Throughout his career, tight end Brent Celek has been a quiet workhorse. When the offensive line was in flux, he stayed in and blocked. When the offense needed a receiving threat, he made plays like this. When they needed toughness across the middle... well, you get the idea.
But with training camp less than a month away, few starters will report to Lehigh University surrounded by as much uncertainty as Celek.
One of the team's major offseason storylines has revolved around the offense's need to play a more consistent brand of football. Fortunately, with the notable exception of All Pro left tackle Jason Peters and his injured Achilles, the entire squad returns intact, and, in large part, better than last year.
That's where Celek comes in. His toughness and power stand in stark contrast to the speedy offense in which he plays. At 6’4 and 255 lbs, he is a terror for defenses to bring down.
The beginning of last season found Celek, like many players on the team, in a disappointing position. He wasn't putting up the kind of receiving numbers many had hoped, amassing only 13 catches for 169 yards before the Week 7 bye.
Inconsistency at the quarterback position, compounded by an offensive line finding its identify, forced Celek to drop from the limelight and help more in pass protection. But as the line gelled, he became one of Vick's favorite targets. In the following ten games, Celek put up 642 yards and four touchdowns on 49 catches.
Want more proof? Before the bye, Celek only had two games with more than three catches. After the bye, he had only one game with fewer than three.
Unfortunately, the biggest question mark surrounding Celek this season has nothing to do with him. With Peters out for the season, Celek may need to stay back and block more. We should have a clearer picture come training camp, but it's not a stretch to say that his fate for the 2012 season is tied to the performance of one Demetress Bell.
It will likely take time for Bell to get up to speed, but the other four members of the line are familiar with one another. Don't underestimate this—it's worlds better than last year's line shuffle starring Kyle DeVan.
If the team's new left tackle (and the rest of the line, for that matter) can play at a high level, Celek will be given more opportunities. And with all the pressure on the Eagles offense this season, the team can use all the help it can get.