Clay Harbor surprises as a blocker

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars knew tight end Clay Harbor could be a reliable target in the passing game.

They've found out he can contribute as a blocker, too.

Not having the 6-foot-6, 272-pound Marcedes Lewis in the lineup because of a calf injury has hurt the passing game but probably made a bigger impact on the running game because he's one of the NFL's best blocking tight ends. Harbor surprisingly picked up some of that slack last week against St. Louis.

Though he is primarily a flex tight end, Harbor was forced to play some in-line tight end against the Rams after Allen Reisner left with a knee injury. He did a solid job and helped the Jaguars rush for a season-high 96 yards.

"We liked his athleticism at the tight end spot but we didn't know how he would be at the point of attack and he showed up at the point of attack," coach Gus Bradley said. "He did a nice job handling [Chris] Long at the end spot. He showed us a little something there at the point.

"Let's not get confused with someone like Marcedes at this point, but it did well enough for us to still run to his side."

Harbor is a former receiver who converted to tight end as a sophomore at Missouri State. He said he's worked hard on his blocking since entering the NFL as Philadelphia's fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft. He doesn't want to be known as a pass-catcher who's a liability as a blocker.

"That's not an issue any more," the 6-3, 255-pound Harbor said. "I'm confident in my blocking. I think it's a strength. I don't think it's a weakness at all in my game. I pride myself on blocking. I'm not a tight end that just wants to run around and catch passes. I try to be physical to the best of my ability."

So far, though, he has been the most productive tight end in the passing game. He's third's on the team with nine catches for 114 yards and he has one of the team's three touchdown receptions. He's averaging 13.0 yards per catch.

He caught three passes for 39 yards against the Rams.

"He just gives us an advantage against safeties and linebackers and one-on-one matchups," quarterback Chad Henne said. "It seems like when he has the ball in his hands he makes things happen. We're going to try to get him the ball as much as we can."

Harbor has caught 56 passes for 538 yards and five touchdowns in his career, the bulk of which came with the Eagles. He had a career-high 25 receptions last season but after going through training camp under new coach Chip Kelly he found himself the odd man out. The Eagles already had Brent Celek, signed James Casey to a $14.5 million contract and drafted Stanford's Zach Ertz in the second round.

The Eagles waived Harbor on Aug. 31, and the Jaguars claimed him the next day.

"It was the first time I've been affected by the business," Harbor said. "I was just waiting for a call and just going to try to work as hard as I could to get on a team and if I got the opportunity, which I was lucky enough to get, just not waste it."

So far he hasn't.