One of the lasting images from last week’s game against the New York Giants was simply beautiful. After an interception by Mychal Kendricks, the Eagles had a first and ten on the Giants’ 25 yard line. On the next play, the Eagles lined up in a two-wide receiver, two-tight end set with Lesean McCoy in the backfield. Nick Foles, in for the injured Michael Vick, took the ball from center, faked the handoff to McCoy, and with his back to the line of scrimmage, ran to his right. As Foles circled around, he had enough time to reset his feet at the thirty-five, square his shoulders and launch a perfectly arced ball into the endzone over Brent Celek’s right shoulder. Celek leaped in order to make the fingertip grab, and then, incredibly, instinctively, corralled the ball into his body split-seconds before falling to the ground. Touchdown. Take that, stupid Giants!
My hope though, is that this play serves as a welcome harbinger for the Eagles’ matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Yes, the Buccaneer defense is good. A quick glance shows the Bucs defense ranks fourth in total yards allowed (1329), fifth in passing yards allowed (952), fourth in rushing yards allowed (377), and fourth in points allowed (70). Plus they have this guy Darrelle Revis, the sole owner of an entire island.
But the Bucs defense ain’t that good. Discounting the inequitability (word?) of the bye week through the first five weeks of the season, the Bucs defense ranks 13th in total yards per game allowed (332), 15th in passing yards allowed per game (238), ninth in rushing yards allowed per game (94), and eighth in points allowed per game (17.5). Slightly better than the median. Bottom line, this isn’t the Chiefs defense we’re talking about (sorry, Darrelle).
More to the point, the Buccaneers have allowed some production from the tight end position. Their defense ranks nineteenth in the league in this regard, allowing 22 catches for 329 yards and two touchdowns through four games. In particular, they seem to be susceptible to the good, athletic tight end. New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham torched the Bucs for ten catches, 179 yards and a touchdown (who doesn’t he torch?) and the Jets’ Kellen Winslow, Jr. had seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.
Granted, Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, and James Casey are not Jimmy Graham, but they’re not exactly New England’s Michael Hoomanawanui or Arizona’s Rob Housler either. It seems Ertz and Celek have been more involved recently (in the last two games, Eagles’ tight ends have contributed 14 catches for 192 yards and that touchdown), so it wouldn’t surprise me if one or both of them found themselves in the endzone this week in Tampa Bay.
The Foles-to-Celek pitch and catch against the Giants illustrates what this offense can produce from the tight end position. We’ve been waiting for the tight end to break out in Chip Kelly’s offense. If last week is any indication, things are about to blow up.