After seeing action in the season opener, Clay Harbor took a seat. He remained stuck to it for the next seven games.
Harbor showed good hands and sharp moves in training camp, but one regular-season look was all the Eagles needed to promote veteran Garrett Mills from the practice squad for the second week. Harbor, the fourth-round rookie tight end from Missouri State, then was inactive for 2 months before getting back on the field last month at Washington.
Harbor was not surprised the Birds made him the NFL equivalent of a redshirt, he said yesterday, 2 days after catching a pair of passes against the Bears, for 27 yards.
"I had some butterflies, I was thinking on my way to the line a little bit," Harbor said. "When you get to play, you've got to recognize the defense and know exactly what you're doing. Now I've got that down. I know what I'm doing; I'm confident in it. You can hear the play, look at the defense, and figure out which gap. When I was playing the first week of the season and in the preseason, I'd get the play, I'd be thinking about, 'What I got? What I got?' I'd get to the line and finally know what I got, then you look at the defense, and be playing hesitant. You've just got to 'Process it! Process it!' Now it's coming a lot quicker for me, and it allows me to play a lot faster."
Harbor has now been active, at Mills' expense, in three games in a row. He said 7:30 a.m. meetings with tight-ends coach Tom Melvin helped.
"[We] went over the game plan, the offense, the whole system, and now it's just second nature to me," he said. "It's like back in college, you knew the offense so well . . . And my package, especially, I'm only in for 15, 20 plays. I've got that down very well now. Now, they have confidence that if something did happen to Brent [Celek] that I know the whole system and I could take over and play.
"Now they have confidence that I can maybe be a mismatch on a linebacker, down the middle of the field, or something like that, when you have two-tight-end sets."
Against the Bears, the Eagles ran a red-zone play where Harbor and Celek both lined up in the backfield, then swung into routes. It was third-and-goal from the Chicago 7. Harbor caught a swing pass from Michael Vick but could gain only 3 yards, leading to a 22-yard David Akers field goal, the first of two fourth-quarter drives in a row on which the Eagles needed touchdowns but got field goals.
"In the huddle, they might see two tight ends and think 'jumbo set,' try to pound the ball a little bit. We broke out fast, got set, Brent was the halfback, I was the fullback, and we both went on little 'scat' routes," Harbor said. "The play was there, the throw was good, I just needed to get that ball in the end zone. Mike put the ball right where it needed to be; I just needed to be able to make a move on that field. Pretty sloppy."
Eagles rookie defensive end Brandon Graham, whose sack Sunday was his first since Oct. 10, offered a scouting report on Texans QB Matt Schaub, the former West Chester East star.
"His strength is that he gets rid of the ball fast," Graham said. "What I do see is that he throws low. Even though he's tall [6-5], he feels like he's tall enough where he don't have to elevate it . . . and he'll try to sidearm and do little stuff. I think we should bat his balls down a little bit.
"He's not somebody who is going to hurt you with his feet, either. He's somebody who will try to stand in the pocket and go for his first receiver, but he is real good at looking off receivers too . . . We've got to make sure we get to him fast."