Next to the quarterback position, one could argue that on the offensive side of the ball, the tight end position is the most difficult to play in football. As true hybrid players, tight ends must block while also running routes and having good hands to catch passes. The TE has to have the attributes of both a receiver and a lineman, thus he must know the entire offense’s blocking schemes, running plays, and his team’s receiving route tree.
The nature of the National Football League is that most consider the best tight ends to be those who catch the most passes and touchdowns. Tight ends like the New Orleans Saints Jimmy Graham (1,215 yards 16 TD’s), San Francisco 49ers Vernon Davis (850 yards 13 TD’s), Denver Bronco’s Julius Thomas (788 yards 12 TD’s), and Cleveland Browns Jordan Cameron (917 yards 7 TD’s) all had stellar pass catching years and were awarded Pro Bowl invitations as a result.
While each of the four 2014 Pro Bowlers deserve to punch their tickets to Hawaii, it is my opinion that Philadelphia Eagles tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz are one of the best TE duos in the entire NFL. Both Celek and Ertz have ideal size to play the tight end position registering over 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighing more than 250 pounds. The pure 2013 season pass catching statistics may not reflect that of a prototypical Pro Bowl season (Celek 502 yards 6 TD’s and Ertz 469 yards 4 TD’s) I believe each of these men are superior route runners, pass catchers, and excel in arguably one of the most complex offensive schemes in the league devised by Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.
Time after time throughout the season Brent and Zach could be counted on for key first down conversions through their pass catching abilities, and they frequently made substantial plays sometimes unnoticed as was the case in this article by Todd Duval where he writes about an unselfish play Brent Celek made to secure the week 14 Eagles victory over the Detroit Lions 34 to 20.
Ertz and Celek have shown great propensity to make big catches, but they also each do a superior job of blocking. One example of the duo’s blocking capabilities came during the week thirteen 24-21 Eagles victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The Eagles run the screen more effectively than most teams, and both Ertz and Celek have a lot to do with that. During the second quarter of the Arizona/Eagles game, Philadelphia ran a short screen play to wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson motioned left, then shuffled right and grabbed the pass along the line of scrimmage taking it for a 14 yard gain up the right sideline.
The running lane that Celek and Ertz created for Jackson during that play was big enough to drive a truck through, and their blocking was executed flawlessly. This specific sequence did not necessarily result in a score, but while watching film one can see these types of outstanding plays from Celek and Ertz throughout the year.
Ertz evaluated his own rookie season when he said,
“Each player coming out of college likes to think they can make a difference in this league, whether it’s true or not, but I think I kinda showed this year that I can make a difference and affect the team outcome.” He continued, “I think I had a good rookie year, but at the end of the day I want to be one of the best tight ends ever to play, and I’m going to set my standard for that, and work toward that goal.”
Because of the high value the NFL places on the pass catching side of the tight end position, Celek and Ertz did not receive the accolades this season their peers received. However, the tight end tandem combined for top ten combined yards and reception touchdowns, displayed superior blocking abilities, and finally their unselfish but impassioned play was a big part of many of the Eagles wins this season. The Eagles dangerous tight ends will only get better with experience together, and should continue to give opposing defenses challenges in the years to come.
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