Ertz Opening Eyes In New England

 There is a growing buzz about Zach Ertz as he gets set to enter his second NFL season. Is he aware of what’s being said and written about him?

“Oh yeah,” he said. “I’m on Twitter now and then, on Instagram.

“My mom will retweet something or my agent will retweet something. And it will just be like, ‘Zach Ertz, breakout year coming’ or whatever. I read it and it’s good that there are positive things that are being said about me,” he said, “but at the same time if I go out and have a few drops, the last training camp they said I have bad hands, so it goes both ways.”

True enough. This camp there has been little to pick apart about Ertz’s game, though. He has been getting open with regularity and catching about everything that has been thrown his way. That trend continued this week during joint practices with the Patriots. During one period of 7-on-7s Thursday, Mark Sanchez threw a total of five passes. Three of them were touchdowns tosses to Ertz.

“He’s athletic. He’s fast, he’s faster than I thought,” said Patriots linebacker/defensive end Chandler Jones. “I feel like he is more of a skill player than anything. He runs his routes very well. I’ve had the opportunity to cover him during two days of practice and he’s been a handful.”

Added safety Devin McCourty: “I think if you start worrying too much about the backs and receivers you’ll get killed by their tight ends. [Brent] Celek has been doing it for a long time for Philly in this league and I think Ertz is going to be a really good player as well.”

While many are predicting a bust-out campaign for Ertz, the second-year tight end isn’t ready to do so. He said Chip Kelly hasn’t relayed how much playing time he’ll get or how prominently he’ll be featured come September. So no bold proclamations. But you can tell he’s feeling good about his game right now.

“I pride myself on being able to create mismatches. That’s what I’ve done my whole life. My opinion is I can get open against anybody,” he said. “I think to be successful in the league you have to have that confidence. I think at the end of last year I started to build that confidence back in myself like it was in college where I can beat anybody, and hopefully it continues to grow.”

Cooper Hopes To Play Next Week

Riley Cooper (foot) is expected to sit out Friday night’s exhibition game against New England. He practiced some this week but did not participate in team drills.

“I’m going to practice on Sunday and just see how it goes,” he said. “But I want to play next week.”

The third preseason game is when starters typically play the longest. Most sit out the fourth. Time’s ticking for Cooper to get in some game action before the regular season starts. He said he is “pretty confident” he’ll be ready for Week 1.

Jeremy Maclin (hamstring) did not practice Thursday. Seems unlikely he’ll play against the Pats. Nolan Carroll, Matthew Tucker, Jaylen Watkins, Chris Polk and David Fluellen were also sidelined.

Chip and Bill

Chip Kelly and Bill Belichick spent close to a half-hour locked in conversation Thursday during the early portion of practice. Would have been fun to listen in on that one. Their relationship dates back to when Kelly was coaching at New Hampshire and used to come visit Patriots practice.

“He was very gracious.  He’s always been really gracious to the local college coaches,” said Kelly. “They were always open for us to come in and watch and visit when they would start camp.  Obviously in the NFL, they start camp a little bit earlier than the colleges, so you get a chance to come down here for the last week of July and watch a couple days of camp.  At that time, I think they were still at Bryant College.  But [he’s] always been very, very gracious and always great with his time in terms of being able to share football knowledge.”