Training camp is rapidly approaching for the Philadelphia Eagles and with it comes a wealth of excitement. Competition runs deep into the veins of the roster and just about every spot is up for grabs. Perhaps one of the more interesting positions that has gone under the radar is tight end. Zach Ertz is clearly the long-term receiving option after inking a new five-year extension last offseason, but with Brent Celek not getting any younger and Trey Burton returning on a one-year tender, the Birds might be in the market for a tight end or two sooner than many imagine. This in itself opens the door for Anthony Denham.
Originally signed to the Eagles practice squad last season before being waived, Denham was signed to a futures contract back in January. Coming out of Utah, the 6’4, 235 lbs tight end certainly had the prototype that raised the eyebrow of coaches…but not enough to be deemed worthy of a selection in the NFL Draft. Denham went undrafted in 2014, landing with the Houston Texans.
He would go on to play in four games as a rookie, contributing on special teams which is immediately a strong sign for the Eagles, who crave excellence in all four cores of Fipp’s prized unit. It’s also an area where another undrafted tight end made an impact for the Eagles and an area that eventually led to his role today, Trey Burton.
Denham impressed several writers and coaches alike during the OTA period. With some big plays and a fiery altercation with Steven Means, Denham seems to have turned it up a notch during his first full offseason with the team. There’s no doubting that training camp is going to be a crucial time for the 25-year old…and he’s certainly trending in the right direction.
One aspect that may help his progress further is the absence of UDFA, Billy Brown. The tight end coming out of Shepherd possesses a very similar frame and skillset to that of Trey Burton and slipped through the cracks of the NFL Draft. After signing with the team, Brown missed a large portion of workouts due to an injury problem, according to a source. Whether or not Brown returns of Training Camp remains to be seen, but if he doesn’t, it’s only more food that will go straight into the mouth Anthony Denham.
There isn’t a LOT of tape of Denham, if we turn back time to the 2013 NCAA season and view Denham playing for the Utes, we can see why the Eagles were high enough to not only recall him to the practice squad, but also sign him to a futures contract in January.
A 4.77 40-yard dash may not sound that impressive. But considering he’s only a tenth of a second slower than Zach Ertz and stands at 6’4. 235 lbs…it’s impressive. Not only is Denham a physical monster, but he has the breakaway speed to separate with ease and get away from oncoming defenders as can be seen in this big play below.
When you’re 6’4, catch radius is almost associated with you by nature…but as we saw with Dorial Green-Beckham, physical traits aren’t everything. This tape may be a few years old, but Denham’s wingspan and 32.5 inch vertical really stand out here. Hauling in a pass from a simple spot route that was wildly overthrown due to pressure (and a crunching hit), Denham makes the adjustment and plucks it from the sky.
Another exhibit can be seen here…but also notice that toe-drag-swang.
Against UCLA, Denham proved he had an impressive catch radius once again. A tough catch over the middle saw the tight end make an out of position catch, leaping to pluck another overthrown pass out of the air and take it thirty yards down the field.
While his routes have often been criticized due to simplicity and an inability to sell them efficiently or get creative with his footwork, Denham is crisp in his breaks, as can be seen on the play below. He embodies the perfect possession receiver, who carries the frame of a tight end. With new coaches in place, who’s to say Denham can’t potentially move into a flex role just as Trey Burton has?
We all know the Eagles still crave that redzone threat after the DGB experiment failed…and Denham may have the answer to some degree. Against Arizona, he runs a great fade route to win leverage against the corner before adjusting for the quarterback and again bringing in a tough pass.
“So Liam”, I hear you ask, “If Denham is SO good…why did he go undrafted and why did the Texans let him go?” Well, the answer simply lies in that unfortunate bubble known as “injury”.
Denham signed with Utah during the 2011 season but redshirted due to a hamstring injury during fall camp. In Spring 2012, Denham suffered a broken thumb before appearing in eleven games and catching eleven passes. His final collegiate season was a healthy one, starting 10 of a possible 12 games, but he only caught 24 passes for 291 yards and two scores.
Sure, the College tape is a few years old and with out a LOT of NFL experience, it’s unclear just what ceiling Denham has. But with his first full offseason with the Eagles already underway, it’s clear he still has plenty left to prove. The Eagles need some long-term security at tight end and even though it’s a long road from here…it would be unwise to write off a player who has yet to establish a platform to earn his stripes.
Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports