As a former NFL player, you can’t help but admire the work ethic and persistence of Eagles veteran tight end Brent Celek. He’s a bulldog as a blocker and he’s been a bulldog about holding onto his starting tight end spot. Tight end Zach Ertz, the gifted 2013 second-round pick, was expected to come in and take over at the tight end position after a year or two, but Celek has refused to relinquish his role on the first team.
His ability to block has been the main reason for him holding on to his first team status. Celek is a good technician as a blocker, who fires out of his stance then rolls his hips into the block. This is the way you maximize all your power, then he stays with the block. It’s not a glamorous job for a tight end who would rather be running out on routes, but it’s helped the Eagles running game and kept Celek employed.
The former University of Cincinnati star was more of a pass catcher earlier in career under former Eagles head coach Andy Reid. He was smart enough to realize that blocking was going to keep him around here under Chip Kelly, so he committed himself to blocking. and e
In the last two years under Kelly, he has caught 32 passes in each season. In 2013, those 32 catches totaled 502 yards and six touchdowns, but in 2014 those 32 catches equaled only 340 yards and one touchdown. Celek, who almost had a 1000-yard season in 2009, when he caught 76 passes for 971 yards and eight touchdowns, realizes that he’s not here because of his pass catching.
He’s not targeted very much as a receiver in Kelly’s offense (about three times a game) and although a pretty good route runner, he no longer has the speed to separate from the linebackers around the league. To keep defenses honest, they’ll send him deep in the seams versus cover two, so there are a couple of times a game when does get a chance to get his hands on the football.
Most of the times nowadays, Celek finds himself blocking down on defensive ends and defensive tackles, when he’s not trying to hook a linebacker, so the Eagles running backs can get around the corner. At 6’4″ 261 pounds, Celek doesn’t blast defenders off the line of scrimmage, but he gets underneath them with his good technique and position blocks them.
He does a great job of getting a piece of the guy he’s supposed to be blocking and staying with him. Rarely, do you see Celek totally miss his blocking assignment. His consistency gives the running back a chance to make something happen and that’s all a ball carrier can ask.
There are quite a few offensive coordinators around the NFL, who would have moved Ertz in as the starter despite his blocking struggles, but Kelly isn’t one of them. He values his running game and appreciates the effort and work that Celek contributes to it. The Eagles are a running team first and foremost and as long as Chip Kelly is in charge, they’re not going to get away from it.
For this reason, Celek may be able to continue to hold Ertz off as the starter.
Celek’s willingness to find a way to block the 300 pound monsters on NFL defensive lines has made him a leader on the football team and Kelly will keep him around as long as he’s healthy. We’ll see what happens in camp, but there’s no question that Ertz has got his work cut out for him.