No-22: What Zach Ertz Brings To the Eagles

Many of you have asked for All-22 breakdowns of the Eagles’ draft picks.

Unfortunately, the coaches’ tape is not available to the media or the public. So instead, we’ll use the TV footage from the great cut-ups that the fine folks of DraftBreakdown.com put together.

We’ll start with second-round pick Zach Ertz. I watched three of his games – against Cal, Notre Dame and Oregon. Below is what I saw.

It’s impossible to ignore the size of the 6-5, 249-pound tight end out of Stanford. On this play, he lines up in the slot to the right and finds a soft spot in the zone against Cal.

As you can see, a defender is closing in, but Ertz does a good job of making the catch and taking a big hit.

But that’s just where the fun begins. The defender can’t get Ertz down. In fact, Ertz knocks his helmet off, and the Cal player ends up on the ground while his teammates close in and finally make the tackle.

Lots to like about that kind of physicality from your tight end.

Pre-snap movement is going to be important with Ertz, and really, it figures to be important for the entire Eagles’ offense. You can see in this play that he starts off in the backfield before motioning to the right.

This looks like a run all the way. Stanford’s personnel is two running backs and three tight ends with no one split out wide. But instead, it’s play-action, and you can see how wide open Ertz is.

Off of the TV footage, I couldn’t tell exactly what happened with Cal’s defense, but clearly there was confusion or a blown coverage. Either way, a good example of how Ertz can be moved around, much like James Casey.

As you know, the tight end position has changed, and Ertz has the ability to play the “big receiver” role too. Here, he’s split out wide.

It’s a one-on-one matchup against a safety. There’s no help over the top. Ertz runs a post, creates separation and is wide open for the touchdown.

And it’s not as if he was going against some stiff. Josh Hill, the safety, also played some corner and some nickel for the Golden Bears. He was an honorable mention All-Pac 12 selection last season and recently signed as an undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals.

Ertz has been lauded for his route-running, and that’s what appeared to be the difference here.

This is the play Chip Kelly and Ertz talked about last week – a game-tying touchdown grab to force overtime last season against the Ducks.

What I like here is that Ertz doesn’t necessarily need to be open to make a play. He’s lined up one-on-one against cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (5-10, 190), a first-team All-Pac 12 performer last season.

This is a still shot when the ball’s in the air. It’s a classic 50-50 ball, with the corner all over Ertz.

But the tight end has a 7-inch height advantage and shows strong hands, coming down with the ball for the touchdown.

Speaking of strong hands, Ertz showed them here too. I counted a couple drops in the games I watched, but there were also several plays where he helped the quarterback out and made difficult catches, specifically on plays where he had to get low.

Here’s a shot from the game against Notre Dame.

Overall, Ertz brings size and length that has (for the most part) been missing from the Eagles’ offense. He does an excellent job of using that size when defenders are on his back on slants and other routes.

Ertz is capable of winning jump-balls and will likely draw his share of pass interference/holding penalties as safeties try to keep him in check. He doesn’t have elite speed, but does a good job of using his athleticism.

There are inconsistencies in Ertz’s run blocking. At times, he did an excellent job. In other instances, not so much. But when you talk to people around the league, they’ll tell you that very few tight ends grade out as above-average blockers coming out of college. The potential is there with Ertz. It’ll just be the coaches’ jobs to draw it out of him.

Kelly has said all along that he doesn’t want one-dimensional players. Ertz has the ability to line up in a variety of spots and can create mismatches with pre-snap movement. He’s another movable chess piece for Kelly to work with.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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