Brent Celek and Zach Ertz will take on bigger roles, thrive in 2014


The NFL game has evolved to great expansion over it’s nearly 100 year existence. This has never been more true than as it now when relating to how players are used on offense. The traditional featured back role is being phased out as running back committees are becoming more common, and having personnel that can catch as well as they can block is becoming a necessity. One of the more intriguing developments, however; is the over reliance on dual tight end systems, especially when they can cover up for any perceived holes in the wide receiving corps. Chip Kelly tinkered with it last season, and in year two you can expect the Eagles to embrace it fully.

When Kelly drafted tight-end Zach Ertz in 2013, there were some raised eyebrows. Brent Celek was still on the right side of 30 and had been consistently effective.  Still, Ertz provided mismatch opportunities that Kelly couldn’t pass up, especially as he has shown an affinity for players that are versatile in performance.

The pickup was a good one regardless, as Ertz provided athleticism and depth to the position. NFL teams across the league benefit themselves when they have a surplus of talent at a position. Splitting snaps between the two is a good problem to have.

However, what’s so unique about this Eagles offense is that Kelly has designed it to allow both to remain on the field a majority of the time together. Disregarding a traditional fullback completely, Ertz and Celek often line up parallel to each other. This not only allows Nick Foles an extra weapon, but also mobile protection in a fast paced offense.

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As a rookie, Ertz made good strides throughout the season blocking, and in year two should get better at doing so. Celek, on the other hand, has enough experience protecting the quarterback and runners in the backfield, and is more than capable of catching a pass on the fly. In fact, he’s possibly the most reliable target on the field when necessary, but even if he isn’t being used as a weapon in the passing game, he can still be effective on the field.

Last season, Ertz and Celek combined for 971 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Foles targeted them both 50 plus times each, and in their first year in this offense, they were integral part of one of the league’s best units. There was no clear favorite between the two, and it kept defenses out of order, and also opened up the pass game for the receivers on hand. Where Celek lacks in mobility he makes up for in protection, and Ertz’s athleticism and ability to create mismatches makes the duo a tandem in itself. When you have that many options plus an equally destructive LeSean McCoy in the backfield, it makes the offense so much more potent.

In 2014, the tight-end duo will likely be asked to take on a bigger role in thee offense. DeSean Jackson is gone. Jeremy Maclin may be facing health issues the entire season. Riley Cooper is a good number two or three wideout, but if he’s asked to be a number one at times this year, that may be too big of a role for him to thrive in, despite how good Kelly’s system is. Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff are only rookies. And with Lane Johnson out for the first four games, and Allen Barbre struggling the preseason, Celek and Ertz (mostly Celek) might be asked to block more as well. In short, the two got varying workloads in 2013, but figure to be key cogs in 2014.

As the season kicks off and expectations for the Eagles continue to rise, the success of this offense will come down to heavy contributions from Ertz and Celek. It is nice to have so many weapons on the field, but there are still only a select few that will change the course of a game week in and week out. With a dual tight-end system firmly in place, the Eagles will be able to do just that, hopefully allowing their offense to continue to soar in 2014.