Brent Celek Is Going To Be a Favorite Target of McNabb in 2009

Leo PizziniAnalyst IJune 19, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 18:  Tight end Brent Celek #87 of the Philadelphia Eagles jumps over cornerback Ralph Brown #20 of the Arizona Cardinals in the second quarter of the NFC championship game on January 18, 2009 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

If you did not know, it is a brand new era at the tight end position in Philadelphia.

McNabb has always looked to his tight ends in clutch situations—partly because he had mediocre receivers, and partly as a primal instinct.

McNabb to Lewis and pre-sports hernia L.J. Smith was a staple of the Eagles passing offense.  In the 2008 regular season, the tight end was nearly invisible. In 2009, Eagles fans have a new look aerial group at tight end. 

Brent Celek emerged as the starter at tight end in the playoffs last season and led the team in receptions during that period. 

A familiar trend is becoming apparent and there are lots of reasons to get excited about this.

Brent Celek becomes a prospective X-factor in the Eagles offense, along with rookies Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, Cornelius Ingram, and free agent acquisition Leonard Weaver.

It has been a couple of years' worth of L.J. Smith ineffectiveness that lead the Eagles to the forward-thinking decision of passing the torch to the young Celek (aka "Magnum P.I.")

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Celek doesn't have blazing speed. He runs a 4.7-second 40-yard dash, but he is elusive for his size and speed, and he runs and finishes hard. More than anything, he is an old-school prototype tight end in the vein of Chad Lewis, Jason Witten, and Chris Cooley.

Celek has nice hands and tremendous vision for the field and open space that transcend measures and statistics. This kid is a very good football player, and he produces.

"Once you get out there in a game and see some of the things you can do to a defense, you think I can do this week in and week out," Celek said. "I think I had an opportunity there and took advantage of it. I played the best that I could. There were some situations where I was in good situations and I made some decent plays. I just have to do that on a continuous basis."

McNabb now has a talented group of receivers, receiving backs and a go-to tight end that he had been missing during L.J. Smith's most recent campaigns.

Celek is going to have a better opportunity to produce than Chad Lewis, as the 2009 corps of complementary targets at receiver and out of the backfield are potentially lethal to opposing defenses.

Defenses have to take care to watch Brian Westbrook, DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis, Hank Baskett and Jeremy Maclin whenever they are on the field. The player they will look past most often is Celek, and he has the game and quarterback respect to make teams pay.

Cornelius Ingram is the Eagles’ rookie tight end who may cut into the production of Celek just a bit.  He's a monstrous athletic talent that the Eagles will look to take advantage of having on their roster.

Both Celek and Ingram are somewhat questionable in the blocking department, but they are in the good hands when it comes to blocking instruction.

Blocking is a combination of heart, athleticism and technique.  Celek and Ingram have the heart and athleticism and Andy Reid and offensive line coach, Juan Castillo, are the best in the business at developing technique.

Both players are aware that coming into this season, the No. 1 question on the minds of the coaches regarding tight end is, "Can these guys block?"

Celek and Ingram have been proactive in working on this aspect of their game and Eagles fans will be treated to a substantial improvement over L.J. Smith and Matt Schobel's lackluster blocking efforts.

Additional points of interest with blocking at tight end include the promising progress of converted defensive end from Purdue, Eugene Bright, who I expect to supplant the relatively ineffective Matt Schobel at the third tight end position.

When thinking about a blocking tight end, I can't leave out the formidable option of lining up Jason Peters tight and eligible to receive.  The Eagles are deep enough on the offensive line to slide a depth lineman like Max Jean-Gilles onto the field and let Jason Peters play his original position—yes, that's right—tight end.

One last wild thought is bulking up Hank Baskett.  His speed and blocking technique with an extra 20 or 25pounds would make for an incredibly dangerous tight end and more repetitions for the under-used receiver. 

For now, the picture is clear. Celek is the man at tight end and McNabb has gone to him frequently when he has been in the game before.  We will see a lot more of Brent Celek with the ball in 2009.

Expect Celek to have a tremendous season, most likely accounting for 600 to 800 yards receiving, and five to eight touchdowns as McNabb seeks him out.

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