PHILADELPHIA -- With the traumatic free agency period and the NFL draft behind us, it seems like a good time to take a position-by-position look at the Philadelphia Eagles' roster. Let’s move on to the tight ends.
This is one of the smaller meeting rooms in the NovaCare Complex. There will be only four or five players in there, including practice squad guys, once the season begins.
But that doesn’t mean tight ends aren’t that important. In Chip Kelly’s offense, they can have a big impact. Right now, there seems to be a chance for a young, undrafted rookie to find a place on the 53-man roster.
The star: Brent Celek might still be the starter, but it’s time to anoint Zach Ertz as the star of this group. Celek can still be effective, both in the passing game and as a run blocker, but Ertz is more of a big-play threat at this point in his career.
Unfortunately for Ertz and the Eagles, his best game was at Washington. The Eagles lost, dropping out of the playoff picture officially. But Ertz caught a franchise-record 15 passes for 115 yards in that game. For the season, Ertz caught 58 passes for 702 yards and three touchdowns.
The guess here is that Ertz will be on the field for more than 50 percent of the offensive plays in 2015, and that he will be utilized more effectively in the red zone.
The supporting cast: Celek just turned 30, but he has been on the team longer than anyone except long snapper Jon Dorenbos. Celek takes pride in his ability as a blocker, but he can still make plays as a receiver. It wouldn’t be surprising if Kelly took advantage of Celek’s reputation for blocking and found ways to spring him into pass routes more often.
James Casey was released to create salary-cap space. That leaves more playing time for Trey Burton, who earned his keep on special teams last season. Burton was also prepared to fill in at running back when injuries left the Eagles thin there. This year, he’ll still be a core special teamer, but it’s a safe bet that Kelly will try to get the ball into his hands occasionally, too.
Looking ahead: Ertz, Celek and Burton give the Eagles three tight ends. That could be it at that position, if Kelly feels he has to go heavy somewhere else.
But the Eagles did sign three undrafted tight ends and will give them all an opportunity to make the team the way Burton did last year. Andrew Gleichert (6-foot-5), Eric Tomlinson (6-foot-6) and Justin Tukes (6-foot-5) all have excellent size. All three did their fair share of blocking in college, too. That will be the key to making the team for a reserve tight end.