Philadelphia Eagles 2013 Season Preview: Why Two-Tight-End Sets Will Be Key

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Philadelphia Eagles 2013 Season Preview: Why Two-Tight-End Sets Will Be Key
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Brent Celek will look to lead a revitalized group of Eagles tight ends next season

When Chip Kelly took over as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles this past January, speculation over what his college-style offense would look like in the NFL began.

Throughout his days at the University of Oregon, Kelly's teams were known to score points at a rapid rate, leaving defenses exhausted and confused. While many in Philadelphia expected Kelly to bring his high-flying, read-option offense to the Eagles, Kelly has already said that will not be the case

While Kelly has assured fans that the read-option will not be as prevalent in the Eagles' offense as some would think, one formation that fans at Lincoln Financial Field should start getting used to is the two-tight-end set.

With Brent Celek and Clay Harbor already on the roster, Kelly added free-agent tight end James Casey from the Houston Texans and drafted tight end Zach Ertz from Stanford University in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. 

The additions of Casey and Ertz have shown fans in Philadelphia what Kelly values in his offense: athletic tight ends who have the potential to create matchup nightmares for opposing defenses.

Kelly even knows firsthand how much of a nightmare Ertz can be. Last fall, Ertz led his Stanford team with 11 catches and 106 yards, including the game-tying touchdown in the final minutes of play to hand Kelly and Oregon their only loss of the season. 

Ertz stands at 6-foot-5, Celek at 6-foot-4 and Casey at 6-foot-3. The potential is there for Eagles tight ends to cause divisional foe matchup problems with the use of two, or potentially even three, tight end sets. The Giants and Cowboys, for example, do not have a cornerback taller than 6-foot-1 on their rosters.

The Eagles, however, would not be the first team to drastically increase the role of tight ends. Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have revolutionized the NFL with the use of dynamic duo Rob Gronkowski and former Patriot Aaron Hernandez.

On 1st and 10, the Patriots used at least two tight ends 56 percent of the time, while the Eagles used two-tight-end sets in this situation just 24 percent of the time last season. 

In this example, the Patriots used a two-tight-end set in Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants. While Deion Branch and Wes Welker lined up on the left, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Gronkowski and Hernandez were on the right. 

The Patriots were able to use Gronkowski and Welker on the hashes to clear out space for Hernandez in the middle. Using Hernandez's athleticism against Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn, Hernandez was able to get isolated on the play and catch an easy touchdown. 

The Eagles feel like they could generate the same sort of scenario with either Casey, Ertz or Celek

However, two-tight-end sets will not only benefit the Eagles in the passing game. 

Here is an example of how the Patriots have used two-tight-end sets to benefit their running game: 

As you can see, New England has aligned two tight ends on the same side in a tight alignment. While the defense is obviously vulnerable on the side where the ends are lined up due to an overload of players, they are also vulnerable to counters to the opposite side of the line of scrimmage. 

With LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown leading the way in the Eagles backfield, don't think for a second that they wouldn't love Ertz, Celek, Casey and even Harbor leading the way for easy, big gains and touchdowns. 

Yes, it's still early July. Yes, nobody has any real idea of what Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles offense will truly look like until regular season games start in September.

However, in an article written on NJ.com, Kelly was quoted in saying that the multiple-tight-end set will, in fact, be a major part in Philadelphia's offense:

We are going to go three tight ends in a game. Now, if they go three linebackers, we spread them out and if they go [defensive backs], we smash you. So, pick your poison.

With Kelly's much-anticipated NFL debut only months away, there is plenty of mystery surrounding Kelly and what the new-look Eagles will do offensively. 

However, don't be surprised to see the two-tight-end sets playing a major role in Philadelphia's offensive scheme. 

How do you feel about the two-tight-end sets that Kelly will reportedly deploy? How will Celek, Ertz and Casey gel in this offense? Give me your opinions and predictions on this offense in the comment thread below! 

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