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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  • Sensei

    It took me a few days but I’ve started to like this pick more

    • GEagle

      I’m just hoping that Travis Kelce doesn’t turn out to be better….I despise stanford, so it was tough for me to give this kid a fair shot, but he is an eagle now, so time to support the ERTZster..what I like the most about this pick, is Brent Celek just got chin checked. this isn’t a situation of Ertz is drafted so Celek is on is way out. ideally I THINK chip would love to play them both together, so Celek isn’t in jeapordy, but Human Nature makes it so that Celek just got Chin Checked!!!! even if your job isn’t in jeapordy, no proud veteran will want to watch a rookie make him look bad. Celek IMo got way too complacent and Comfortabe with Andy.. the Dynamic of having a new coach, and a talented young 2nd round draft pick being brought I at your position, is going to really tell us all we need to know about our future with Celek..If he responds correctly, it will push him and elevate his game, or it can get to him and continue on the pathetic play from the 2nd half of the 2012 season. celek, I think is talented enough to be an eagle for the next 4years. but Its up to him, we need him to consistently play at a high level, I would rather see Celek elevate his game, than to see him fail and have to look for a new TE, sink or swim Brent! I absolutely LOVE the dynamic of complacent players having to work there tails off to fight for there spot on this team, because of the new coach…and I really like some of the positional battles that we will see in camp this year…FOR MONTHS, I been going crazy with anticipation waiting to see who we would draft so I could get some answers regarding the direction of this team…

      now that the draft has passed, I’m already going crazy with anticipation, waiting to see the effects of legit open competition, and having to earn your Job…who’s game will the battle elevate? Who will fold? how ready or far away are our rookies from contributing? What roster cuts will be made, is fascinating…so excited. hiladelphia’s 14yr Football prison sentence is OVER. Hearing how chip talked to us these past 3 months, really makes yourealize just how bad Andy treated us….

      is it really detrimental to our success to honestly answer a few questions without giving away sensitive important info? this city is sooo Eagles crazy. millions of people ride and die with this team 365 days a year, it’s really a disgrace to have a coach that treated us the way he did…..did anyone hear Andy Reid’s press conference this morning. I LOLed sooo hard…It’s soooo Liberating to not have to hear that mumbling bumbling condescending, I’m smarter than you crap anymore
      ……..

      Jeffrey Lurie LOVED Andy Ried, but Andy was basically all he knew. I really wonder now that Lurie has been around Chip for months, what he thinks about Andy Reid now?

  • Max Lightfoot

    Hope this long tall cat works out.

    • theycallmerob

      He’s one cool catchin’ cat, from out californi-way. Hopin’ he brings to town some of them good vibrations.

  • BrettConnolly

    One quality that I consistently see in Zach Ertz’s routes and in interviews is there’s a methodical nature about him. This is an underrated quality that can drive defenses nuts. He has long strides and a very deliberate sense about his pass catching. These traits, combined with his size, can translate to “unstoppable.” What I mean by that is similar to Jason Witten where defenses know full well ahead of time that the third and six play is going to Witten and yet he makes the catch anyway because he is methodical, deliberate and has size. He seems to have that ideal speed that is hard to adjust to. Just what he needs to get open, but not too fast that he is difficult to time his breaks. I think this is the quality that can be hard to define but is present in great tight ends. It leads to a trust and a rapport with the QB. Elite size, willingness to go the extra mile, fluid and deliberate. The comparisons to Tony Gonzalez seem on target. He actually is a really nice compliment to Celek. If he ends up learning some of Celek’s knack for breaking tackles and running through defenders, he will be that much tougher to defend. Hopefully the first couple tackle attempts are never enough.

    • GEagle

      Good post. very excited about this kid. from what I hear. There wasn’t an offer to trade back from 35, and Ertz was the only TE we could have taken without trading back, so I think it was a fantastic pick…Here’s hoping this kid is the next big thing, and his presence pushes Celek to an elevated level of consistent play. E.A.G.L.E.S EAGLES!!!!

    • theycallmerob

      Not sure what the football term for “methodical” is, but you nailed it pretty well. It’s been far too long since we had a pass-catcher where, on 3rd and 4, we all know where the ball is going. And it’s a 1st down anyway.
      And because I love beating dead horses, just having a TE who can stretch the field should have a trickle-down benefit to everyone else. If the oline stays healthy, scoring points should not be our concern.

      • GEagle

        Not to mention finally a big Red Zone threat!! it’s been so long since we had one, that we were clamoring for a 40year old Plaxico Burress lol, that’s sad when you think about it…

        Btw. Ertz is doing an interview on 97.5the fanatic at 5:30

      • BrettConnolly

        I notice that he does a lot of things the same way every time. Consistent may be as close a term as there gets. He is even-keel. Focused is another good description. Repetitive accuracy was a new term for me this year, and I think Ertz displays repetitive form as well, just obviously on the other side of the pass. His receptions are almost always with two hands, right up by his face mask, his eyes are always glued to a ball in the air. I think Ertz is an ideal fit for Chip Kelly because it seems as though preparation is important to him.

  • GEagle

    the ALL22 articles are the GEM of this site. Awesome work guys…If it were up to me, I would have a new ALL22 article to read every single day….awesome work sHeil!!!

  • Capt. Undapants

    I think all the mud that gets thrown on Ole Andrew Reid is very interesting. People say the tight end position is “changing.” Because Belichick passes to his tight ends and moves them around (mostly due to the fact that he can’t draft a WR to save his life), it’s changing the game. Andy Reid was the first coach I remember moving players around and exploiting talents and mismatches. I remember seeing Chad Lewis (there’s a name for the Eagles’ faithful) lining up in the slot a couple times. Early in his career, Brent Celek did the same. I even recall games where Celek was split out wide. This is off topic, but who could forget Brian Westbrook also splitting out wide (I still remember the game at the old cowboys stadium where he got held the ENTIRE route, but no call…).

    Tight end movement has always been around. Before he got painfully redundant and uncreative, Big Red utilized this better than anybody. However, he’s not Belichick. So… He did nothing.

    In a vain attempt to make this post relevant to Ertz and Chip Kelly… Hopefully ole Chipper will destroy opposing D’s with his combo of TEs and WRs.

    • Zachary Kahn

      I completely agree. I don’t understand the incredible Reid hate either. Of course Big Red had many faults, but you don’t win as many games as he did with the birds by being stupid.

      • tom

        Andy was a great coach his first 5 or 6 years. Then he failed to adapt. People remember that more because it’s most recent. They were sick of the current Andy, not the Andy of the past.

        • Zachary Kahn

          I understand that but I think people are too hard on him. Thats just me though.

          • GEagle

            I’m sorry, but if he is going to take the praise…then let’s be honest, some of the decisions he made these past few years, should have gotten him sued for malpractice!!!!

          • Zachary Kahn

            Can’t argue with that! haha

          • JofreyRice

            When did you first start watching the annual nutkicks in the playoffs? Not trying to put you down, but I’m assuming you are a younger fan, right? Do you remember how long it took for him to realize WRs were an important component of the offense, especially if you throw it 65 times a game?

            Reid’s a fine guy, but it seems like his flaws in clock management, and in-game adjustments are fatal, in terms of winning a championship. He’s also very slow to adjust to evidence that disagrees with his worldview, i.e. you need receivers & linebackers that you can’t find at the Bus Station. It’s nice that he made the team relevant again, but it was time to move on from Reid way before they did. He had how many 5 year plans here?

        • GEagle

          Exactly…there was a tale of two coaches dynamic with Andy’s tenure in Philly. Exceptional coach forthe first half of his tenure…towards the end, I’m sorry you can’t call him a good coach, or someone who made good decisions…I will always remember and appreciate the GREAT ANDY, but I also couldnt forget the BAD ANDY if I tried

    • Run Eagles Run

      you have to give credit where credit is due. Andy Reid’s weakness was making adjustments, but he did a lot of things very well, one of which was utilize the TE very effectively. Jeff Thomason made a couple sweet paychecks off catching nothing but 1 yard TDs .

      • GEAGLE

        I think he was one of the best coaches in terms of preperation and getting his players ready during the week…but average in terms of a gameday coach, and poor in terms of adjustments….pathetic in terms of interacting with Fans and Media

    • t jay

      Think Tony Gonzales

  • aub32

    I can see Eagles fans going nuts if we ever lined up in a 2RB and 3TE set. There would be so many possibilities with Celeck, Casey, Ertz, Shady, and Brown/Polk.The days of us fearing the sight of 3rd or 4th and goal may finally be over. Fans may even look forward to those situation, taking pools on who gets the ball this time, or at least that’s my hope.

    • GEagle

      I just can’t wait to see the first eagles game where we had 35 rushing attempts !!

      Shady has to get consideration as the #1 fantasy RB……Just reuniting Shady and Peters is soooo exciting!!!!.. I can’t wait to see the first Tunnel screen thrown to Desean on Lane’s side

  • southy

    I would think, statistically, somewhere around half of all TEs coming out of college would have to be above average blockers.

  • JofreyRice

    Nice breakdown, Sheil. Think his vertical receptions were a little manufactured by the offense, but the kid is definitely a good route-runner with NFL COD ability. Hopefully he can transition that ability to Kelly’s scheme, and Kelly can dictate matchups Ertz can win. I think there are some similarities to the Panthers’ Greg Olsen’s skill set. Anything over 500-600 yards and 5-6 touchdowns, seems like it will have been good use of the pick.