It was easy to see that something was wrong with the Eagles offense at the start of 2007, with Donovan McNabb struggling to find a rhythm and the team’s failure to produce in the red zone, but the reason for Philadelphia’s problems when they had possession of the ball was not so obvious. While a quarterback in the midst of serious rehabilitation did not help, factors that definitely hurt Andy Reid’s offense this year were the lack of a pass catching threat in the middle of the field and minimal production from the tight end position.
L.J. Smith has been a big piece of the Eagles offense at tight end in the past, finishing the 2005 season tied for the team lead in receptions with 61 and posting the second highest reception total on the team last season with 50 catches, and his absence was hard not to notice this year. Smith tried playing hurt in the beginning of the season as he recovered from a lingering groin injury, but after having a hard time on the field, he eventually opted to have surgery. Through the first seven weeks of the 2007 season, Smith only caught five passes for 34 yards and sat out three games. During that stretch, Philadelphia scored just six touchdowns in 20 trips to the red zone and stumbled out of the blocks to a 2-4 record.
A five-year veteran from Rutgers, Smith was poised to put up big numbers this season and grab the attention of other teams (as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent as of February 28, 2008) but injuries caused him to miss a total of six games and kept him from having the kind of statistical year he was aiming for. After recording 22 catches for 236 yards and a touchdown in 2007, it is unclear whether Smith will be able to get more money from another organization or if the Eagles will look to re-sign him.
Brent Celek scores a touchdown against the Bills.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Now in his sixth year in the NFL, Matt Schobel stepped into the lineup while Smith dealt with his injuries, but was unable to provide the offense with the same type of pass-catching abilities. In his second year with the Eagles, Schobel had a pedestrian statistical season, with only 11 catches for 108 yards. The only game he caught more than one pass in was the week three demolition of Detroit, where he recorded two. His one touchdown of 2007 was a 13-yard reception against Chicago that gave the Eagles the lead with less than five minutes to play in the game, but the Bear’s Brian Giese engineered a late drive and stole the win.
While Schobel was less than sensational this year, rookie Brent Celek showed potential and turned a few heads in his first season in Philadelphia. A 6-foot-4 tight end with hands like a wide receiver, Celek impressed many people in the preseason by making some tough catches and picking up yards afterwards. During the regular season, he managed to get on the field in all 16 games and started four of them. While his numbers were modest (16 catches for 178 yards and a touchdown), Celek displayed his talent when called upon. In the second meeting with Dallas, the rookie made a huge catch in the fourth quarter on third-and-nine that went for 29 yards and sealed the win for Philadelphia.
Final Grade: D
Andrew Pluta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.