The NFL underwent a two-TE trend for the last few seasons with duos like Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski for the Patriots, and Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson for the Ravens. Now, Chip Kelly is upping the ante with the Eagles, using a package involving four tight ends.
Sheil Kapadia of Birds 24/7 has a great breakdown of a few plays used in this package in Thursday's preseason game against the Panthers. Kelly uses Brent Celek, James Casey, Zach Ertz and Clay Harbor as his four tight ends. The four aren't all true tight ends; Casey's also played as a fullback, and Harbor's learning plays at the wide receiver position. They're all built like tight ends, though, which creates the worst mismatches. If the defense chooses to stack up the box, Philly's offense can take advantage of tight ends being covered by smaller cornerbacks. If the secondary spreads out to cover the tight ends, the quarterback simply hands off the ball to LeSean McCoy.
Jeremy Maclin's torn ACL will keep him out for this season, and after DeSean Jackson, there's a substantial dropoff for the wide receiver depth chart. Kelly's adapting to the situation at hand while mixing in some of the creativity that allowed him to succeed at the University of Oregon. Maybe this package won't be used often during the regular season, but it's still a notable enough twist that opponents will have to watch it in film rooms. Other teams don't have the freedom or roster space to imitate this strategy, but the value of a balanced, athletic tight end is certainly higher than it's ever been.
Photo: Matt Rourke/AP