What is the deal with Brent Celek? Injuries? Mental discipline? Personal distractions? Adjustment to different QB? Offensive line woes? He was supposed to be our burgeoning, All-World pass catching tight end… not dropping balls we’re used to seeing him catch. Not missing blocks we’re used to seeing him make. The first half of the season was a difficult one for Brent Celek, who seemed to be on the brink of stardom but has struggled this year to stay healthy and productive. He hasn’t been awful. He just hasn’t been himself.
“I was disappointed in myself the way I played these first seven games,” Celek said. “I made a vow that these last nine games I’m going to pick it up. I’m going to pull my weight and start playing better around here.” At this point a year ago, Celek had 37 receptions for 447 yards and three TD. So far this year, he has 21 catches for 229 yards and 2 TD. So catches are down 43 percent, yards are down 49 percent and touchdowns are down 33 percent. Those are some pretty dramatic declines – but what’s the reason?
Last year, Celek finished the regular season with 76 receptions for 971 yards and 8 TD. He ranked seventh among NFL tight ends in catches, fourth in yards and fourth in TDs. Only two tight ends had more yards, catches and TD than Celek last year – Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark. And of the eight NFL tight ends with 70 or more catches, the 24-year-old Celek was the youngest. Celek wasn’t a Pro Bowl pick but could have been, and he seemed to be on the brink of breaking through into that elite category occupied by guys like Gates, Clark, Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez.
Celek was also one of the few Eagles to perform at a high level in the playoff loss to the Cowboys, with three catches for 59 yards. That gave him 22 receptions for 210 yards and three TDs in four career postseason games. In Eagles history, only Harold Carmichael, Chad Lewis, Duce Staley and Brian Westbrook also similar postseason numbers. Not bad company.
So far this year, Celek barely ranks among the top 20 tight ends. He’s 20th in catches, 21st in yards and tied for 11th in touchdowns. Several tight ends his age or younger have surpassed him in production – among them 25-year-old Zach Miller of Oakland (34-for-461, 4), 21-year-old Aaron Hernandez of New England (29-for-388), 25-year-old Brandon Pettigrew of Detroit (35-for-344) and the Chiefs’ 23-year-old Tony Moeaki (24-for-281).
“I just wasn’t making the plays that I’m used to making,” Celek said. “(I have to) work a little harder and do what I have to do, but I have to make those plays. Mentally, I’m there. I’m going to do it.” Celek last year had 10 games with 50 or more yards. This year he has none. Does this suggest that he simply needs to work harder or are defenses simply taking him out as an offensive weapon?
He’s dropped at least half a dozen potential big plays, and it was his missed block with two minutes left in the loss to the Packers that allowed Clay Matthews to stuff Michael Vick for no gain on fourth-and-one inside Packers territory with the Eagles trailing by seven. In Celek’s defense, he’s been nagged all year by a sore wrist. The Eagles say it’s not broken and Celek refuses to use the injury as an excuse, but he always has the wrist wrapped up, and it certainly seems to be hindering his ability to secure the football. Celek admitted Monday the injury has been a factor but he feels like if he’s on the field, he has to make the catches he’s failed to make.
“I’ve got to be mentally tough, but sometimes when you get nicked here, nicked there, it starts to wear on you.” The good news is that Celek feels better now than he has all year. The bye week gave his wrist – and every other sore part of his body – time to heal. Celek plays an extremely physical brand of football. He plays tight end like a middle linebacker. He’s been bruised and battered since Day 1 of Lehigh. Other than a very light practice on Monday, the Eagles had nine days off before resuming practice in earnest on Wednesday. Celek feels good, feels refreshed. Ready for a big second half.
“It’s good for your body and for your mind,” Celek said. “You get to sit back and look at what you’ve done, look at what you can do better and reflect on it and get healthy at the same time. I think the bye week is much needed and came at a perfect time for us. …
“I feel like I’m close to 100 percent now. I think my whole body just – I was beat down, banged up. But this week has been huge for me. I feel like a different person. … It’s something I feel like I needed. I feel rested, rejuvenated, ready to go on a run here. I feel like I’m back. I feel good.”
Celek won’t discuss it but part of the aberration in his numbers could be attributed to the constant flux at starting QB. The Eagles offense with Vicl starting is very different than with Kolb. Kolb is a pure pocket passer and has been practicing with Celek for three years. Vick is a scrambling/running quarterback who looks downfield for big gains. Mind you, a professional tight end doesn’t blame his QB – much like a plumber never blames his tools… but it is something to ponder.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org