Wake-Up Call: Ertz On Track

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings
Back in early October, Michael Vick made a bold prediction regarding rookie tight end Zach Ertz.

“There are three players that I told that they would be great players in this league: I always told Alge Crumpler that he was going to be great, I always told Shady McCoy that he was going to be a great player in this league, and I always told Roddy White. And now I’m saying Zach Ertz. And I think in time, he will be one of the best tight ends in this game.”

Ertz had all of five NFL catches at that point. Still working through a learning curve —  steepened by his inability to participate in the offseason program because of graduation rules — the Stanford product played a limited role initially. He was featured more as the year went on and ended with 36 catches for 469 yards with four touchdowns. While we still have a ways to go before determining whether Vick’s intuition is correct, it’s fair to say that there are encouraging signs.

Tight ends typically don’t explode onto the scene in their first season. That was generally  true for this year’s crop as well. Below is a list of the six tight ends that were selected in the first three rounds in 2013 and how they fared this season.

Tyler Eifert (Cin)3944511.42
Zach Ertz (Phi)3646913.04
Gavin Escobar (Dal)913414.92
Vance McDonald (SF)811914.90
Travis Kelce (KC) *0000
Jordan Reed (Was) 4549911.13

* Kelce, Jason’s brother, missed almost the entire season with a knee injury that required microfracture surgery.

As you can see, Eifert, Ertz and Reed all posted similar, quality-but-not-spectacular numbers (though it should be noted Reed played in just nine games.) Their stats may not be mind-blowing, but they are absolutely respectable when compared to the rookie campaigns of some of the game’s premier tight ends. Tony Gonzalez, for example, had 33 catches for 368 yards and a pair of scores his first year in the league; Jimmy Graham caught 31 balls for 356 yards and 5 TD; and Jason Witten had 35 grabs for 347 yards and a touchdown. (Jimmy Kempski has more related stats here.) Relatively humble beginnings compared to the heights they ascended to.

Ertz showed progress. Twenty-two of his 36 catches came in the second half of the season, as did each of his four TDs.

“I think my role expanded every week,” said Ertz. “I think it was a good baseline first season for me but I’m not satisfied in any way. I’m really looking forward to next year already, hitting the offseason swinging. We’re going to have a great team next year. We had a heck of a ride this year but I think everybody is still so hungry that we want the first Super Bowl to Philly.”


We begin our position-by-position offseason look at the Eagles with some thoughts on the quarterback spot.

The Eagles announce three coaching moves. 

Cap expert and former agent Joel Corry discusses potential cap casualties and the receiver situation.

Nick Foles takes home Pro Bowl MVP honors.

Sheil looks back at the decision to draft Lane Johnson.


Jeff McLane caught up with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who is apparently considering retiring if the Broncos win the Super Bowl.

In Philadelphia, Eagles fans are joking, “Didn’t he retire two years ago?”

But the former Eagles cornerback wasn’t kidding about calling it quits even though he’s coming off arguably the best season of his career, is still only 27 years old and will likely have multiple suitors when he hits free agency in March.

“Coming out of college I gave myself a five-year goal,” Rodgers-Cromartie said Monday. “If I could just make it to five years, I’d be alright coming from a small school. And fortunately, I’ve been playing six. It’s been a long journey. You know, just weighing my options.”

Tommy Lawlor offers his thoughts on free-agent receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. 

Both Maclin and Cooper could get surprising offers from other teams. They are young, talented players with a good combination of size and speed. Maclin is the better playmaker. Cooper is more physical and the better blocker. Even with their issues, teams could see the value in signing them.

I tend to think both guys will stick around in 2014.


We’ll continue our offseason outlook series.

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