The Eagles have suffered a major blow in losing Zach Ertz for a few weeks with a displaced rib, especially considering how important he was in the season opener, receiving six catches for 58 yards and a crucial fourth down conversion. That doesn’t mean that all hope is lost however..as there is one breakout star waiting in the wings for his time to shine. That man is Trey Burton and this is chance he has been waiting for since arriving in Philadelphia back in 2014.
The Florida Gators product has been making plays under the radar over the last two seasons, receiving for 54 yards on 3 receptions last year. But with Ertz and Celek signing new contracts, his opportunity of earning a starting role has become somewhat minimal. That didn’t stop him from easily becoming one of the biggest surprises of the Summer.
Burton had a brilliant Training camp, making big receptions, lining up as a receiver at times, fullback at others and showing his efficiency in making tough catches in traffic. His impressive offseason was backed up by an extremely solid preseason, as he received for 48 yards and a touchdown on 7 receptions.
Burton also contributed in the three tight end set that saw Ryan Mathews break into the endzone for a touchdown, further showing his versatility. But blocking isn’t where Burton shines. Brent Celek has often been renowned as the Eagles blocking tight end while in recent years, Stanford product Zach Ertz has burst onto the scene as a dangerous receiving option.
The 24-year old is much closer to a receiver than he is a blocking tight end..which in this case is a blessing. Brent Celek caught just one pass for eleven yards in the season opener while Ertz caught six passes. With the Eagles losing their receiving threat as opposed to their reliable blocking TE in Celek, some are concerned that the Offense will lose firepower. Luckily for the Eagles, Burton is arguably just as explosive.
If anything, Burton is much closer to Riley Cooper’s frame than the 6’5, 250-pound Zach Ertz. Burton is significantly leaner than both Ertz and Celek, but was quicker in the 40-yard dash, had a higher vertical-leap at the combine and had 2 inches on Ertz in the broad-jump.
Why is this interesting? The Florida star also played as a Wide Receiver back in 2013, receiving for over 400 yards and a touchdown. Partner this with the three catches out of four targets he made in 2015 and his explosive pre-season game against the Packers last year in which he caught two touchdowns and the end result is a dangerous offensive weapon for Doug Pederson.
In Training Camp, Burton was lined up almost everywhere. In the slot, outside and even a fullback. I wrote an article months beforehand, detailing how Burton would be an extremely threatening WR if he moved outside permanently. After a strong summer, he may not be a full-time wideout, but Burton is rapidly becoming a dangerous swiss-army knife.
Doug Pederson was the Offensive coordinator in Kansas City last year, a season where the Chiefs received for 3,493 yards. It’s no coincidence then that after a Summer where his versatility was tested, Trey Burton would not look out of position as a WR on that roster.
What makes this even sweeter is how often Burton and Wentz were paired together in Training camp. With Bradford and Daniel at the head of the pecking order, Wentz saw a significant amount of reps with Trey Burton, building up a rapport and seeing for himself just how dangerous Burton can be.
With chemistry clearly being a factor in the early stages of Wentz’s career, (Matthews and Ertz accumulated for five more receptions than the rest of the Eagles receivers combined), having another familiar tight end who can be just as elusive in those short drag routes and shots over the middle is crucial.
The Eagles were able to survive without the prolific 3-TE set against the Browns and will be forced to do the same against the Bears and most likely the Steelers. But with Trey Burton bringing just as much explosiveness and a level of versatility that Ertz simply doesn’t have, the Offense could see even more levels open up.
Beau Allen was the athletic Defensive Tackle seeing fullback reps last week in the closing stages of the game, but Burton could now fill that role as well as ticking off every other receiving threat box along the way.
In the redzone, Trey Burton is simply a matchup nightmare. The Eagles struggled to use their running backs as pass-catchers last week, but the inclusion of Burton’s versatility will open up numerous possibilities that were previously closed, potentially giving the Offense even more to work with.
Zach Ertz is the Eagles number one tight end and he will be for quite some time..but in his absence, the Eagles have a player who can not only fill the void, but help the hybrid west-coast Offense further find its identity.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports