One of the most anticipated things Eagles fans are looking forward to this season is the development of quarterback Nick Foles. As he enters his second year as starting quarterback there are doubters questioning if he can replicate and sustain last year’s success. Eagles fans are excited for what head coach Chip Kelly has rolled up his sleeves for his second year and to see just how far Kelly can take Foles. Adding new weapons in the likes of rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews, free agent running back Darren Sproles, and the return of injured wide receiver Jeremy Maclin have only enhanced that excitement this offseason. After promising seasons from Kelly’s second round pick Zach Ertz and former Florida Gator Riley Cooper, there are weapons aplenty for Foles to utilize if he has what it takes to advance to the next “tier” of quarterbacks.
But are we being too quick to dismiss the longest tenured skill player on the Eagles offense in veteran tight end Brent Celek? Celek has played in 111 out of 112 games over the course of his career. His durability and toughness is obvious after watching him play all seven years of his career with Philadelphia. He ranks second all-time in Eagles tight end history in touchdowns, yards, and receptions behind only the great Pete Retzlaff. He was once less than 30 yards shy of recording a 1,000 yard season just a few years ago. Last year Celek was sixth on the team in targets but ranked third in touchdowns and YAC compiling a stat line of 32 receptions on 50 targets, 502 yards, and six touchdowns. A player of his caliber proved he can be quite a formidable weapon in Kelly’s offense and the end isn’t within striking distance quite yet.
The fascination and the upside with sophomore tight end Zach Ertz is understandable. He should be a force for the Eagles for years to come, but has he already shown signs that his career projection is ready to surpass past Celek’s arc? The second year player from Stanford finished the year strongly, picking up 22 receptions for 268 yards and four touchdowns over the last eight games of the season. Fair numbers, but nothing that suggests he’s ready for an astronomical leap in productivity if taken on a per game basis. Kelly’s innovation surely would be able to find a way to capitalize on both his outstanding tight ends, right?
After taking the league by storm his first year in the NFL, Chip Kelly has already become a fan favorite, but is there more to Kelly that we could see in his second year? Kelly would be wise to pick up some tips on how utilize the two-tight end formation from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick while the Eagles share training camp with the Patriots for the second time again this year. It’d be a great time for him to learn from a three-time Super Bowl champion and how he game planned using tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez as they revolutionized the modern two-tight end set combining for 169 catches and 24 touchdowns back in 2011.
Yes, the young talent on this roster is robust and already paying immediate dividends. Kelly’s found ways with his set of guys as evidenced by the releases of former head coach Andy Reid’s pupils in wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant. Pairing the veteran Celek’s talents with the young Ertz is a mismatch Kelly should find new ways to capitalize on in 2014. We’ve seen the moves and production that Celek is capable of. Phasing out one of the most productive tight ends in Eagles history so soon? That’s not a move that Kelly should be quick to make.