position preview.

Cleveland Browns v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Philadelphia Eagles training camp 2017 is almost here. The first practice starts on July 24. The Eagles' entire 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 continue today by taking a look at the tight ends.


The Players

Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton, Anthony Denham, Billy Brown

THIS IS THE YEAR.

This is the year Ertz finally breaks out and proves all the doubters wrong.

That’s what the chart says, right?

Indeed.

But what if this year actually IS different? What if Ertz gets off to a strong start and stays hot for the entire season?

Some people will believe it when they see it. That’s fair. But allow me to be naive and think this year could actually be different. This could actually be the year Eagles fans have been waiting for from Ertz.

One of the biggest factors that makes me a believer is the continuity Ertz has with Carson Wentz. Ertz has never played a season where the Week 1 starting quarterback was the same Week 1 starter from the year before. Wentz has build up a nice rapport with Ertz, which was on full display in offseason workouts this spring. Ertz looked really good.

Another factor is that Ertz showed promise down the stretch in 2016. Yes, he does this every year, but last year was a little different. He was called out for being soft and he responded by running harder after the catch and actually fighting through contract. It remains to be seen if he’ll keep that up.

If you’re still skeptical about Ertz, I get it. You’re tired of the slow starts. You’re tired of the lack of physicality. You’re tired that he hasn’t been much of a presence in the red zone (only 13 touchdowns on 247 career receptions).

I feel the same way to some extent. I’m not all in on the guy, nor am I among his biggest critics. I fall somewhere in the middle.

Ertz can get everyone on his side by having a big year and being consistent throughout the season. The opportunity is there for the taking. The Eagles need him to make the most of it and be a reliable option for Wentz.

The Eagles really need Ertz to stay healthy because the depth behind him is a steep drop-off. Celek posted career lows in receiving last year with only 14 receptions for 155 yards and zero scores. The 32-year-old is just an extra blocker at this point.

Burton received a career-high amount of offensive snaps last season. He finished the year with 37 receptions for 327 yards and one touchdown. Burton isn’t some kind of major weapon by any means but he’s a nice role player to mix in to the offense. He’s also a valuable member on the special teams unit.

The Eagles signed Denham to their practice squad last season. The 6-4, 235 pound tight end caught my eye a few times during OTAs and minicamp due to his receiving ability. I’m a little interested to see if that was just a fluke or if he’ll show up again when the pads come on in training camp.

Brown also caught my eye this spring. Not so much for what he did on the field, but just because he’s so huge at 6-4, 255 pounds. Brown played wide receiver at this size for Division II Shepherd University. He could be a nice developmental guy to stash on the practice squad this year.

How will it play out?

Here’s a look at last year’s snaps breakdown.

Ertz - 75.1%

Celek - 38.7%

Burton - 29.2%

I think those totals will be generally similar this year. Ertz missed two games in 2016 so he’s due for a bump in playing time if he stays healthy.

Ertz is the main pass catcher. Celek is a pure blocking tight end. Burton can line up in-line, in the backfield, in the slot, or out wide.

Who could be a surprise cut?

No surprise cuts this year, but this is probably Celek’s last ride with the team. He can be cut for a savings of $4 million after this season.

The Eagles gave some thought to keeping four tight ends last year. I could see Denham or Brown potentially stealing a spot with a strong summer. If not, at least one of them will make the practice squad.

With Celek likely gone after this year and Burton set to be a free agent, the Eagles need to have a plan for their depth behind Ertz.