Eagles Wake-Up Call: Ertz And the Red Zone
Part of the solution to the Eagles’ red zone woes might be right under their noses.
Zach Ertz has taken a step forward in his second season. He is on pace for 54 catches for 809 yards and five touchdowns despite playing only 56 percent of the snaps. His seven catches of 20-plus yards is tied for second amongst tight ends (behind only Rob Gronkowski) and he ranks first in yards per reception (14.8). With speed, size and precise route-running, he has proven to be a difficult matchup for linebackers and safeties alike.
Those attributes can come in particularly handy in the red zone. When space is at a premium, a quarterback can certainly be aided by a big target that’s regularly able to win his one-on-one matchups. Ertz, though, has been featured very little in this capacity through seven games. According to Rotowire, he has been targeted just five times inside the 20-yard line. The number drops to two inside the 10-yard line, and zero inside the five.
Overall, he has two catches for 25 yards and a score in the red zone.
“I think that’s something I do very well is get open in tight spaces and in the red zone in particular. That’s something I’ve done throughout my career whether it’s in college or in the pros. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter who they’ve put on me, I think I can get open,” said Ertz, who did get a look late against the Cardinals. The pass in the back of the end zone was broken up by Deone Buchanon. “Hopefully my number gets called more but at the end of the day all I really care about is winning.”
Some of this is tied to playing time. Ertz played 64 percent of the snaps through the first four games. Coincidentally or otherwise, his playing time has dipped to 45 percent over the last three outings after struggling as a blocker against San Francisco. He has lost some snaps to James Casey, including around the goal line.
Ertz has been working overtime on his blocking and believes that outside of the Niners game he has acquitted himself pretty well in that department. The goal is to become a more complete player so that he doesn’t have to leave the field.
The Eagles are last in the league in red zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on just 34.78 percent of their trips. There are several reasons for that, ranging from issues along the offensive line to shaky decision-making by Nick Foles. But it can’t help that Ertz — arguably their top red-zone receiving threat — is hardly being targeted at all.
“I’m never going to be a guy to raise concerns in the media. If I have an issue – which I do not – I’ll go and talk to Coach Kelly; he’s got an open door policy with all the players,” said Ertz, when asked about the idea of advocating for yourself versus just going with the coach’s decision. “I don’t want to be a distraction for this team, I don’t think I ever will be a distraction for this team. I think I can make plays as well, though, and if my number is called I think I made the most of my opportunities.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Sheil takes a detailed look at the Eagles-Texans matchup.
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“This year, [Foles] could be holding them back.” National media weighs in on the Eagles.
From the run defense to the issues in the red zone to the remaining schedule, Sheil with three Eagles numbers that matter.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Shaun King ranked the 32 NFL coaches for Yahoo! Sports. He has Chip Kelly 14th, a slot ahead of Chuck Pagano and one behind Marvin Lewis:
Many questioned whether Kelly’s high-tempo scheme would work in the NFL. So far, so good. His Eagles finished second in total offense and fourth in scoring offense last season. That production led to an NFC East title and a home playoff game. They are on the same path in 2014. But can Kelly’s system win a playoff game this year?
Interesting note from D-Gunn:
League source confirms had eagles challenged Chris Polk run at 1yd line they would have lost bec of insufficient evidence 2 overturn play
— Derrick Gunn (@TheRealDGunnCSN) October 30, 2014
We’ll roll out our predictions for Eagles-Texans.