Trey Burton is hunting for time on offense this year.
In his first two seasons, Burton's production on the special team units hasn't gone unnoticed. His rookie year, he recorded a blocked punt and a blocked punt touchdown return and in 2015, he finished the season with a team-high 19 special team tackles, tied for the highest regular season total by an Eagle since 2009. During the early part of Training Camp this year, however, the Eagles' coaching staff made it clear that they'll be attempting to utilize Burton not only on special teams, but he should expect an increased role at tight end.
"Trey's done a really good job coming into camp and got himself ready to go," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He had a good offseason, had a good 10 weeks in the spring. He's a guy that we're going to have to rely on a little bit. I love the fact that we have depth at the tight end position and (we can) move him around a little bit and create some matchups. That's what you want out of guys like that. He's a versatile role player in that situation, and he's done a nice job."
Burton went into this year's Training Camp with a firm understanding of what he needed to do to get more snaps on offense. He's not satisfied with his performance.
"I think I've played all right," Burton said. "I really want to play some time on offense this year, so there are some things I need to get better at in order to earn a spot to play."
Fortunately, Burton has his deftness of versatility on his side. During his time at the University of Florida, he played quarterback, fullback, tight end, wide receiver and on kick coverage. However, the Florida native would most prove his credibility as both a running and receiving threat during his collegiate career, finishing with 720 rushing yards, 16 rushing touchdowns, 107 catches and four receiving scores in 50 total games. In the past, Burton has shown the ability to erupt. During his freshman year at Florida, he scored six touchdowns against Kentucky and became only the fourth player in SEC history to score 36 points or more in a single game.
Zoom in for a closer look at the receiving corps during this Eagles Camp practice.
It doesn't hurt that Burton is privileged to come from a family laced with athletes. His grandfather, Lawrence, spent five years in the NFL after being selected seventh overall in the 1975 NFL Draft, and sprinted for Team USA in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Not to mention, his brother, Clay, played alongside him for three seasons at Florida and in 2015 went to Training Camp with the Buffalo Bills. Burton believes his collegiate experience will contribute in his transition from special teams to offense.
"In college, I played a lot of wide receiver, so I think the route of running inside and playing tight end comes pretty natural to me," Burton said. "The part I need to work on the most is definitely my blocking."
However, Burton hasn't gotten the opportunity to showcase what he can do to opposing defenses in the NFL. In 31 career NFL games, Burton has only registered three career catches, but one of them gained 43 yards against the Lions in 2014. So far during camp, the Eagles have flashed lineups with as many as three tight ends on the field which may bode well for the former Gator. With Pederson looking to employ multiple tight end formations, Burton understands the work that lies ahead of him.
"I need to earn it. It's not just going to be given to me," Burton said. "I need to work and keep surrounding myself with Ertz (Zach Ertz) and Celek (Brent Celek) and my tight end Coach (Justin) Peelle and hopefully I'll get an opportunity."
Nonetheless, Burton is fortunate to have bevy of individuals from the team to help with his development. Additionally, he's got former collegiate teammate and current NFL pro Jordan Reed, who has blossomed into one of the NFL's most promising tight ends for Washington. Reed and Burton share almost identical statures and vaunt versatility at their position. Burton spoke very highly of his former teammate when asked if he would compare himself to his counterpart with the NFC East rival.
"Yeah, he's one of my really good friends," Burton said. "We played together at Florida for two years and I definitely try to model my game after his. He's one of the best tight ends in the NFL and he's really special."
Burton's play appears to have surged from his hard work and his attempts to mold his game after Reed and offensive coordinator Frank Reich took note of it.
"Trey really has (stood out). He has made so many big plays out here. That's what you look for," Reich said.
With the preseason opener on the horizon, Burton will continue to make a case for a much larger role in the Eagles' offense.