Philadelphia Eagles’ Zach Ertz was one of the few standouts in the team’s 48-30 defeat last Sunday by the Minnesota Vikings. Ertz was targeted by Nick Foles a season-high nine times during the game, which was second only to DeSean Jackson.
Throughout the game, Ertz demonstrated a combination of efficiency and athleticism on his way to catching six passes for 57 yards and a touchdown. His TD catch, in particular, was a jaw-dropping, one-handed reception in the corner of the end zone where he tipped the ball back to himself to before snatching it and dragging both feet inbound. The score helped keep the Eagles within striking distance of the Vikings.
Interestingly, it was the first time all season that Ertz played more snaps than Brent Celek as the Eagles were forced to abandon LeSean McCoy and the running attack. They put the game in Foles’ hands in order to attempt a comeback from a double-digit second-half deficit. In passing situations, Ertz exclusively played the “move” tight end position, a slot receiver/h-back hybrid role.
Chip Kelly‘s trust in the rookie to take on such a major offensive responsibility should surprise no one.
Going back to training camp, Kelly went out of his way to praise Ertz’s playmaking ability and went as far as penciling the rookie into depth chart as a co-first string tight end along with the longtime veteran Celek. Even going back to the 2013 NFL Draft, Ertz was known as the “other tight end” to the more highly regarded Tyler Eifert. He has since gone on to double Eifert’s touchdown production this season.
Watch any Eagles game, and Ertz jumps out as a tall, sturdy, yet smooth-functioning athlete who flashes explosiveness with and without the ball. He runs sharp breaking routes, has the necessary long speed to attack the seam, and his outstanding hands were consistently on display in Minnesota. While his blocking was criticized during training camp, he has also shown improved strength and balance when run-blocking in the second half of the year.
On the season, Ertz has out-played Eifert and Celek, and his rate of improvement has been one of several pleasant surprises on the team. Moreover, over the last three games, he has compiled 11 catches for 125 yards and three touchdowns.
The Philadelphia sports community has been captivated by the play of Foles and the hopeful excitement of an emerging franchise quarterback. With NFL teams featuring the tight end and with Kelly’s offense requiring maximum versatility out the position, the Eagles are fortunate to have unearthed a revelation in Ertz.