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Trey Burton Plays His Way Into Offense

Posted Aug 28, 2016

Five targets. Five receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's win over Indianapolis, more proof that tight end Trey Burton is going to have a featured role in the Eagles' offense this season ...

Five targets. Five receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's win over Indianapolis, more proof that tight end Trey Burton is going to have a featured role in the Eagles' offense this season.

Once an undrafted rookie trying to make the transition from a Do-Everything player at the University of Florida, Burton has accepted coaching from Justin Peelle, has learned from the veterans around him and has become a tight end - whom the Eagles plan to do a lot with - with a lot of upside in the NFL.

"He does so many things well," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "I remember early in the spring I was watching tape of a practice and I saw Trey line up at wide receiver and run a route and he looked so smooth and precise. He was very natural. I couldn't tell at first if it was a wide receiver or a tight end running the route. That's how impressive he was. You can do a lot of things with a player like that."

The Eagles plan to do just that with Burton, who along with Brent Celek and Zach Ertz give the Eagles the kind of versatile, move-them-anywhere tight ends to use liberally. There will be many times when the Eagles have two tights on the field together this season and there will even be times when all three are in at the same time, forcing defenses to make decisions.

Ideally, the Eagles can use the expansiveness of the tight ends to create favorable matchups.

"We feel he's a guy who can create mismatches for us," quarterback Sam Bradford said after Saturday's victory. "He's a very athletic tight end. It depends on how defenses are going to view him. Are they going to view him as a tight end or a wide receiver? Are they going to use base defense? Are they going to play nickel? I feel like adding him to the puzzle is one more thing that they have to defend and I feel like we can create some good mismatches with him on the field."

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What do we know about the offense? It's tough to get an accurate read on the X's and O's, but the sense is that the Eagles can get some things done working inside/out and utilizing the tight ends in the middle of the field. Ertz is the threat down the seam, the dangerous catch-and-run tight end who is a tough matchup for defenses because of his speed and size. Celek is a move-the-chains pass catcher who will bully his way for extra yards. Then there is Burton, who is, well, what is he?

And that's why he's valuable.

"The kid's an athlete. He's a great athlete," Celek said. "I think he can do a lot of things. He can play a lot of different positions on the field. I'm sure that if we got down too many quarterbacks he can even play quarterback again (as Burton did at Florida). He just comes to work every single day and gives it everything he's got. You could tell from Day 1, when he was a rookie, that he had 'it.' He just knows how to handle every situation."

Burton carved an important role for himself on special teams the last two seasons, a niche that will continue. He led the Eagles in special teams tackles last year as a four-core player, and that helped scratch the itch of playing time. On offense, Burton was really not used very much at all. The up-tempo scheme didn't allow for much substitution and personnel packages, so Burton had just three receptions in 2015.

That's going to change in 2016.

"It was really hard to sub in and out when you're running tempo. We usually used the personnel we had in there and ran plays with that personnel," Burton said. "Coach (Doug) Pederson believes in creating matchups, so that's going to mean that we're all going to have some chances to make plays. I like what we're doing. Can't wait to see how it develops in the regular season."

Burton has to know all three wide receiver positions and those responsibilities, he has to know the roles the tight end plays and he has to know the backfield spots to know the protections called in the passing game. 

It's very similar to what he did in college when Burton played quarterback, running back, tight end and wide receiver for the Gators. The jack-of-all trades expertise didn't help Burton get drafted, but it sure has helped him make it in the NFL.

"Playing quarterback in my past has helped me learn the offense from a lot of different perspectives," Burton said. "I enjoy studying it and learning it. It's fun."

That's the idea for Burton this season, with the expectation that he will be a piece of the offense. He and Bradford have developed strong chemistry and trust, and now Burton is ready for his blossoming role in the attack.

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