Wake-Up Call: Ertz On the ‘Move’

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Last season didn’t play out as most expected when it came to the tight end position.

After the Eagles signed James Casey to a three-year, $12 million deal and used the 35th overall pick on Zach Ertz, the expectation was that Chip Kelly would deploy multiple tight-end sets with great frequency. That wasn’t the case.




The Eagles had two or more tight-ends on the field 27 percent of the time last season, according to Paul Domowitch. Casey averaged just 11 plays per game, and Ertz was on the field less than half as much as veteran Brent Celek. It proved to be an offense that relied primarily on "11" personnel (three receivers, one tight end) despite the perceived glut of talent at the tight end spot.

It's a safe bet that the 2014 attack will more closely resemble the offense that many were anticipating a year ago.

A closer look at the numbers shows that Ertz played 45 percent of the snaps during the second half of the regular season, compared to 36 percent over the first eight games. Twenty-two of his 36 catches came in the second half of the year, as did all four of his touchdowns.

Rarely do rookie tight ends make an immediate impact. The degree of difficulty was that much higher for the Stanford product, who missed a big chunk of spring practices because of the NCAA graduation rules.

"The familiarity of everything, the routine that I've kind of gotten myself into, I think that's kind of the biggest difference [from last year]," said Ertz.

The dynamics have shifted pretty significantly on offense since this team last lined up. DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant are gone and there are question marks up and down the wide receiver depth chart. Howie Roseman has stated on a number of occasions that they look at the overall picture when it comes to their skill players rather than by position. So it's not a matter of Jordan Matthews or Jeremy Maclin  filling the void, but rather a collective effort from backs, ends, et al.

Ertz will be an important part of the equation.

Asked how he sees his role expanding this year, Ertz replied, "I think you kind of saw it the second half of the season what went on, I was used all over the field, so hopefully it's more of that."

Kelly explained that Ertz [as well as Casey] is being used as a "move" tight end in this offense. That is similar to the way Aaron Hernandez was deployed in New England -- as more of a "Joker" that lines up in various spots and is used primarily as a pass-catcher. Celek is more of the traditional "in-line" tight end where blocking is a bigger priority.

It's not really about taking snaps away from the vet at this point -- Ertz and Celek are playing two different positions in a way -- it's more about using packages where they are on the field together. Chances are we'll see a good deal more of Ertz, who  averaged 13 yards per reception in '13.

"I'm just coming out here every day with the singular focus of getting better," said Ertz. "I've got some great coaches and some other great leaders in the tight end room.

"I've had a relentless work ethic this offseason. I want to get better every day, and that's kind of been the focus."

WHAT YOU MISSED

An update on Anthony Spencer and more can be found in the NFC East Roundup.

Jeremy Maclin is one of several notable wide receivers scheduled to hit free agency after this season.

In case you missed it, Josh did a terrific job telling the story of offensive lineman Karim Barton.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

Josh Huff is putting in the extra work, writes Kevin Rossi of CSN Philly.

“You have to prove to the veterans that you belong,” Huff said. “You can’t just have a [draft] pick and throw him in the fire. That’s disrespectful to the veterans that have been here. You just have put work in where you fit in and continue to work to make your way up the depth chart.”...

With mandatory minicamps beginning on June 17, Huff saw the bulk of his snaps in OTAs from the slot with the third team offense. But he has been patient thus far, carefully biding his time with a simple philosophy.

“Just stay out of the way, do work and show the coaches that I can make plays and show them that I can be the total team player,” he said.

Jimmy Kempski thinks Fletcher Cox could have a breakout season for the Eagles.

During 2013 training camp, Brandon Boykin had an absurd number of pass breakups. Every time he got his hand on a ball but didn't intercept it, he had to do push-ups as a penalty. During the regular season, those pass breakups turned into much bigger plays, as Boykin finished second in the NFL with six INTs.

Fletcher Cox may be in a similar situation as Boykin. Last season, if you only look at his stats, you'll come away unimpressed. Cox had just three sacks, four tackles for loss, no forced fumbles and one batted pass. However, he was a lot more disruptive than the numbers would indicate.

COMING UP

We're sitting down with the assistant coaches this afternoon, and will pass along anything interesting they have to say.

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  • Addicted2MAmula

    Foles will play like an elite QB

    • Dominik

      Shady will play like an elite RB

      • John E. Zang

        Mathews will play like a God. I’ll leave you to decided if I meant Casey or Jordan.

        • Tikkit

          And CK’s offense will score F-ing points, what’s your plan?

          • Joe from Easton

            Greatest. Quote. Ever.

          • Dominik

            Yeah, I loved that one the first time a saw it. It’s a legitimate question from Cooper, but I love Chips response.

          • Eagles1018

            Is it bad to have a man crush on a football coach? This is not a question for me it’s for a guy I know….he’s kinda shy to admit it……

  • JosephR2225

    Even with bringing back Maclin and bringing in Sproles, Jenkins, Smith and Matthews, I can’t think of a player I am more excited to see in Year 2 of the Kelly era than Ertz. Fletcher Cox runs a not-too-distant second.

  • Richard Colton

    For me, the most signifigant Ertz stat was his increase in playing time later in the season, without a major injury to Celek or Casey. Shows he’s picking up the offense and the coaches have increased confidence.

    It isn’t a given that he’ll make that leap to elite or even pro-bowl status, but I’m hopeful

    • Sconces

      I really don’t think he got that much more playing time in the 2nd half, a lot of it was that Minnesota game where he was in a ton

  • Dominik

    Re TEs:

    I find it interesting that Kelly views Casey as F TE (in Belichicks terms). That means he will be the back-up for Ertz, which means Burton has a long way to the 53. Maybe PS (and next year Caseys role), but can you keep him on the PS? All you need is one team in TE needs who may take a shot.

    I don’t know much about Annen, he has more of the size for the Y TE (6’4 isn’t ideal, though). Can he block well enough? Doubtful. Maybe they keep Igwenagu, which would be unsexy. Don’t know much about him, but wasn’t he a Fullback before, like Casey?

    Maybe they keep 3 TE’s?

    • cliff henny

      wouldn’t worry about Burton, was UDFA for a reason, my guess is tweener weight (big WR or small TE) and needs year to find a position. teams have to like the guy well enough to guarantee a 53 spot too if they take player from PS. not something I follow, but wonder how often it happens.
      .
      Annen has a case of the drops from reports.
      .
      3 makes sense since backend of LBs, CBs and Ss are littered with special teamers. 4th TE would be guaranteed deactive, can see keeping 5th OLB (Long) and 5th safety (Keenan Johnson/Reynolds) for upside than Emil Ig has vet depth.

  • Joe from Easton

    I think Ertz will breakout in a major way this year and become a top 5 receiving TE in the league.

    The offense is tailor-made for mismatches and he’s a big one for a safety or an LB. Kelly is going to have so much space on the field by spreading people out that there is bound to be 5-6 times a game where an LB is matched up with the faster Ertz or a safety is matched up with the bigger and stronger Ertz. Foles will put the ball up high and just let him take advantage.

    Also, I posted some stats of rookie TE’s vs. his to show that the curve for TE’s in the NFL is a bit more steep than many other positions as have others. It doesn’t mean that he’ll take that leap like some of the greats did, but it’s encouraging.

    Fly Eagles, Fly.

  • Addicted2MAmula

    JORDAN MATTHEWS!

    • JosephR2225

      I tweaked my knee playing soccer on Saturday morning and was limping all weekend. I read this post and now: walking normally.

  • Rick H

    On a side note I am looking forward to the”O” lining up 6’3″ Mathews, 6’5″Celek, 6’5″ Ertz & 6′ Maclin along with McCoy or Sproles and spread the field. Using every inch of it in true Chip Kelly fashion. It is goung to be interesting to see height/speed/ intelligence/ allusiveness/ hard working blockers…

  • JofreyRice

    to me, this article breaks down like this:

    Zach Ertz = BREAKOUT ’14!

    • cliff henny

      least there’s less moving parts with seeing him as breakout star. he had couple great catches, so we know the hands are there. plus, think he moves very well. know you are iffy on guy being a star, what if we said ‘breakout to above solid?’. don’t feel like I’m being a Cowboy fan having some confidence in the guy, where they think because guy puts on ‘Allas uniform he’ll transform 3 levels of talent.

      • JofreyRice

        600 yds, 6 TDs is what I’m expecting. Hope to be surprised.

        • cliff henny

          i’m definitely in over camp. but, could also live with those exact number if it’s on say 60-65 targets. pretty easy to see him as 5th option behind Mac, Matt, Sproles, and Cooper on a team that would happily run the ball 55-60% of the time.