Backup TEs

Posted: June 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 61 Comments »

Brent Celek is a good starting TE.  Behind him there is some mystery.

Clay Harbor is entering his 3rd season and should be pushing Celek more than fighting off his competition.  So how is Clay doing these days?  Hard to say.  Read this blog post from Geoff Mosher and you get the feeling that Clay is up and down at catching the ball in the OTAs.

Today Reuben Frank posted an article on Brett Brackett.  Roobs noted that:

Harbor might not have the receiving skills as Brackett, although he does have good hands. But he is a terrific blocker.

So is Clay catching the ball well or not?

Chris McPherson wrote a good piece on Harbor.  He focused on how Clay is learning the little things it takes to be a good TE.  McPherson has a nugget of interest that the other writers didn’t mention.

Harbor has caught 21 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns in 25 games over the past two seasons. To better improve his hands, head coach Andy Reid told him to work without gloves in the Organized Team Activities. After hauling in a few catches, Reid joked that Harbor should always play without gloves.

“With your hands, you watch the ball. You focus more,” Harbor said. “With gloves, you kind of take it for granted.”

At the least, we know that Harbor is working to improve his hands.  We don’t know if drops have been an issue, but clearly Clay feels like he needs to focus on that part of his game.  One way to get more balls thrown your way is to go from “solid receiver” to flat out “good receiver”.  That means making the easy catches all the time and tough catches some of the time.

* * * * *

Back to Brackett for a minute…we’re starting to hear more and more about him.  Brett is the kind of guy who should do well in these OTAs.  He can run.  He can catch.  The key for him is to show that he can block and handle the physicality of TE.  That won’t happen until Lehigh, but it is important that Brackett shines in the OTAs so that he builds up some momentum.  The coaches need to be excited about him heading into Training Camp rather than just curious.

We haven’t kept 3 TEs in a few years.  In order for the Eagles to do that, they’ll be going light somewhere else (possibly WR).  The only way the Eagles will keep 3 TEs is if 3 guys deserve a roster spot.  Celek has his locked up.  With a solid summer, Harbor will lock his up. If he is inconsistent, Harbor will either face getting moved to the #3 TE spot or possibly getting cut.  The Eagles like his talent and potential, but he’s in Year 3.  It is time for him to play well.  The future is now.  Brackett is off to a good start, but he’s got a lot of work to do in order to win a roster spot.

* * * * *

Why would the Eagles be interested in getting back to 3 TEs?  Howard Mudd loves what is called “12 personnel”.  That is 1 RB + 2 TEs.  The Colts used a ton of this over the years.  They didn’t even have a FB in some seasons.

If you want to play 2 TEs a lot, you need 3 on the roster.  That way, if someone gets hurt, you have a TE ready to take his place.

The Eagles used the Ace formation a lot back in 2003.  Chad Lewis and LJ Smith each lined up on the LOS.  Pinky and Thrash lined up out wide, but off the LOS.  Westy was the RB.  I loved watching plays run from this set.

The base play was a simple run to the outside.  Then you have a play-action pass based on that play.  Donovan would fake to Westy and then roll back to the other side.  He would look downfield for a TE or WR on the backside.  The Eagles then had a counter to this.  Donovan would fake to Westy and roll to the backside.  The WRs and TEs would vertically stretch the defense.  McNabb would then throw the ball to Westy in the flat and he had acres of room on some plays.  The final twist on this was that Donovan would fake to Westy, roll backside, and then it would turn into a screen play.  Instead of Westy drifting out wide for a pass he would go chip the DE and then stay at the LOS.

Working out of the Ace formation was a real success that year.  One of the benefits is that you had the TEs up on the LOS.  They could help block on deep pass plays.  They could block and then release for a short pass or stick on the pass rusher.  Also, because the set is balanced, you aren’t tipping your hat to the defense.  There is no strong or weak side.

It will be interesting to see if the Eagles do mix in a lot more of the Ace formation this season.

* * * * *

There is one concern…what if Brent, Clay, Brett, and Chase decide they’ve had enough of playing football and decide to form a boy band.  They might not have the age right, but with those names…they are on the path to stardom.

The group would be called Soft Hands.

Their debut album would be Catching You.

Songs would include:

“Quit Dragging My Heart Around…On A Shallow Crossing Route”

” I Wanna Score With You”

“Just U ‘n Me and The SAM Linebacker”

“Your Love Is Like A Tight Spiral”

“Barry Rubin Gave Me This Body & Now I’m Giving It To U”

And Donovan’s favorite…”In The Game Of Love, There Is No Overtime”

Forget about Justin and Lance and Marky-Mark.  Those guys were wannabes.  I’m telling  you that Brent, Clay, Brett, and Chase are the real deal.  Soft Hands will be the greatest musical force since Captain and Tennille were rockin’ our world.

* * * * *

Casey Matthews is missing his second day of practice due to a sore back.  You wonder if this has anything to do with him bulking up to 250 pounds.  It will be interesting to see if this is a temporary thing or become a nagging issue.

* * * * *

A few people asked about Dave’s comments on Curtis Marsh.  I’m not sure what to make of that.  I tend to think Dave was trying to praise veteran players rather than insult Marsh.  I’ll see if I can find anything out.

* * * * *

A reader told me on Twitter that the Eagles came in 2nd in a poll in Brazil of which NFL teams were most popular down there.

1. Patriots
2. Eagles
3. Colts
4. Packers
5. Steelers

Who knew that Brazilians would be so anti-Dallas Cowboys? Good for them. And it is very cool to see how popular the Eagles are world-wide.

61 Comments on “Backup TEs”

  1. 1 Jason_E said at 12:51 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Is there a link to Dave’s comments on Marsh? Also, did you ever get clarification on his “Cooper and Mcnutt won’t both make the team” comment?

  2. 2 TommyLawlor said at 1:01 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    From a commenter yesterday:

    “My top five cornerbacks, based on these practices: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Joselio Hanson, Brandon Boykin and Brandon Hughes. Curtis Marsh, a third-round draft pick last year, has to step up to earn a roster spot here. And I’m not down on Hanson, as some out there seem to be. He’s a tough guy, a scrappy competitor and he can play inside and outside. Boykin, I will say, is really impressive.”

  3. 3 Mac said at 1:34 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    should read…

    “My top 5 CBs, based on the prolific nature of homeristic tendency toward supporting washed up veterans: Nnamdi, DRC, Mmm Bop, the Boy(kin) Wonder, and Hughes. Curtis Marsh is going to have to do more than be exceptionally athletically gifted and the only viable option to start on the outside if Nnamdi or DRC is injured to keep his roster spot over Mmm Bop who has given this team consistently mediocre performances at slot CB for the past few years and definitely is NOT on the decline. See how I made “NOT” all caps in that last sentence… Yeah, that’s because I’m an unbiased writer who believes in Joselio Hanson and I use the “eye test” instead of “stats” to back up my beliefs. Also noteworthy; Brandon Boykin could possibly be the steal of the draft by falling to the Eagles in round 4.”

  4. 4 A_T_G said at 3:04 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    I don’t know, that seems to have a slightly different tone to me…

  5. 5 Mac said at 3:07 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Was it that obvious?

  6. 6 Jason_E said at 1:48 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    I can’t trust Dave when he says things like that. Hanson had a great camp last year and then kinda stunk up the place during the season. Plus, I think we can all agree that Marsh is going to get more than one season and an off-season to develop.

  7. 7 eagleizeit said at 3:54 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Handsons been playing in summer camp since he was a little kid that’s why he looks good then. Hopefully a team will get desperate for a nickel corner during the preseason and give up a 4th rd pick 4 Hanson. If they kept 6 I’d still rather keep Lindley and get a 4th rd pick for Joselio.

  8. 8 mheil said at 5:12 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    a 7th round pick for hanson would be a gift

  9. 9 miked718 said at 1:15 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Tommy thank you for keeping these late spring, pre-training camp pieces funny as well as informative. I love Sheil but sometimes his columns are about as reader-friendly as a math textbook in the offseason. Now Les, everytime I read him I feel like I’m having a beer with him (and it looks like he does photos for all his articles now too!). Offseason Eagle-writer rankings:

    1. Tommy
    2. Les
    3. McLane
    4. Sheil
    5. Graziano
    6. Derrick (still makes the list on strength of past work)

  10. 10 Mac said at 1:28 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Wait… you’re telling me that there are people other than T-Law who write about the Philadelphia Eagles?

    I haven’t bothered checking any other websites cuz my eyes are so friggin bad due to my in home “do it yourself lasik kit” hasn’t arrived in the mail yet and I stepped on my prescription sunglasses that I had ordered off this highly reputable website last month.

    Tommy I love your articles, but I’m still trying to figure out when my kit will arrive, I keep looking at the calendar and can’t find the month that has 32 days!

  11. 11 TommyLawlor said at 1:39 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    The kit is in the mail. I just asked my guy in the shipping dept. (Blade) and he swears that he’s 50% sure it went out the other day. He does drink a bit, but sometimes does remember correctly.

  12. 12 Mac said at 2:13 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Well, hopefully it’s better than the last product I received from you. So far all that I have been able to do with that one is make myself temporarily blind and make my children dizzy.

  13. 13 A_T_G said at 3:07 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    So Derek is the Joselio Hanson of this list? Shouldn’t he be incorrectly listed third then?

  14. 14 miked718 said at 3:34 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Well he cut himself, we’ll see if the Internet resigns him during camp.

  15. 15 Mac said at 3:37 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    I thought the internet age reduced the threat of serious injuries in the journalism business.

  16. 16 Aaron Yang said at 3:26 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    graziano should not be on this list what so ever…i try not to go on espn in spite of him.

  17. 17 miked718 said at 4:10 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Yeah I feel the same. I have it on my Reader from the Matt Mosley days. Although a Dallas guy, he wrote a good blog.

  18. 18 Alex Karklins said at 7:40 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Hmm, I always thought Mosley was awful and an obvious Dallas homer. For me, Graziano is a HUGE improvement.

  19. 19 D3Keith said at 1:54 AM on June 7th, 2012:

    I think both are true.

    Graziano is an improvement over Mosely, enough that I actually go over to ESPN from time to time, but I’m not sure he’s top 10 Eagles writer. Do Roob and Diddy get any love? What about Geoff from the Wilmington paper and the Allentown guys? Am I stretching it here?

    I enjoy JasonB, he’s pretty level-headed, and ol’ Jimmy Bama deserves a mention in the top 27 somewhere.

  20. 20 Davesbeard said at 6:50 AM on June 7th, 2012:

    JimmyK is a bit of a Don as well

  21. 21 miked718 said at 10:10 AM on June 7th, 2012:

    I forgot Jimmy Bama! They should let him write the ESPN blog since he seems to have better sources and actually goes out in the field observe the teams he covers. Also you can read his blog in google reader unlike the rest of the writers mentioned…

  22. 22 PhillyFollower said at 1:28 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    I happen to know Brett personally. I’d like to let it be known this guy won’t fail because he isn’t working hard enough… it’ll be because of some other reason. Hard worker (told me he’s been at NovaCare every day, which I’ve seen several articles/reporters confirm), leader (was a captain at PSU), and smart guy (plus he did finish and get his degree at PSU).

    Of course, we’ll need to see how he performs once the pads go on, but from what I’ve read and what I know about Brett, I think this guy could really push for a spot here.

    Some more info on Brett:

    When he signed with the Dolphins last year, fans became intrigued with him because they heard he had a good start to training camp. Actual comment from a Dolphins fan:

    “Brett was on beast mode the first few days of camp. Then he suffered an injury and never looked the same. I hope no one steals him from us because there a lot of potential there.”

    There’s some more comments from Dolphins fans here:

    He didn’t do much when he got the (limited) chance to play in preseason, but I’m sure actually having an offseason and some time in the system here will help him.

    Also saw this article on Brett –

    Talks about how he’s trying to learn how to long snap. Brent Celek is already the team’s backup LS, but it shows how Brett really wants to stick here.

    I also saw this article yesterday re: the TEs –

    “There is a legitimate competition for the backup tight end position between Clay Harbor and Brett Brackett. Brackett has looked solid the last two weeks, while Harbor has struggled with drops during this camp. Neither stood out on Tuesday afternoon, but Harbor did drop a catchable ball in the end zone during red zone drills.”

    Lastly, I’ve seen Sam mention on Twitter that Brackett “got a signing bonus from the Eagles to sign after the season (rare for PS guy)”, so it looks like they have some more interest in him than the usual longshot type of guy.

    I’m really rooting for Brett to make it. Once again we have to see what he can do in TC (and PS) but I think he may surprise some people.

    My concern is that if he doesn’t make the 53, the Eagles won’t be able to put him on the PS because he’ll get picked up elsewhere. But maybe they can pay him more to convince him to stay on the PS, or maybe they IR him with a phantom injury.

  23. 23 TommyLawlor said at 1:41 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Well let’s hope Brett does make it. He’s got the right attitude.

  24. 24 Trevor Turner said at 1:31 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    I like Clay Harbor a lot. Athletic, good blocker, good size, decent hands. I think if Celek missed any time, you’d see Harbor emerge. The one thing that bothers me with him is untimely drops, but I think we’ve seen plenty of receivers over the years be able to buck that problem.

  25. 25 TommyLawlor said at 1:41 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    I like Clay as well. High hopes for him. He needs to step up this year.

  26. 26 D3Keith said at 1:55 AM on June 7th, 2012:

    I’m a fan too.

    We’ve established that Sam doesn’t see what’s so special about him.

  27. 27 Francois Tanguy said at 1:33 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    There are quite a lot of Eagles fans in the US too 😉

  28. 28 TommyLawlor said at 1:41 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Yes there are.

  29. 29 Francois Tanguy said at 8:33 AM on June 8th, 2012:

    Mmmh… I read my initial post and didn’t write at all what I wanted: There are quite a lot of Eagles fans in France too 😉

    And if you happen to visit Paris one day, it will be a pleasure to drink a beer with you!

  30. 30 Ben Hert said at 1:38 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    I just want to thank Boykin for taking #22. Hopefully he plays well and allows me to pull off the duct tape modification to my #22 jersey.

  31. 31 Yuri said at 2:01 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    This whole discussion is missing the reference to the new sitcom featuring tight ends!,27397/

  32. 32 TommyLawlor said at 3:07 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Great memory. I’d forgotten about that. The Onion is a regular stop for me and some stories fade from memory all too quickly.

  33. 33 D3Keith said at 1:57 AM on June 7th, 2012:

    Ha, that’s good. NFL + formulaic sitcom = ratings bonanza!

  34. 34 Baloophi said at 2:18 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    RE: Clay Harbor and gloves…

    Remember, one of the greatest players of all time strongly endorses wearing gloves…

  35. 35 TommyLawlor said at 3:11 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Ha. Clay was just wearing the wrong brand of gloves!!

    I make Isotoner jokes from time to time and always wonder how many fans remember those dumb ads. When it got to be Christmas time in the mid-80’s, you knew the Budweiser ads with the clydesdales and the Isotoner ads would be out.

    Now we have diamonds and Lexus ads dominating our TVs. Kinda tells you what is wrong with society.

    Beer + gloves > jewelry + luxury cars

  36. 36 Mac said at 3:38 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Mmm yes, buttery soft, just like our favorite old time QB.

  37. 37 Arby1 said at 5:59 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Yes, this geezer remembers those Isotoner ads. But PLEEZE, no more Captain and Tenille references, the mere sight of those words make me cringe..

  38. 38 T_S_O_P said at 2:55 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    It proves the Cowboys are the arse of this world as Brazilians have nothing to do with the arse. 😉

  39. 39 Mac said at 3:43 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Brazilians have a clear track record re: not doing things half assed…

    1. Waxing
    2. Boob jobs
    3. Selecting football teams

  40. 40 TommyLawlor said at 4:22 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    That’s how you build a good society.

  41. 41 Davesbeard said at 6:55 AM on June 7th, 2012:

    Tommys morning routine

  42. 42 Davesbeard said at 6:55 AM on June 7th, 2012:

    Except for their women having exceptional examples

  43. 43 Anders Jensen said at 3:24 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Tommy where can I sign up to pre order the CD? I mean I really need to own the CD of the Soft Hands

  44. 44 TommyLawlor said at 3:34 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    We’re still remastering some of the tracks. I’ll post some links when the album is ready.

  45. 45 Anders Jensen said at 3:44 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Great, I mean who does not want to own a CD of the Soft Hands, they got such great names!!! <3

  46. 46 Mac said at 3:42 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Obama has shown us that support for soft hands/tight ends is at an all time high in America.

  47. 47 Septhinox said at 9:14 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    What you did there, I see it. Lol

  48. 48 P_P_K said at 3:47 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Wait a minute… did I really just read an Iggles Blitz post about a boy band named Soft hands? What sort of madman would write such a thing?

    Oh, I know, probably some deaf, dumb, and blind kid who could sure play write some mean football. What was his name, again?

  49. 49 Mac said at 4:18 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    To answer your question/statement Pat…

    Who is Helen Keller?

  50. 50 TommyLawlor said at 4:22 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    I’m pretty sure he has an uncle named Ernie.

    One of my favorite albums ever (and not just due to the name).

  51. 51 eagleizeit said at 4:27 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Tommy – Is there a chance they try UMass Iganawu at TE since he played in college and some pre-draft magazines listed him under TE. I noticed the Patriots list Hernandez as 6’1 245 and the Eagles list Emil as 6’2 245.
    I wonder if the Eagles tried tradeing Harbor along with Asante for Tony Gonzalez. Celek and Tony would’ve been a dominant TE combo. Are there any good FA TE’s out there?

  52. 52 Mac said at 4:36 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    How many years do you think Gonzalez has left in the tank?

  53. 53 Septhinox said at 5:45 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    I thought Donovan’s favorite song was “Turn’em and Burn’em”??

  54. 54 the guy said at 12:46 AM on June 7th, 2012:

    I forget, is “I Ain’t Never Hit A Man (in stride)” a song?

  55. 55 Paul Hanek said at 6:41 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Coming from a smaller school and having only first full offseason underway now I think Clay Harbor has not peaked yet. He has a good talent and tremendous work ethic so I am looking for him to take further strides.

  56. 56 Alex Karklins said at 7:56 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    I was always more of a Peaches and Herb guy, but that’s just me.

  57. 57 D3Keith said at 1:59 AM on June 7th, 2012:

    Ceephus and Reesie.

    2 points if you get that one.

  58. 58 Alex Karklins said at 8:57 AM on June 7th, 2012:

    D’oh! I had to look it up, but I actually do remember that sketch from In Living Color. Funny stuff!

  59. 59 CaliEaglesFan said at 3:40 AM on June 7th, 2012:


    In a seismic shift in the Eagles organization, Joe Banner is no longer the team’s president.

    Banner, who has been a member of the Eagles’ front office since his childhood friend, Jeffrey Lurie, purchased the team in 1994, will become a strategic adviser to the owner. Lurie, however, will allow Banner to pursue other opportunities outside the organization as he fulfills his new role.

    Chief operating officer Don Smolenski will replace Banner as president and run the day-to-day operations. General manager Howie Roseman will assume all of Banner’s responsibilities in managing the team’s salary cap and contract negotiations.

    A news conference is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

  60. 60 Tyler Phillips said at 8:09 AM on June 7th, 2012:

    Never a dull moment in Philly.

  61. 61 Mac said at 9:39 AM on June 7th, 2012:

    There were more than a few people on this board who were speculating that this move has been in motion for awhile.

    Personally, I think it seems like a natural fit. Glad we can keep “Nickles” around in some format he certainly helped to build a consistently strong franchise.