Kelly Hints At Casey’s Role, References Hernandez

Chip Kelly was asked about James Casey’s versatility when he brought up an interesting name.

“I think the versatility that you can present to defenses is when you have a certain grouping in the game, there’s not only one thing you can do,” Kelly said. “I think the teams that have been successful doing it, you watch the Patriots line up Aaron Hernandez [6-1, 245] all over the place. Is he going to be a tight end? Is he going to be a receiver? Is he going to be a running back?

“It makes it very difficult for the defense. They don’t know at the beginning of the play where people are going to line up and what they’re going to do. It keeps them on their toes. We want guys that can do that. You really get pigeon-holed when you have one-dimensional players. And when you do, it makes it a little bit easier for the defenses to go out there and understand what’s going to go on in certain formations.”

That was really all Kelly needed to say to explain why he thinks Casey is such a good fit.

We don’t know the exact parts of his Oregon offense that are coming to the NFL. But let’s assume the Eagles are going to use an up-tempo attack. Casey is a piece that can line up all over the place and be moved for specific matchup purposes. Against a defensive back, the 6-3, 240-pounder should have an advantage as a blocker. Against a linebacker, he should be able to use his quickness.

Jimmy Kempski of Blogging the Beast linked to this Boston Globe article recently, in which Greg A. Bedard described the rise of the Patriots’ two tight-end offense:

The “F” or flex tight end is 6-3 or taller, around 235 pounds, must be able to run and be an excellent pass receiver. Does not need to be a good blocker.

Everyone in the building agreed that Aaron Hernandez out of the University of Florida, where he did a little bit of everything, was the prototype “F.”

The truth is, Casey is considered a good blocker too. But you see why Kelly made the comparison.

Some have wondered whether Casey’s addition means less playing time for Brent Celek. And while the Eagles will likely still make plenty of moves in the coming months, that’s probably not the right way to look at it. If Kelly plans on spreading the field with four receivers, Casey and Celek could very well be on the field together.

“We’re certainly going to use both of them in the game at the same time,” Kelly said. “There’s a lot of that going on in the league right now. You just look up the road at the Patriots using Gronkowski and Hernandez at the same time. I think the mismatches that they create, sometimes, they’re too athletic for linebackers and they’re too big for defensive backs. It’s a big man’s game, and when you can get big, athletic guys that can run, it’s our job as a coaching staff to put them in position to make plays.”

You get the feeling Casey is looking forward to being a bigger part of the offense. At Rice, he had a 111-catch, 1,329-yard season in which he scored 13 touchdowns. With the Texans last year, he played just 51 percent of the offensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. And he went out into pass routes just 38.9 percent of the time.

“I thought it was just the best case for me to come here and to get an opportunity to see my full potential as a player,” Casey said. “As a player, you work hard, you want to give yourself a chance to see what you really can do, and give yourself the best opportunity to succeed. And I think this is it for the team and for myself.”

The Eagles looked at Casey’s versatility and targeted him out of the gate as soon as they were allowed to sign players Tuesday. The other four guys they added were all on the defensive side of the ball. But Kelly, who’s made his name on offense, is clearly excited about having another weapon at his disposal.

“As a coach, it’s almost kind of like you’ve got a new toy,” he said.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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