Eagles Wake-Up Call: A Hurdle For Ertz
Zach Ertz has been putting in plenty of overtime the past two weeks in the name of getting his blocking game right.
Leading up to the Rams game, he stayed after practice every day to work on his technique with Jason Peters following a rough outing against San Francisco. This week, Ertz and his position coaches lingered on the NovaCare fields long after the training sessions had come to a close.
“I want to block. I want to be a good blocker,” said the second-year tight end. “I want to show the coaches that they can trust me to put me in there and get it done.”
Entering last Sunday, Ertz had played 64 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps and held a slight edge (185 to 179) over Brent Celek in downs played. Against St. Louis, it was a different story. Ertz received just 29 snaps compared to Celek’s 58. James Casey, who was averaging eight plays per game prior to Sunday, saw his number jump to 25. The reason for the change seems pretty straightforward: the Eagles went to more two tight-end sets to try and kickstart the running game, and the pairing of choice right now is Casey and Celek. (The Eagles averaged 4.6 yards per carry and LeSean McCoy rushed for 61 yards on 16 carries out of “12” personnel against St. Louis, per Domo.)
“We’re really trying to get the running game going right now,” said Ertz. “James and Brent have been the guys [in the majority of two-tight end sets] and I’ve been on the sideline which, it is what it is, but I’m trying to build the trust with the coaches where they can put me on the field in that situation.”
Ertz had little point-of-attack blocking responsibilities while at Stanford, so he is still very green in that regard.
“That just takes time because it’s a lot of technique stuff,” said Celek. “Especially for him, coming from where he came from, he wasn’t asked to block in college so you’re making the jump and doing something you didn’t do before. It’s tough.”
Celek called Ertz “one of the best route runners I’ve been around.” While his production has cooled some of late, Ertz is still near the top of the league-wide leader board in catches of 20-plus yards (6) and yards per catch (16.2). He is a much-needed safety net for Nick Foles in the pass game, but needs to get better as a blocker to see the field more regularly.
“He obviously has the right attitude and the right idea that there is always room for improvement,” said tight ends coach Ted Williams. “We’re just working on technique and positioning and understanding of how people are playing him and how he wants to attack them.”
“I think once I can gain that trust in the blocking game,” said Ertz, “hopefully I’ll be on the field every play.”
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Doug Farrar of SI.com on the Eagles’ dropoff in offensive production.
With Philadelphia’s pass protection in flux, Foles has completed two out of 15 deep passes for a touchdown and three picks in the last two games, after going 8-of-24 for three touchdowns and a pick in the first three games. That’s from ESPN Stats & Info, who also reveals that over the last two weeks, the Eagles’ points per drive average has plummeted from 2.23 to 0.87, and the team’s scoring percentage has decreased from 44 percent to 17 percent in that same span.
This is setting up to be a tempo-on-tempo affair, writes Bill Pennington of the New York Times.
Eli Manning has gotten passes off at a startlingly swift pace — an average of 2.25 seconds per attempt (from snap of the ball to the ball leaving his hand), according to Pro Football Focus. That is the second best in the league, trailing only his brother, Peyton, who averages 2.15 seconds.
The Giants run their fast-moving offense so often that a huddle between plays occurs roughly 30 percent of the time — and many are late in a game when the Giants have taken a lead and are nursing the game clock.
“We’ve shaken some things up and that’s probably a good thing,” Manning said.
We’ll roll out our predictions for Eagles-Giants.