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Burton brings versatility to Bears offense

Posted Mar 15, 2018

Tight end Trey Burton already has a working knowledge of the Bears offense, and the free-agent acquisition's versatility will be important to the team.

Tight end Trey Burton initially made the Philadelphia Eagles roster as an undrafted rookie in 2014 by excelling on special teams.

He later showed he could be a downfield pass-catching target, hauling in five touchdown catches in 2017, despite being third on Philadelphia’s depth chart at the position.

Oh yeah, and Burton can throw it a bit, as he showed in Super Bowl XLII, when he tossed a touchdown to Eagles quarterback Nick Foles on a trick play. (Burton played quarterback some in college at Florida.)

Burton will bring all those skills to Chicago this season. On the first day of free agency, he agreed to a four-year contract with the Bears, adding another new element to the team’s offense. Thursday afternoon at Halas Hall, Burton described himself as a player.

“I am a pass catching tight end,” Burton said. “I am versatile and can do a bunch of different things. I don’t think I necessarily say I do one thing. I do a bunch of different things.”

In new head coach Matt Nagy’s offense, that versatility will be highly valuable. Burton will pair with second-year tight end Adam Shaheen to form a strong duo at the position, allowing the coach to create mismatches all over the field. Both players can catch the ball and play in space, and though Burton said he didn’t know his role yet in the team’s offense, his familiarity with a playbook similar to Nagy’s will allow him to thrive once he hits the field.

Both Nagy and Eagles coach Doug Pederson are disciples of the Andy Reid coaching tree, and each run a version of the West Coast offense that emphasizes getting the ball to tight ends. In 2017, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was targeted 7.6 times per game, most in the NFL at the position; Eagles tight end Zach Ertz ranked tied for third at 6.9 targets.

Burton said that the importance of the tight end position in Nagy’s offense was a major selling point in signing with the Bears.

“Huge influence,” he said. “That and the history, the tradition of Chicago. And then also I don’t have to learn a new offense. I basically know the whole thing. A couple things here and there that they did in Kansas City that we different in Philadelphia. But 95 percent of the playbook I already know. So that’s huge from a player’s standpoint.”

Another huge selling point for Burton was the chance to play with Mitchell Trubisky. For the last two years, Burton was in the same huddle as Carson Wentz, the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Before he was hurt last December, Wentz was having an MVP-type season in his second year in the league. Now Burton teams up with Trubisky, the second pick in the 2017 draft.

“I can just model my game after Ertz, what he brought to Carson,” said Burton. “Obviously, Carson was a new quarterback coming into the league and having to learn an offense as well. There’s just so much you can do—it’s almost impossible to guard everybody in the offense if you know what to do and what your checks could be and the hots and those types of things.

“I don’t know him (Trubisky) well yet,” the tight end added. “I haven’t officially met him in person, but I am excited to get to know him. Obviously, I talked to other people and they say nothing but great things about him, his athleticism. The stuff that you hear is all positive. I am just really excited to get to work with him.”

Though he still doesn’t know his role in the offense, Burton is ready to get started. He sees the Bears growing a roster like the Eagles, and thinks his new team can have the same kind of success his old one did. The addition of a versatile difference maker at tight end will certainly help.

“I see a lot, man,” Burton said. “Obviously, I was part of this offense in Philadelphia. I saw how successful it was. All you need is a couple weapons and a quarterback who can handle all of it and I think that is exactly what we have here in Chicago.”