Do the Eagles already have a long term replacement for Riley Cooper?


Back in August I wrote an article claiming that the Eagles could potentially already have a long term replacement for Riley Cooper. Now that Cooper has been cut by the Eagles, I decided to revisit the original points made to see if anything had changed over the course of the season.

The proposed replacement comes in the way of 24 year old tight end Trey Burton. So how would a tight-end replace declining, blocking wide receiver? With Pederson taking the reigns the answer could be more obvious than ever before.

Before we get into how the current coaching system favors the position change, let’s look at what we’ve already previously stated. Firstly, there’s how the two compare in build and athleticism.

Height     40-yard dash       weight (pounds)

Burton           6’3                 4.50                          235
Cooper           6’3                4.63                          222

The two are very similarly built with Burton offering just slightly more in the way of speed and mass (which is obviously why he’s currently a Tight End). But Burton is currently sat in behind Celek and Ertz, two starting Tight-Ends who have both received new extensive contracts this off-season that will see Celek likely retire as an Eagle and Ertz play in midnight green through the next five years. Sure, having a backup is always nice..but there’s no real reason why the Eagles can’t sign an Undrafted Rookie Free-Agent or venture into other avenues this off-season to replace the vacant backup spot if Burton were to move.

Against the Packers in Pre-season, Burton ended up catching two touchdowns and looking very precise when running his routes. Interestingly, the Florida stat also played as a Wide Receiver back in 2013, receiving for over 400 yards and a touchdown.

Burton has already showed how explosive he can be and is already showing all the signs needed to become more than just a special teams ace. Last year he made the NFL All-Rookie team on special teams, but has shown incredible athleticism over the course of his short career in Philadelphia.

This play against Detroit is a perfect example. The most impressive aspect of this play isn’t the catch itself..but the burst when the ball is in his hands and the ability to break out of a “Lions Sandwich” so to speak.  He caught both of his targets in that game and combined for 43 yards. He also caught a pass for 5 yards agains the Giants, ending the season with a 75% reception rate catching 3 of 4 targets for a total of 54 yards.

The Eagles definitely need some help at Wide-Receiver, but is the need large enough to warrant spending a first round pick on? Is the need large enough for the Eagles to warrant spending big in Free-Agency on? There’s a huge gap in ability below Alshon Jeffery (as noted by Jimmy Kempski here) and last season Free Agency gave unto the Eagles…Miles Austin.. who couldn’t even last an entire season.

Burton could potentially be the perfect replacement for Cooper if the Eagles can’t justify dipping into other avenues to find a replacement. Burton has the skill set, the size and the potential. Over the course of the pre-season and regular season he has now shown he has both the vision and ability.

And then of course, there’s the arrival of Doug Pederson. Kansas City ran a very Tight-End friendly Offense in 2015 which saw Travis Kelce catch 5 touchdowns en route to a 875 yard season.

Interestingly though, Kelce has lined up in the slot and as both a number one and a number two receiver. With Ertz emerging as one of Bradford’s favourite targets towards the end of last season, it’s easy to envision Pederson trying to implement the same kind of gameplan in Philadelphia. Even if he doesn’t, it’s hard to imagine Pederson overlooking both the potential and ability of Burton after seeing making Kelce such a focal point of the Offense in Kansas.

There’s no reason why Burton can’t be part of a 3-TE formation..either starting in the backfield to confuse opposing Defenses or working as a number two receiver alongside Ertz whilst Celek takes care of the blocking. But if the Eagles were to move Burton to Wide receiver or perhaps just play him in the slot every now and again, it would be enough to cause headaches for the opposing team because not only can Burton block and shed tackles, he can run and make catches down the field.

So in conclusion, let’s break down the Pro’s and Con’s of the proposed move:

Same frame and size as Cooper but faster
Familiar with the team and unit already
Has played as a receiver back in Florida
It wouldn’t cost the Eagles anything
At 24, his ceiling is still high
Versatile enough to potentially dip his talents into both positions depending on team needs
It can’t be any worse than Miles Austin….right?

The Eagles would potentially need a new backup Tight End

IF the Eagles were to move Burton into the receiving core, it would mean that the Tight End core remains constant whilst giving a much more dynamic receiver who can not only offer what Cooper did, but a lot more with a much bigger upside and the best part is, it wouldn’t cost them a penny.



photo credit: AP