Eagles Wake-Up Call: Using Celek Against the Ravens

In the second half of last season, tight end Brent Celek was one of the Eagles’ most reliable, productive options in the passing game.

He averaged 69.6  yards per game and had an outstanding catch rate (receptions per targets) of 73 percent in the final 10 games. Celek led all tight ends (yes, that includes guys like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham) in yards after the catch.

But when Jason Peters injured his Achilles in the offsesason, a reasonable question to ask was: How would it affect Celek? Specifically, would he be called on to block more in passing situations?

In Week 1, the answer was no. Celek’s role was the same as it was in 2011. Last season, on passing downs, Celek went out into a route 74.7 percent of the time and stayed in to block 25.3 percent of the time, according to Pro Football Focus. Against the Browns, he went out into pass routes 75.4 percent of the time and stayed in to block 24.6 percent of the time.

Of course, you could certainly make the argument that the Eagles should have kept Celek in to block more, given the breakdowns in protection. As I pointed out earlier in the week, when DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are healthy, they are talented enough to get open against extra defenders if Michael Vick has time. On Maclin’s 18-yard touchdown last week, the Eagles sent only Jackson and Maclin into pass routes, keeping eight players in to block, and they still scored.

Looking ahead to today’s game, the Ravens will blitz. And often, the extra defenders will blitz off the edge, where Celek can be a big help in keeping Vick clean. On the other hand, Jackson and Maclin are banged-up, and the Ravens have a strong secondary. Celek could be a nice option to work the middle of the field and make plays after the catch.

In Week 1, Celek had four catches for 65 yards on eight targets. In the Ravens’ win over the Bengals, Cincinnati threw to tight end Jermaine Gresham eight times, and he ended up with three catches for 30 yards.

Just one more thing to keep an eye on when the Eagles have the ball.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Brandon Graham is looking to make the most of his opportunities, even if they are limited.

How does Vick match up with the Ravens’ D? A couple areas to keep an eye on: the blitz and play-action passes. Details right here.

Excellent job by T-Mac taking a position-by-position look at how the Eagles’ defense will be affected by Baltimore’s no-huddle attack.

The Eagles cut Mike Patterson’s salary in half, according to reports.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

We did a full roundup late Saturday evening, so click right here for all your links. Most in the national media are picking the Ravens in this one.

COMING UP

Tim and I will be chatting live from the Linc, so be sure to join us at 1 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CBS. Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf will have the call.

Those in Philadelphia will get a pair of 4 p.m. games: Jets-Steelers on CBS and Redskins-Rams on Fox. The Sunday night game is Lions-49ers.

Click here to see what games are on in your area.