PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Brent Celek had already turned a short pass into a long gain when he decided to imitate an Olympic-style hurdler and avoid the hard-hitting Ed Reed.
Celek, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound tight end, jumped completely over Reed, the Ravens’ star safety, and racked up a few more yards to complete a 24-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter of Philadelphia’s 24-23 comeback win against Baltimore last Sunday.
What made Celek’s leap even more impressive is the fact Reed stayed high instead of going low to make the tackle. Yet, Celek made Reed miss entirely.
“That is some tremendous elevation by Brent Celek,” color analyst Dan Dierdorf said on the game broadcast on CBS. “I guarantee you Ed Reed is amazed he came up with nothing but air.”
The replay of Celek’s hurdle became an instant hit on all the highlight reels. But the low-key Celek remains unfazed.
“I don’t watch SportsCenter or anything so I haven’t seen it,” Celek said. “It was all right.”
Celek played a key role in helping the Eagles (2-0) overcome a 10-point halftime deficit vs. Baltimore. He finished with eight catches for a career-best 157 yards. It was the second time in his last five games that Celek has surpassed 150 yards receiving. He had 156 in a win over the New York Jets last December.
“He played a major part in Sunday’s win,” quarterback Michael Vick said. “He did all the right things. He caught the ball, he ran good routes. He did everything that we know Brent can do. It’s gratifying to our team to know that we have such a great tight end.”
The Eagles will need another strong performance from Celek against Arizona (2-0) on Sunday. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin won’t play because of a hip injury, so Vick could target Celek even more.
A fifth-round pick in 2007, Celek has developed into one of the top players at his position. He leads the Eagles with 12 catches for 222 yards, most in the NFL for a tight end.
Since 2009, Celek is first among tight ends in yards after the catch with 1,217. Jason Witten, the seven-time Pro Bowl pick for Dallas, is second with 1,195. San Francisco’s Vernon Davis, the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft, is third with 1,155.
Still, Celek doesn’t nearly get the same attention as some of his teammates. In an offense that features Vick, All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Maclin, Celek gets overlooked.
He’s just fine with that.
“You just have to be able to find the soft spots, know where people are going to be versus certain coverages,” he said. “There are certain plays that are designed to get you in certain spots so you just have to make sure you get there in a timely manner so Mike can see you.”
Celek’s teammates appreciate his efforts.
“He’s not underrated to us,” backup tight end Clay Harbor said. “He’s one of the best all-around tight ends in the league. The thing about Brent that others guy don’t do is he blocks so well. He’s like an offensive tackle out there. He can block one-on-one with outside linebackers and defensive ends and then you see how good he is as a receiver. He has good hands, he breaks tackles, he runs after the catch.”
Celek’s blocking ability is a major boost for the Eagles because he can open holes in the running game and can be used as an extra blocker for Vick. As a result, Celek’s statistics suffer.
All that matters, however, are wins. And the Eagles have two of them already, and six straight dating back to last season.
“Brent’s certainly underrated, as you know,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “Brent’s a tight end that plays tight, so some of his numbers may not be some of the numbers that are up there with guys who are sort of receivers first and tight ends second. Brent’s a pro football player. He’s just done an excellent job both in the run and the pass protection for us.”
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)