Today we will take a look at the fullback and tight end positions for the Philadelphia Eagles. The fullback position seems to be wide open for Jason Davis and Luke Lawton. Last season’s incumbent Thomas Tapeh is now a member of the Minnesota Vikings. The tight end position is L.J. Smith’s to lose as Brent Celek, Matt Shoebel and newcomer Kris Wilson are all fighting to climb the depth chart.
For Jason Davis and Luke Lawton, a position on the Philadelphia Eagles roster will come down to the thankless duties of precision blocking and special teams work.
For all of the fuss that’s made about the lack of standout wide receiver – the fullback position on this team is one that has neither a standout nor a stand-in. The Eagles have struggled to find a fullback that could double as a blocker in reciever since Kevin Turner back in the late 1990′s. Things didn’t pan out with Jon Ritchie in 2003-04, since then the position has been a revolving door.
No one can really say who has the inside track in the current battle for fullback. Although Luke Lawton has the experience (6 teams in 5 seasons), Jason Davis is familiar with the Eagles offense and seemed to turn some heads in the 2006 training camp before he was placed on IR for that season.
The news from camp is that Davis has had the best camp thus far but, Lawton is said to be better on special teams. Stay tuned to see how this battle plays out.
The starting job belongs to L.J. Smith, who was given the franchise tag in the offseason by the Birds. Smith, when healthy is one of the best young tight ends in the game. L.J.’s production hinges on his involvement in the offense, he tends to lose focus if he doesn’t see the ball for long stretches, resulting in dropped passes. In the Reid’s scheme Smith’s blocking assignments are minimal, his contribution comes in the ability to get separation and work in the middle of the field. Smith hopes to return to his 2005 form where he posted career highs of 61 receptions and 682 yards. Expect Donovan McNabb to look for Smith early and often when the Birds are in the red zone.
With L.J. Smith missing 6 games last season, the Eagles incorporated a tight end by committee. The tandem of Matt Schobel and rookie Brent Celek combined for 27 catches for 286 yards and 2 touchdowns. Paltry numbers? Yes, but used primarily as blockers Shobel and Celek were able to spring Brian Westbrook and help out in the all important pass protection dept. Celek showed to be a pleasant surprise as a receiving tight end showing the ability to get past the second wave and find space between the linebackers and the secondary. Reminds me a little of Chad Lewis. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him or lined up opposite L.J. Smith in goal line situations. Shobel is your typical blocking tight end, who will get his reps when the Eagles go to their “Heavy Package” occasionally catching a bone from McNabb.
Wildcard Kris Wilson was a free agent pickup from the Kansas City Chiefs. Wilson has spent the first three seasons of his career learning behind All-World tight end Tony Gonzalez, right now Wilson is trying to adjust to the nuances of the West Coast Offense, after a long look from the staff in the preseason, Wilson may end up on special teams or the practice squad.