Harbor ready to make most of opportunity
December 11, 2012, 9:00 am
He has just 22 catches for 158 yards and his team only has four wins, but Clay Harbor doesn’t hesitate to call this the best season of his career.
Harbor already has the most catches of his three-year career and is just five receiving yards shy of a new career best, which he almost certainly will get Thursday night against the Bengals when he makes his first career start.
The Eagles have already ruled out ironman tight end Brent Celek, who sustained a concussion Sunday on the first play from scrimmage and will have his streak of 93 consecutive games played ended (see story).
His absence means Harbor moves into the starting role after he replaced Celek and caught six passes for 52 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter that helped set the stage for 13 unanswered points in the final four minutes of a 23-21 comeback win.
The six catches were a career high and the 52 yards were three short of tying his single-game best.
“You can’t really replace Brent Celek. He’s a great all-around tight end,” Harbor said. “It’s an opportunity for me to get on the field more and get more snaps, and really build confidence in the coaching staff and put some stuff on film there and show them what I can do. I’m going to take it as a good opportunity to get out there and get some good playing time.”
Months ago, it seemed that Harbor wasn’t even guaranteed to make the team. He struggled to catch passes in minicamps, nursing a foot injury that neither he nor the team ever disclosed, and arrived at training camp in late July to hear reports of the team’s flirtation with free-agent tight ends Visanthe Shiancoe and Jeremy Shockey.
Shiancoe spurned an Eagles offer to sign with the Patriots or else Harbor might have hit the unemployment line just two seasons removed from being drafted in the fourth round out of Missouri State and billed as part of the next wave of pass-catching tight ends who are ushering the NFL closer toward arena football.
Harbor never griped, pouted or questioned the front office’s motives. Celek sprained his knee early in camp and almost all of the first-team reps for the next six weeks went to Harbor, who capitalized on the opportunity.
“You know the nature of this business. Coaches always like to bring in competition. If you don’t rise up and they do it, it makes you a better player,” he said. “And what I said to myself was, ‘I’m just going to go out there and make the most of my reps. I’m going to practice hard. I’m going to get extra work in, work harder than anybody else and what happens, happens. If I end up going somewhere else and I played as hard as I can, stayed after practices, caught balls, lifted more than everybody else, then so be it.’ That’s really how I looked at it.”
Harbor was hoping to be a larger part of the offense this season but knew that there just weren’t enough balls left after DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, Jason Avant and Celek got their standard amount of targets.
He needs no reminder that Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Aaron Hernandez, Jermaine Gresham, Dennis Pitta, Ed ****on and Tony Moeaki are each part of the same 2010 draft class. Gronkowski and Graham have already made Pro Bowls and each of the seven has already had at least one 45-catch season.
But with Celek and Jackson out against the Bengals, and McCoy also unlikely to see the field, Harbor finally will have the chance to make more plays.
“I feel like I’ve played well this season in the opportunities I’ve gotten and this is a big opportunity coming up also to really show, to prove that I can get the job done if anything happens to Brent,” he said. “It’s something I’m looking forward to. I’ve never really had this opportunity before, to go out here and show what I can do as a No. 1 tight end. So I’m really looking forward to it. It’s probably one of the biggest games of my career up to this point.”
E-mail Geoff Mosher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 reply to this topic
Posted 11 December 2012 - 09:21 AM