How Will James Casey's Injury Affect the Philadelphia Eagles?

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COMMENTARY | Tight end James Casey said Thursday that he'll be back to full speed in a couple of weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.

He posted on Twitter:

I had a minor scope done on my right knee. I'll be back to full speed in two weeks. Better to get it taken care of now. #GoEagles

Of course, there are no guarantees that Casey will be up to speed that quickly, regardless of how minor the procedure was. And it's fair to wonder at this point just how much a setback of any kind might affect Casey and the Eagles' plans for the fall.

No, I'm no suggesting we overreact to a spring mishap, which is really all this appears to be. But knee issues in football are certainly not something to brush off, because even the minor tweaks often lead to bigger problems. And there's no guarantee that the scope will, indeed, clean up everything that needs cleaning up.

The bigger potential issue for Casey at the time being is that he's essentially been learning a new position, and now he's facing some time away. Best-case scenario, it's not much time away -- even if two weeks to full speed is a bit optimistic -- but the Eagles have said it'll still be training camp before Casey is back on the field with them.

Casey joined the Birds this offseason after having played mostly fullback with the Houston Texans; new coach Chip Kelly isn't expected to be using fullbacks. Casey is 6-foot-3 and capable of playing tight end, which is why Kelly and Howie Roseman brought him to Philly with a three-year, $14.5 million deal. But it's also why the Eagles have six other tight ends on the roster -- including newly drafted Zach Ertz out of Stanford -- because being capable of playing tight end, and having played it exclusively at a high level are two different things.

Eagles tight ends coach Ted Williams told the Times Herald that he's been working with Casey on learning his intended new role in Philly:

"He is learning to be a true tight end," Williams said. "We know he can run routes. We know he can catch the football. We know he can get open. That's his strength. What we are endeavoring to do now is to teach him and groom him and help him be productive as an inline tight end because they're all going to be interchangeable. This is something that he hasn't done a lot of but he's capable of. He's going to have to play in the line. Brent (Celek) can't play that position every down of every game. Somebody has got to play there when he's not in the game."

In addition to Casey and Ertz, the Eagles have incumbent starter Brent Celek, newly signed Will Shaw, Clay Harbor, Derek Carter and Emil Igwenagu.

We've heard plenty of rumblings that Kelly's offense will feature multiple-tight end looks, and based on what he did with the Oregon Ducks, I'd say it's a safe bet that Celek won't often be the only tight end on the field, and that at least a couple of other guys will see regular time and targets.

If all goes well with Casey's recovery, he could easily be one of those guys. As long as he continues to pick up his new role at the pace he has been, and proves he can hang in the line and also be a real receiving option, I don't have much trouble picturing him in the mix for playing time with Celek and Ertz this fall.

But Casey's time away -- even if it's as short as he hopes -- could mean an opportunity for someone like Harbor to prove himself this spring.

With Kelly in town, all of the Eagles are currently learning a new offense. Casey has been doing that while also -- more or less -- learning a new position. It will be interesting to see how or if the time away affects that process.


Adam Sparks has followed the Philadelphia Eagles since the 1980s, and has written about the team as a freelancer since 2010.

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