Eagles tight ends doing more blocking than receiving

Posted: September 17, 2011

Brent Celek knows his fantasy-league stock has dropped. He does not care.

Asked to block more last year - and also so far this season - the Eagles tight end has seen his pass-catching statistics suffer as a result.

That hasn't won Celek additional fans among fantasy-league owners. But among his coaches, the 26-year-old has earned increasing respect for his devotion to one of the less popular jobs on offense.

"The film doesn't lie," Celek said. "You've got a certain job to do on every single play, and if you do that well, you're playing well overall. If you start basing it off stats, there are going to be times when guys have 100 yards receiving that haven't played as great a game as they could have."

On Sunday against St. Louis, Celek was required to stay in the box and help the offensive line pass-protect more than 50 percent of the time. It wasn't that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg didn't want his tight ends out running patterns. He just needed more blockers to fend off the Rams' constant blitzing.

The extra pass-rushers are likely to come Sunday when the Eagles travel to Atlanta and the following week when the New York Giants come to town, and the next week and the next week. Celek and backup Clay Harbor often will be out in front of quarterback Michael Vick.

"Brent played a really good game. Going back to watch film, it was a perfect game," said Harbor, who was on the field for 17 snaps last week, also mostly as a blocker. "He picked up his blitzes every time. He blocked [defensive ends] one-on-one."

Celek credited an offseason workout regimen that added 10 pounds to an already burly frame. He said he now weighs in the low 260s. Celek entered last season beaten up and as a result may have been less than 100 percent when he dropped several passes in the first half of the season.

"I just tried to put on a little muscle, get a little bigger, see how I felt, tried to keep my speed, and go at it that way," he said. "There's times when you take a lot of hits during the season, and if you don't have a little bit of extra muscle, extra fat, you're going to get beat when it comes later in the year."

After Celek had a breakout 2009 season, his numbers dipped dramatically, going from 76 catches for 971 yards and eight touchdowns to 42, 511, and four last season. Last week, he was targeted three times and caught only one pass for 13 yards, although it was a big third-down conversion.

"He's become so good at [blocking], his numbers aren't quite there," Mornhinweg said. "Now, that's a little bit cyclical, because there will be certain games where I hope that will occur and his numbers will be up a little bit."

Much has been made of Howard Mudd's new blocking methods for Eagles offensive linemen and how he prefers smaller, athletic players. But the tight ends also spend a good chunk of their practice weeks with Mudd.

"He's changed up techniques, and it does make it easier, especially on pass-blocking," Harbor said. "A lot of stuff he does really cuts the air down from the defensive end. Instead of using the vertical step, we're really jumping the ends, and that really helps you out when you're a smaller blocker like a tight end."

Celek and Harbor would be the first to say they still want to see the ball. But even when they aren't asked to stay in and block, there are only so many plays with tight ends as the first option on a team with a receiving corps made up of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, and Steve Smith; and a formidable pass-catching running back in LeSean McCoy.

There are "enough balls to go around," Vick said.

Even if there aren't, Celek can block it out and just do his job.

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com, or @Jeff_McLane on Twitter.


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