In the Eagles red zone work the other day, they lined up their young tight ends on the same side with rookie Clay Harbor inside on the line and 2nd-year veteran Cornelius Ingram outside in the flanker spot off the ball. Harbor occupied the linebackers inside with a curl route, while Ingram ran a slant route and caught the touchdown.
The Eagles are going to use starting tight end Brent Celek and wide receiver Riley Cooper, along with Ingram and Harbor to be their main targets in the red zone. Improving red zone efficiency is one of the top goals of this year’s offensive coaches.
Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg had this group of big receivers going in motion in other formations, as well as shifting from on the line to off the line then going in motion just before the ball was snapped. This is their way of getting mismatches. They want to get one of these receivers matched up against a linebacker or defensive end who isn’t a good cover guy.
Harbor and Ingram both have immense potential as receivers because they possess a combination of good size and speed. Harbor has been the more impressive of the two during training camp so far, but Ingram is starting to come on as he recovered from last year’s knee surgery.
It’s pretty much a done deal that along with veteran Celek, they will be the tight end trio that lines up for the Eagles this season. Fourth tight end Martin Rucker has been injured most of the camp, but his chances of making the team were very slim, if he had been healthy.
Rucker was released from the team yesterday and they signed tight end
Ingram and Harbor have great potential as pass receivers but they’ve got a way to go as run and pass blockers. Ingram was split out in the spread offense while at the University of Florida, and Harbor moved outside and ran pass routes for the most part during his career at Missouri State.
Now they’re going to be asked to block down on 280-pound NFL defensive ends and push 250-pound linebackers off the ball. This is no easy task.
Reid was chastising Ingram the other day for letting one of the defensive ends into the backfield. Numerous times I’ve seen tight end coach, Tom Melvin correcting the youngsters about getting their hands inside on the chests of the defensive players, so they don’t get called for holding.
Technique is very important part of what these young tight ends need to learn but attitude is just as important. They’ve got to develop tough attitudes about getting into physical battles with some of the most aggressive players in the league. If they don’t approach the job aggressively, they could get their heads knocked off with forearm shivers underneath their chins.
This is going to be a process that will take a season or two. Hopefully they’ll be able to get in the way of these defensive players this year and not get Kevin Kolb or LeSean McCoy killed. I don’t like the thought of leaving either one of these guys one-on-one on the Cowboys’ DeMarcus Ware, the Giants’ Justin Tuck or the Redskins’ Brian Orakpo.
If they can learn to block, it will make the team’s play action passes on the goalline more effective because defenses will believe the run fakes.
They do have the benefit of getting advice from a player who went through the same process earlier in his career.
Harbor says Celek is a great guy to learn from because he didn’t block very much in college just like his younger colleagues. He talked about how Celek helps them with the specifics of pass blocking.
“Is there a better guy to learn from”, Harbor said with a gesture. “He’s just coming into his four year and his third season. He had a Pro Bowl caliber year. Arguably should have been selected to the Pro Bowl. Brent has given me a lot of good advice and help on routes. He’ll give me a lot of pointers like on pass sets. He didn’t block much coming out of college either. He told me that I needed to just keep your hips straight and stay inside out.”