Most Likely Bird To Have Breakthrough Season?

Most Likely Bird To Have Breakthrough Season?

Continuing the theme from yesterday when we asked which member of the Eagles is the most vital heading into the 2010 campaign, today we want to know who you think is the most likely to bust the mold this upcoming season. This is a lot less clearly defined, as it can be somebody who makes the jump to the Pro Bowl, or simply a guy who develops into a capable, above average starter.

Kevin Kolb is once again an obvious choice. A 3,000 yard/20 TD campaign on a .500 or better team is going to shine the spotlight very bright on the first-year starter. Rookies are always a safe bet, too. Brandon Graham is being pegged by some as a Rookie of the Year candidate, and Nate Allen is currently penciled in to start at free safety.

I'm going to cheat a little though. There are a bunch of young, hungry players who can make huge leaps in 2010, but I'm going with somebody who's already begun to make his mark: Brent Celek.

You may think I'm a little late to the party on this one. His 76 catches last year for 971 yards and 8 touchdowns were all among the best in the league by a tight end. In his first full season as a starter, he nearly doubled his career totals. That, by its very definition, is a breakthrough.

Yet Celek didn't really get the attention he deserved for his terrific season. The biggest indicator is he was passed over for a spot in the Pro Bowl. Sure, that's no big deal and does nothing to tarnish his efforts, but the fact is he belonged there.

Brent Celek had a better season on paper than Cowboys' tight end Jason Witten, but the votes gave the nod to the perennial all star. They may have got it wrong though. Witten bested Celek in catches 94 to 76, but Celek made much more of an impact with the football, having a higher yards per catch (12.8 to 11.0) and scoring eight touchdowns to Witten's two.

Of course, Witten also excels as a blocker, which still gives him the nod as a better overall tight end, but the scary thing is Celek's numbers can increase with Kolb at the helm. The two were drafted together, worked together, even roomed together. They are extremely comfortable with one another, and it showed in Kolb's two starts last season. Celek had almost identical lines in each, going for 8 catches and 104 yards, plus a 35-yard touchdown versus the Chiefs.

Think about what they can do with a full season together. If Kolb is as good as Andy Reid thinks and we're all hoping, Brent Celek can ring up stats that Pro Bowl voters simply cannot ignore any longer.

Photo by Travis Lindquist / Getty Images

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane scored three goals for his third career hat trick to lead the surging Chicago Blackhawks past the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 on Thursday night for their third straight win and eighth in nine games.

Kane has 23 goals to lead Chicago, which closed within three points behind first-place Minnesota in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Rookies Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman each had a goal and assist. Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival scored his first goal of the season in his first game since Jan. 15.

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews added two assists to extend his points scoring streak to five games and increase his output to 22 points in his past 13.

Jakob Chychrun, Ryan White and Radim Vrbata scored for the Coyotes. Chychrun and Vrbata each scored for the second straight game (see full recap).

Rangers outlast Maple Leafs in shootout
TORONTO -- Mika Zibanejad scored the shootout winner and the New York Rangers continued a strong February with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves and J.T. Miller scored the game-tying goal in the third period for the Rangers, who improved to 8-1-1 this month.

New York moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division with 80 points.

Connor Brown scored for Toronto, which fell to 1-7 in shootouts this season. Frederik Andersen had a stellar performance in defeat with 37 saves.

The Leafs hold the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division (68 points), two points back of Ottawa (70) and four back of Montreal (see full recap).

Islanders shut out Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Rookie Anthony Beauvillier scored in the first period, Thomas Greiss made 24 saves, and the New York Islanders beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 Thursday night.

Anders Lee scored in the second period and John Tavares added an empty-netter in the final minute to seal the Islanders' third straight win. New York has won the first two games on a crucial nine-game road swing and improved to 12-4-2 since interim coach Doug Weight replaced the fired Jack Capuano.

Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson each had two assists, and Greiss got his third shutout of the season.

Carey Price finished with 21 saves as the Canadiens lost coach Claude Julien's 1,000th NHL game. Montreal is 1-2-0 since Julien replaced Michel Therrien last week and has totaled just 14 goals while going 2-7-1 in the last 10 games, including four shutouts (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

NEW ORLEANS -- The Boogie-and-Brow era in New Orleans is off to a highly inauspicious start.

The Pelicans' tandem of newly acquired All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and All-Star Game MVP Anthony Davis was no match for the surging Houston Rockets on Thursday night.

Reserve Lou Williams hit seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points in his Rockets debut, and Houston crushed New Orleans, 129-99.

Davis had 29 points, and Cousins finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds. But New Orleans turned the ball over 20 times couldn't keep pace with the firepower of the Rockets, who hit 20 3-pointers.

Eric Gordon scored 19 points and Ryan Anderson added 17 in both players' first game in New Orleans since leaving the Pelicans. James Harden had 13 points and 14 assists (see full recap).

LeBron triple-double powers Cavs past Knicks
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 48th career triple-double and Kyrie Irving scored 23 points, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 119-104 victory over the New York Knicks, who hung on to superstar Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose at Thursday's trade deadline.

James scored 18 points and had 13 rebounds with 15 assists for his sixth triple-double of the season.

Anthony, the subject of trade rumors because of a strained relationship with Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson, scored 20 points, going 9 of 25 from the field.

Kyle Korver scored 20 points for Cleveland, which is 8-1 in February and has beaten New York 10 straight times.

Courtney Lee had 25 points for New York, which has lost six of seven and is 12th in the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Pistons rally from 18 down to beat Hornets in OT
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 33 points, including three 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter during a pulsating Detroit rally, and the Pistons outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 114-108 in overtime Thursday night.

Caldwell-Pope scored Detroit's last 11 points of regulation, and his 3-pointer with 18.2 seconds to play tied the game at 100. Kemba Walker scored Charlotte's final nine points of the fourth, but the Pistons forced him to give up the ball on the last possession, and Marco Belinelli missed a 3-pointer that could have won it.

Detroit, which was behind by 18 in the third quarter, never trailed in the overtime. Caldwell-Pope's 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining put the Pistons up 110-102.

Charlotte led 85-70 at the start of the fourth but missed 14 of its first 15 shots in the period, enabling Detroit to cut into the lead.

Walker scored 34 points. Tobias Harris had 25 for the Pistons (see full recap).