Trey Burton Emerging As Offensive Option
It stung, he said, but it was exactly the kind of reality check that Trey Burton needed.
The moment came during training camp two years ago. A rookie at the time, the undrafted free agent out of Florida sought out special teams coach Dave Fipp after practice one day so he could watch film with him. Burton remembers Fipp responding to one of his questions with a lengthy pause before darting the laser pointer over to one of the walls where an official depth chart was hanging.
Burton’s name was fourth on the list behind Brent Celek, Zach Ertz and James Casey.
“And he says, ‘Do you think you’ll play any offense this year?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know, I mean, I hope so,'” Burton recalls. “And he said, ‘There’s no chance.’ We had James Casey, Ertz and Celek — and it was kind of an eye-opening experience for me because you really focus on offense and you come from college and you want to play offense and you don’t play as much special teams as I do now, so him always being honest and being real and being open about situations is big.
“Man, I can’t even put into words how thankful I am for Fipp,” he said. “Without him, I probably wouldn’t be in the NFL.”
It’s a story that Burton says he shares with incoming UDFAs — how special teams can be your ticket into the league and a gateway to other opportunities. His message has some weight to it now in particular given that he has positioned himself to have a role in this offense in 2016.
There has not been a bigger standout this summer than Burton. Day in and day out, he has made at least one eye-grabbing play. On Saturday it was in the form of a diving catch on a bomb from Chase Daniel for a touchdown that caught the attention of the crowd and, apparently, the coaching staff.
“He’s made so many big plays out here. That’s what you look for. You have a lot of talented guys playing in the NFL so you’re going to see flashes of great plays, but what you’re looking for as a coach is the consistency of it,” said Frank Reich. “What separates these guys out here and really what we’re looking for are guys that can make those plays routinely. That’s what great players do: they make the hard things look easy and really that’s what we’re looking for, not only from Trey — he’s certainly done that — but that’s what we as an offense need to do.”
Burton’s emergence is timely considering the circumstances. The Eagles are not considered to be loaded when it comes to proven offensive playmakers, particularly at the receiver position. Doug Pederson is likely going to have to get creative with his personnel packages to obtain maximum output. And he won’t be afraid to go tight-end heavy to do it. As Kansas City’s deployment of three-tight end sets shows, he comes from a school that will gladly emphasize the position when called for.
“Our guys are a little different than their guys,” said Ertz of the Chiefs’ tight end group. “They have pretty much two blocking tight ends and one receiver. In our opinion we have three of both — three blocking and three receiving tight ends in that set — so I think that’s going to help us a lot in those situations.”
“Tight end is a strength of this roster, of this offensive unit,” added Reich. “And if you look at Doug’s system and what they did in Kansas City with their tight ends and how we’ll utilize them here, it will be very consistent with that. And we have the players to do it.”
The opportunity on offense hasn’t really been there for Burton up until this point. He explained that the tempo offense under Chip Kelly didn’t allow for much substituting, which meant not a whole lot of playing time for tight ends down the depth chart. He’s had just three career catches to this point — all of them coming in the second half of last season. But he starred on special teams and led the group in tackles last year with 19, which is tied for the highest by an Eagle in the regular season since 2009, and added a blocked punt and a blocked punt for a score the year prior.
The 24-year-old played some special teams at the University of Florida but his focus was on offense. Burton lined up all over the field during his time with the Gators, including at quarterback, receiver, full back (where we’ve seen him some this summer) and tight end. He finished with 720 rushing yards, 976 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns during his time at Florida.
Versatility has been a key for Burton over his entire football career and he said he’d play defense if the Eagles would let him, but it’s clear he’s itching to get involved more on the offensive side. And while a good training camp certainly doesn’t guarantee a good season as we’re reminded every year, Burton has at least given himself a chance to do just that.
“Basically the mindset was, just get in where I fit it,” said Burton. “I know that’s the hardest part about the NFL is getting into it. Once I started getting comfortable playing special teams I just wanted to earn a spot on the offensive side. And listen, I know we’ve got two of the best in front of me and I’m not taking anything away from those guys, but I want to be out there, I want to play, too,” he said.
“You never know how long to play this game so just want to take advantage of it.”