James Casey hasn’t been as big a part of the offense as probably he and the Philadelphia Eagles envisioned after he signed a three-year, $14.5 million contract in 2013.
But the Azle product has contributed as a “four-core” special teams player.
Casey finally got “his due,” according to Eagles coach Chip Kelly, after blocking a Johnny Hekker punt that was recovered by safety Chris Maragos for a 10-yard touchdown last week.
“Last year I started off not playing a ton of offense, but I ended up playing on every special teams — punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff return and field goal,” Casey said in a phone interview. “I know not a lot of people really care about that or even pay too much attention to it. But we’ve been having quite a bit of touchdowns early in the season on special teams, so then people start talking about it. But I feel like I contributed a lot on special teams last year.”
Casey’s block gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead on their way to a 34-28 victory over the St. Louis Rams. It was the third special teams touchdown in three weeks for the Eagles and their fourth of the season.
“I came free through the middle and the PP [personal protector] had to choose one of us, and he chose [Trey] Burton, and I was able just to get through and get my hands up,” Casey said. “It hit me right in the triceps. When something like that happens, you don’t feel any pain until a couple of days afterward.”
Casey, 30, sits third on the depth chart at tight end behind Brent Celek and Zach Ertz. He has played only 57 of 366 offensive snaps this season, though 25 came against the Rams last week. He has played 138 special teams snaps.
Casey played only 157 offensive snaps last season, or 13.9 percent of the team’s plays, and took part in 70.7 percent of their special teams plays. He caught three passes for 31 yards in 2013 and made 13 special teams tackles.
“I feel like I’ve contributed, and I’ve done everything they’ve asked me to do,” said Casey, who has one catch for 19 yards this season. “I’ve worked extremely hard. I think the coaches like me. I’m doing everything possible to get on the field. I know that’s what a lot of people want to talk about is me not playing a ton of offense, but there are a lot of good players on the team that get out there and play.
“I show up every day. I’m the first guy in the building, and I work as hard as I possibly can and try to contribute in whatever way I can.”
Casey played at Rice and was a fifth-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2009. But after 66 catches for 752 yards and four touchdowns in four years in Houston, Casey left as a free agent for Philadelphia.
He insists he couldn’t be happier despite playing less on offense.
“I’ve been loving it here,” Casey said. “It’s been great for me. It’s a business for sure, and you definitely see that when you become a free agent. …You don’t really have choices. It’s not like you can say, ‘I want to go here; I want to go there.’ You’ve got to see what teams want you. I was fortunate to come to a great place where we’ve been successful. We won the division last year, and we’re expecting really big things this year.”
Gresham wears it well
As the Seattle Seahawks‘ long snapper, Clint Gresham wouldn’t draw much attention. Except for the gaudy Super Bowl ring he wears.
The former TCU standout “usually” has the diamond-covered ring tucked away at his house.
“I only wear it at dinner or a function of some kind … or when I’m taking a nap or when I go grocery shopping,” Gresham said with a chuckle. “I wear it around.”
Gresham, in his fifth season with the Seahawks, became a less-obscure special teams player when he directed The Making of a Champion last year. The DVD featured Gresham, three teammates and two coaches in a 15-minute film about faith.
The video was distributed to 45,000 fans and drew 572,000 views on YouTube.
Gresham was part of only his third fake ever Monday night when holder Jon Ryan ran five yards on a fake field goal on fourth-and-1. It extended the Seahawks‘ drive, resulting in a nine-yard Marshawn Lynch touchdown and a 24-10 lead over the Washington Redskins with 6:31 left.
“That was so cool,” Gresham said. “It was a perfect opportunity, and it was awesome that coach had the guts to call in a situation where we easily could have taken the field goal. The situation was right, and it was there, and it was awesome to see Jon get that first down. He used to play running back, so he looked natural running with it.”
Gresham hopes this season ends like the last one did. A second ring would draw even more attention.
“It’s been cool to see guys working hard and getting better and kind of feeling a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, feeling like we’ve got something to prove,” Gresham said. “There’s so much talk about how difficult it is to repeat. We don’t think about that kind of stuff. We’re thinking more about taking it one game at a time, but there definitely is that chip on our shoulder.”