SEATTLE – With L.J. Smith at home recovering from a concussion suffered a week before, second-year man Brent Celek took advantage of the opportunity to start at tight end on Sunday in Seattle.
Celek more than made the most of his chance.
In a struggling first half, Celek helped jump-start the offense with three receptions for 73 yards, including a career-high 44-yard catch and run. As the Eagles struggled to get into a rhythm with the football, quarterback Donovan McNabb went to Celek in a variety of ways.
"The thing that I've seen from Brent is his work ethic and the fact that he's not a guy who gets upset or complains in any way. He just waits on his opportunity. He's learned a lot, obviously, from experienced players like L.J. Smith and (Matt) Schobel, guys who have been in the league," said McNabb. "When he's been given the opportunity, he's kind of flourished with that.
"Knowing that we have three tight ends like that, we can get them involved. We just have to call plays for them."
The plays were there all game for Celek. Brent Celek Highlights
Twice McNabb threw to Celek to defeat a blitz – once side-stepping a corner blitz in his face and throwing for Celek, who made the catch about 12 yards down the field and then turned on the jets for his 44-yard gain, and then dumping a pass to Celek on the right side against a blitz. Celek caught that pass and ran 27 yards for a first down.
Another time, Celek caught a pass on a third-down play as McNabb rolled right on a third-and-1 play. Celek made a tough catch and then had the presence of mind to reach out and get the first down to keep a touchdown drive alive.
It was a promising game for Celek, who had just eight catches for 83 yards in the previous seven games. As a rookie last season, Celek caught 16 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown after the Eagles made him a fifth-round draft pick from Cincinnati.
In the third quarter, Celek added to the fun by catching a 39-yard pass – he broke free and made a catch in one-on-one coverage – and then came right back with a 15-yard gain to put the Eagles in scoring position at Seattle's 7-yard line.
The Seahawks were in a man-press coverage with Celek lined up in single coverage. He had a good release and went down the left seam, hauling in McNabb's pass with his left hand and finishing the play.
"I got off the line of scrimmage and Don put the ball right there," said Celek. "All game, he looked to me and made it easy for me. I just ran my routes and caught the ball and followed the blocking.
"It felt great to be involved. I had a great time out there."
Celek finished with six receptions for 131 yards, a franchise record for tight ends in a regular-season game. Keith Jackson caught seven passes for 142 yards in the Fog Bowl against the Bears on December 31, 1988.
Add in Schobel's two catches for 10 yards and the Eagles had some major contributions from their tight ends – eight catches for 141 yards. Smith could be back for the Giants game, giving the Eagles even more firepower.
Sunday in Seattle, though, was Celek's day. He had his turn in the spotlight and delivered for the offense.
"I have the confidence," said Celek. "I've always had the confidence. Last year taught me that I can play well in this league. It is a matter of getting comfortable and getting chances. I'm learning every day, improving every day. I felt great. If I get called on again, I'll be ready to go. Whatever we need to do, I feel like I will be ready."