Eagles Depth Chart Outlook: Tight End
This is the eighth in a series. Click here for the earlier depth chart posts.
No position better demonstrates Chip Kelly’s desire for versatility than tight end.
“I’ve always been a heavy tight end guy,” Kelly said, after the Eagles used a second-round pick on Stanford’s Zach Ertz. “We don’t play with a fullback. We really use that second tight end, and now, a third tight end. So, he’ll [Ertz] go in with Brent Celek and James Casey and add to the mix of what we can do and present a lot of problems for people.”
Casey was one of the Eagles’ first free-agent signings. And Ertz was the second tight end off the board (35th overall).
Celek enters his seventh NFL season, and Clay Harbor has been with the team since 2010. Emil Igwenagu spent 14 weeks on the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster.
Derek Carrier spent all of 2012 on the practice squad, and the Eagles also signed Will Shaw out of Youngstown State.
Here’s a look at the tight ends on the roster:
Derek Carrier 6-4 241 22 0/0
James Casey 6-3 245 28 4/20
Brent Celek 6-4 255 28 6/71
Zach Ertz 6-5 250 22 0/0
Clay Harbor 6-3 255 25 3/18
Emil Igwenagu 6-2 245 24 1/1
Will Shaw 6-3 245 22 0/0
Pencil ’em in: Celek, Ertz, Casey.
Tim wrote an excellent piece on the tight ends over the weekend, which prompted some discussion about Celek in the comments section.
There’s a lot to like about Celek. He plays hard, he’s tough, and he has the ability to break tackles and pick up yards after the catch. According to Pro Football Focus, Celek averaged 5.9 yards after the catch in 2012, second only to Cincinnati’s Jermaine Gresham among tight ends who had at least 25 receptions.
Celek also had 10 catches of 20+ yards, showing he can be a downfield threat. His hands, however, were inconsistent. Celek dropped eight passes, although only two of those came in the second half of the season.
Tight ends coach Ted Williams said Celek’s strength is as a blocker. But he’s probably being a little generous. At times, Celek has shown he’s an effective blocker, but that part of his game lacks consistency. Celek played 80.8 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps last year. My guess is that number will dip in 2013, now that the Eagles have options behind him.
When the Eagles signed Casey, we posted an All-22 breakdown, looking at his skill set. Casey has more experience lining up in the backfield as a fullback than the others in this group. He can block on WR screens, block in the run game and catch the ball in traffic.
Ertz could end up being the biggest threat as a pass-catcher. We did a post on his college tape after the draft. Ertz can go up and get the ball against smaller defenders, has good hands and can make catches in traffic.
How Kelly will utilize all three tight ends remains to be seen. We can expect a lot of two tight end sets, and you might even see all three on the field together in certain packages.
If you’re wondering about snap counts, I’d guess Celek sees the most, then Ertz, then Casey. But again, they will all have roles in this offense, and those could change on a weekly basis depending on the game plan and opponent.
Fighting for a spot: Harbor, Carrier, Igwenagu, Shaw.
There’s a chance that no one from this group ends up making the team, if the Eagles settle on keeping three tight ends.
If they keep four, these players will be fighting for one spot.
Harbor has not shown much in his first three seasons. He has an impressive build, but doesn’t break many tackles and rarely picks up yards after the catch. The team has been giving him a look at outside linebacker, and his chances of making the team appear to be slim, unless one of the top three guys suffers an injury.
Igwenagu fits more of the Casey mold. He has played some fullback and actually had a couple nice moments there towards the end of last season. He’s a longshot, but there’s at least a chance Igwenagu beats out Harbor if the Eagles keep four.
Carrier and Shaw are unknowns and unlikely to stick.