Brent Celek took over the starting tight end job from L.J. Smith late in the 2008 season and played his best football down the stretch.
In the final four games of the season, the regular season finale and three playoff games, Celek had 22 catches, 181 yards and four touchdowns. In the NFC Championship Game, Celek set a franchise postseason record with 10 catches to go along with 83 yards and two touchdowns. The two touchdown receptions tied the team record for most in an entire postseason.
With L.J. Smith, the starter at the position since 2005, set to become an unrestricted free agent on Feb. 27, Celek is in line to be the starting tight end in 2009. After posting 111 receptions between 2005 and 2006, Smith had 59 over the past two seasons. Celek, a fifth-round pick in 2007, had better numbers in the playoffs than in the regular season. He led all Eagles tight ends in the regular season with 318 yards while posting 27 catches and a touchdown.
Celek's biggest game of the regular season was when he had 131 yards on six catches in the November win at Seattle. It was the most receiving yards in a single game by an Eagles tight end since Keith Jackson had 142 in the Fog Bowl game.
Thanks to Celek's emergence, the Eagles' play in the red zone was vastly improved in the playoffs. During the season, the Eagles scored a touchdown 31 times in 63 tries inside the 20 (49 percent). In the final four games, the Eagles converted 54.5 percent of their red zone chances.
If you take Celek's final four games and project that over the course of a 16-game season, he would have 88 catches for 724 yards and 16 touchdowns. Yikes. Celek wouldn't be expected to put up those numbers throughout the course of an entire season, but more consistent production from the tight end position would help improve the overall performance of the offense. If the tight end can dominate the middle of the field, it would only help the receivers on the outside and the running backs underneath.
The best season by a tight end in the Andy Reid era was in 2000 when Chad Lewis put up 69 catches for 735 yards. Smith was on the verge of putting up those numbers. Now, it looks like Celek will have his chance.