Hello, Brent Celek. Where have you been for the last year in a half?
It's become obvious that Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy make this offense go. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant alternate big plays at the wide receiver spot. But the tight end position?
The tight end has been the missing piece to the Eagles offensive domination. Celek finally made a splash Sunday night against the Cowboys. He had seven catches on nine targets for 94 yards and a touchdown in the demolition. He was rarely used as a blocker on passing downs. He was clearly part of the game plan as Mike Vick's favorite target, and even had his number called on a screen pass.
Sure, part of the reason for Celek's success was because of the Cowboys losing linebacker Sean Lee to an injury early in the contest and playing their safeties "500 yards" off the line of scrimmage as Vick explained it.
Still, this isn't an uncommon philosophy against the Eagles. Other teams have gone this route, taking away the deep pass and daring Andy Reid's offense to run the ball and hit passes in the middle of the field. Oftentimes, they've had trouble doing that, with Celek remaining a silent weapon.
In fact, since coming to the Eagles, completing passes over the middle has never been Vick's strongpoint. He's a smallish QB who can sometimes have trouble seeing over his line. But that wasn't a problem against the Cowboys. Six of Celek's seven catches came over the middle. After the jump is Vick's passing chart:
Left: 7-of-9 for 74 yards, 1 TD
Middle: 9-10 for 120 yards, 1 TD
Right: 5-of-8 for 85 yards
The biggest damage was done over the middle. That's a stark contrast to their first six games of the season when the Vick peppered his wide receivers on the outside.
As for Celek, the Eagles, finally with the offensive line they envisioned in training camp, made a concerted effort to utilize him. He was a target on 28-of-32 pass plays he was on the field. He was also moved around the often. Here was where he lined up on his 67 snaps on Monday night and where he did the most damage:
Right Side of line: 27 snaps, 1 catch, 9 yards 1 TD
Left Side of Line: 24 snaps, 2 catches, 21 yards
Staggered Off Line: 9 snaps , 2 catches, 37 yards
In Slot: 3 snaps, 1 catch, 19 yards
Out Wide: 3 snaps, 1 catch, 8 yards
In Backfield: 1 snap
Clearly, the Eagles found something. They have another weapon that can complete their No. 1-ranked offense if the opposition decides to take away their deep passing game.
Other notable observations:
• Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a much bigger role on Sunday night and was on the field for 31 of 49 defensive snaps. He spent a large portion of the game at right cornerback matched at the line against Dez Bryant. Nnamdi Asomugha was used often in the slot or almost as a pseudo-linebacker against tight end Jason Witten.
• The Eagles cornerbacks allowed Bryant and Miles Austin to combine for just six catches and 55 yards. Stopping them was a team effort. DRC (25 snaps) lined up against Bryant the most and Joselio Hanson (14 snaps) and Nnamdi (13 snaps) spent the most time opposite Austin. Asante Samuel spent most of the evening lined up looking at Laurent Robinson.
• We didn't hear rookie right guard Danny Watkins' name often. That's good for a guard. It means that Watkins played well, getting significant push and helping make the right side of the line a very successful run destination.
• DeMarcus Ware is a beast for the Cowboys; in my opinion, the best defensive player in the NFL right now. He had 11 tackles, five for a loss, and four sacks in the loss.
• LeSean McCoy's ability to make the first man miss was again uncanny on Sunday night. Dallas couldn't bring him down.
• The Eagles starting safeties, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, were hidden fairly well. They did not hurt the team despite making just three total tackles.