Eagles' Trey Burton to step in for injured Zach Ertz
Trey Burton has three career catches in 31 games, but you wouldn't know it from the way he's being discussed at the Eagles' facility this week. With tight end Zach Ertz expected to miss the Eagles game Monday against the Chicago Bears, Burton will take on a bigger role and he appears to have the confidence of teammates and coaches.
Trey Burton has three career catches in 31 games, but you wouldn't know it from the way he's being discussed at the Eagles' facility this week. With tight end Zach Ertz expected to miss the Eagles game Monday against the Chicago Bears, Burton will take on a bigger role – and he appears to have the confidence of teammates and coaches.
Burton, 24, has mostly been a special-teams player in his career. He missed the season opener with a calf injury. But he will join veteran Brent Celek in trying to replace Ertz, who has a displaced rib and hasn't practiced this week. When quarterback Carson Wentz was asked about Ertz's potential absence, Burton was the player who received his praise.
"Trey repeatedly showed day in, day out – it just wasn't an occasional thing for him to keep flashing in practice, to make plays," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "It shows a lot of natural ability, instinctive ability. It's a big opportunity for him."
Ertz played 78 percent of the offensive snaps in Week 1. Celek played 49 percent of the snaps. Celek will see an increase in his workload, although he already has a role in the offense. Burton is the one who can emerge from being relegated to three-tight end sets to more of a regular role without Ertz. Burton is a different player than Ertz, but he can still be a threat in the receiving game.
"My whole game is modeled from him and Celek and [former Eagles tight end] James Casey," Burton said. "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for those three guys."
Burton who is 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, does not bring the size of a traditional tight end, although he comes with more athleticism. At Florida, he played quarterback, fullback, tight end, wide receiver. As a full-time receiver during his senior season, Burton totaled 38 catches for 445 yards.
He played only seven offensive snaps as a rookie with the Eagles in 2014, and that jumped to 19 snaps in 2015. Burton could exceed that playing time on Monday alone. He had three catches for 54 yards last season, including a 43-yard reception last Thanksgiving against Detroit.
"It definitely gave me confidence," Burton said. "But the more and more I've been in the league, the more and more I hang around Celek and Ertz, it brings confidence to me."
Celek said the Eagles "need" Burton on Monday. He added that the plays Burton's made in practice and the preseason are not by accident, and Celek doesn't expect anything different in the game. Burton had seven catches for 48 yards and one touchdown in three preseason games.
Ertz was a valuable player for the Eagles in the opener. He's one of the NFL's best pass-catching tight ends, and caught six of seven targets that Wentz threw in his direction.
Wide receiver Jordan Matthews said the Eagles are "not just going to replace" Ertz, and the responsibility falls on all the pass-catching options. The Eagles used two-tight end sets often last Sunday, but they could play more three-receiver sets against the Bears to get Dorial Green-Beckham or Josh Huff on the field with Matthews and Nelson Agholor.
The Eagles could also use more multiple-running back sets and utilize Darren Sproles as a receiver. Sproles would be valuable as a replacement for Ertz's role as a safety valve last week, but that doesn't belittle the presence Burton will have in the offense. Because for the first time in his career, Burton can go into a game as more than a core special teams player.
"I'm excited to see what he does," Matthews said. "Obviously, Brent Celek is the pro of all pros. He's going to come in, he's going to do his job, he's going to be able to help us out a lot. And the other guys in the offense are going to have to pick it up – between DGB, me, Josh, Nelson. We've got to go make plays in third down and pick up in areas where Zach is consistent."
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said on WIP-FM (94.1) that some players will take a stance during the national anthem on Monday, but he did not say what the gesture would be. He said he doesn't know if it will be as a team or as individuals, and he does not expect any player to kneel. He also said they did not do anything last week out of respect for the families affected on Sept. 11.
Ertz and cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) both missed practice for the second consecutive day. Kenjon Barner returned to practice after missing Thursday's session for personal reasons. . . . The Eagles ended their work day earlier than usual on Thursday because the power went out at the team facility. . . . Wentz was named rookie of the week for his Week 1 performance.