Eagles Wake-Up Call: Ertz’s Elusive Breakout Year
Zach Ertz rolled his eyes and sighed, slightly irritated by yet another question about “breaking out.”
Do you think you’ll finally do so this year? What’s held you back in the past? What would that mean to you?
“Going to the playoffs? I don’t know. Y’all define that,” Ertz said. “I mean, I go out there and do the best I can each and every day. I’m not focused on ‘breaking out,’ I’m focused on being the best I can for my teammates. Catching as many balls [and] making as many good blocks as I possibly can.”
It’s now an annual tradition for pundits to pick Ertz, who signed a five-year contract extension reportedly worth $42.5 million in January, as the Eagle most likely to “break out.” The 25-year-old has never accumulated 900 receiving yards or five touchdowns, but he did record 30 receptions in the last three games last season, setting a team record for the most catches over a three-games span.
He also tallied 450 yards over the final four games, joining Jimmy Graham as the only NFL tight ends with at least 450 yards over a four-game span since 2013. Doug Pederson expects that production to carry over into this year.
“He’s a great tight end,” Pederson said. “He’s a great team player and a good leader on the football team. He’s really sort of coming into his own now. He had a good spring. I love all of our tight ends, but in his case, he can definitely create some opportunities for us. His ability to catch the football and his ability to separate, he’s a big target over the middle.
“The one thing that I would say with Zach is, and really with any tight end, is just the physicality of blocking and being on the line of scrimmage. You know, with Brent Celek sort of taking that lead, he’s one that’s going to have to sort of be that second guy for us as we go throughout training camp and the regular season.”
While it will take years of consistency for Ertz to reach Celek’s reputation in blocking, Ertz made a clear and significant improvement in that area last year. The tight end, who says he’s excited because this is the first time in a few years he hasn’t dealt with groin problems, plans on making another big jump by focusing on his hand placement, feet and hips.
Ertz also thinks he’ll make a smooth transition from Chip Kelly’s offense into Pederson’s new scheme. While Jordan Matthews said in April Ertz will be a “huge focal point” in the offense, Pederson noted yesterday that he “fully expects” to feature the tight end in the red zone.
“There’s just a lot of pre-snap adjustments. The quarterback can switch routes if he wants to based on coverages. There’s a lot of different snap counts, so you got to be on top of that,” Ertz said. “But overall, it’s the same offense — pretty much — as I ran back in college, so I’m really excited about it.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“It’s not Oregon anymore, Josh!” A running diary of yesterday’s open practice at the Linc.
Doug Pederson says Carson Wentz is “right on track.”
“I’d describe it as I feel like I haven’t eaten dinner in four years, and I’m hungry.” NFC East Roundup.
“We’re going to give him the opportunity to stay out there and rush.” Jim Schwartz is excited to see Bennie Logan expand on his horizons.
Former Eagle Brian Dawkins returns to the team in the scouting department as their first Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellow.
“Get ready to practice men.” A running diary of Saturday’s practice, the first practice with the pads on.
“They’re in a tough place culture wise, and I think everything you do this year has to focus on what’s best for Carson Wentz.” Weekend Reading.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Reunited once again, Brian Dawkins says Doug Pederson will be able to handle some of the adversity he will have the face, writes Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com.
Dawkins has always been honest, and his assessment of Pederson as a head coach was very honest.
“I think the decision making on game day, those are the things that are going to be a challenge for him,” Dawkins said.
“But at the same time, I think because he’s been through it a little bit in Kansas City, given the reins to call some plays, I think that he’ll be successful.
“I think the one thing that you also see is the quality of coaches that he’s brought in. Guys who have been in the league, who have done it before. So he’s not doing everything by himself the first time.
With Brandon Brooks returning later in the week, Stefen Wisniewski believes he still has a chance to win a starting job, writes Jeff McLane of the Inquirer.
Wisniewski refuses to concede anything. He may have signed a contract that is four years and $38 million less than what Brooks signed for, and he may have three fewer years of experience with the Eagles than [Allen] Barbre, but the six-year veteran with 77 NFL starts said that he’s optimistic about his chances.
“I think at least one of the jobs is open on the inside. That’s my impression,” Wisniewski said on Sunday. “It seems like Doug believes in competition and letting the best man play. I think that’s the way it’s going to work out.”
Asked about Wisniewski’s performance in place of Brooks, who has been sidelined with a hamstring strain, Pederson gave a response that seemed to indicate that he foresees the 27-year-old Penn State product as a sixth man off the bench who can fill in at one of the three interior positions.
“He’s a smart kid, and somebody that is definitely going to fit into the mix in the rotation at guard for us,” Pederson said. “As you know, this is typical of a regular season. Those guys that get nicked up and miss a couple days, you know, the next guy steps up, and it’s that mentality and he’s done a nice job handling that.”
The Eagles begin practice at 9:05, with Frank Reich and the quarterbacks scheduled to address the media afterward.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.