When the Eagles signed James Casey last year, we thought they'd added a key weapon to the offense.
Casey was versatile, having played both fullback and tight end with the Houston Texans. He was coming off a career season, having caught 34 passes for 330 yards.
And he wasn't cheap; the Eagles signed Casey for $14.5 million over three years.
In his first season, however, Casey caught just three passes for 31 yards. He played only 13.9 percent of the team's offense's snaps. Now he enters his second season in Philadelphia where he finished his first: behind veteran Brent Celek and promising second-year pro Zach Ertz on the depth chart.
“I think I am very valuable in whatever role they see me as on the team,” Casey said Monday after practice during OTAs. “I know I’m expecting to contribute greatly on special teams and I’m hoping to get some opportunities on offense, too.”
Despite his limited snaps on offense, Casey excelled on special teams. He played on 70.7 percent of the Eagles' special teams snaps last season and finished with 13 tackles, second on the team.
Plus, his playing time on offense increased over the second half of the season as he grew more comfortable with the system.
“That felt really good to me because I really put my head down all season,” he said. “I’d been working hard. I wasn’t complaining or anything like that. I know how the NFL is. It’s hard to get opportunities, so I just kept working and finally got some opportunities at the end.”
Despite the drop well below the production in his career year, Casey isn’t thinking numbers. He said he never will. Even before his breakout 2012 season, he caught only 32 passes in his first three seasons combined.
“I’m not going out there saying I’m competing with Brent or Zach or any of the young guys,” Casey said. “I’m trying to be creative and show the guys what I can do. There’s enough to go around. If we’re winning football games and everybody’s happy and I’m contributing.
“At the same time, the coaches know I’m not content with not playing. I want to be out on the field a lot, but there’s only so many plays to go around. I’m not the type of guy who’s going to cause problems.”
Last year, starter Celek recorded 32 catches, 502 yards and six touchdowns. As a rookie, Ertz caught 36 passes for 469 yards and four touchdowns. With DeSean Jackson departing to Washington, Ertz figures to play an even more prominent role in the offense (see story).
“We’ve got a great tight end group. Brent Celek is a fantastic player, one of the best in the league,” Casey said. “Zach Ertz is going to be one of the best in the league. He’s a very, very good player and he’s only going to get better in his second year. I think he’s going to make a big jump this year.
“I’m rooting for Brent. I’m rooting for Zach. I hope they do great. I’m expecting great things out of them but I’m expecting great things out of myself, too.”