After Chip Kelly was named as the team's head coach back in January, he explained how he had visited with a number of NFL coaches in recent years to talk shop. One of them was New England head coach Bill Belichick, who has successfully implemented aspects of the offense Kelly ran at Oregon into the NFL.
One of the weapons who has made the Patriots offense hum in recent years has been jack-of-all-trades tight end Aaron Hernandez. At 6-1, 245 pounds, Hernandez has the athleticism to line up out wide and the size to work the middle of the field. He is Belichick's chess piece who moves around and will attack all over the field.
Certainly, Kelly has kept an eye on Belichick's operation in New England. And when the Eagles formulated their plan for free agency, the team targeted tight end James Casey to be their own version of Hernandez and signed him to a three-year deal.
"When you watch the Patriots line up Aaron Hernandez all over the place, is he going to be at tight end, is he going to be at receiver, is he going to be at running back, it makes it very difficult for the defense," Kelly said on Wednesday. "They don't know at the beginning of the play where people are going to line up and what they're going to do. It keeps them on their toes."
The 28-year-old Casey was a versatile weapon in his four years with the Houston Texans lining up as a tight end, wide receiver and as a fullback. Last season, Casey set career highs with 34 catches for 330 yards and three touchdowns earning USA Today All-Joe Team honors. In Kelly's offense, Casey thinks he can reach his full potential.
"I thought it was best case for me to come here and to get an opportunity to see my full potential as a player because as a player you know you work hard, but you want to give yourself a chance to see what you really can do and give yourself the best opportunity to succeed," said Casey, who was reportedly targeted by over half of the NFL. "And I think this is it for the team and for myself."
Casey had never experienced free agency and said it was an "easier process" once the Eagles were involved. His road to the NFL was one of more remarkable stories you'll ever read about. As a baseball and football star in Azle, Tx., Casey overcame the tragic death of his mother in high school and having to live with a surrogate family to become a seventh-round pick of the Chicago White Sox. Casey spent four years in the minor leagues before deciding to chase his football dreams.
Rice University offered Casey a scholarship originally to play on defense, but he quickly learned to be a versatile player. In fact, Casey lined up at seven different positions in a single game against Southern Miss. In his second season, his final year at Rice, he set the school record with 111 receptions and 1,329 yards as he earned first-team All-Conference USA honors.
"I've worked extremely hard to get to this point. I don't plan on stopping now," Casey said. "I've just got to keep working hard and set bigger goals and do everything I can to help us win games. I'm excited to get to work. I'm excited to get started."
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