As Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz continues to evolve into a top-tier quarterback, Zach Ertz seems primed to ascend right along with him as a preeminent tight end both because of his desire to become a well-rounded contributor as well as a budding connection with Wentz that will only increase his role and production in this system.
CHARLOTTE — Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has rightfully garnered plenty of praise for rapid continued development from his rookie season through the first six games of 2017, but over that same stretch, Zach Ertz has quietly established himself as one of the NFL‘s premier tight ends.
Just how good has Ertz been?
Despite the fact that Thursday was a relatively quiet statistical game for Ertz (two catches for 18 yards and two touchdowns), he currently ranks No. 1 among NFL tight ends in touchdowns (4), receiving yards (405), and targets (53).
It coincidence that Ertz has already matched his 2016 season touchdown total in just six weeks. According to Pro Football Focus, Ertz has seven end zone targets, which also matches his total from last season, when he was targeted 101 times overall. However, five of those seven targets in the end zone last season came in the final three weeks of the season (2 against the Baltimore Ravens, 3 against the Dallas Cowboys).
Some analysts point to Ertz’s strong finishes to seasons through the first four years of his career as a detractor to what he brings to the offense, but it would appear that up until this season, head coach Doug Pederson and Chip Kelly before him, simply weren’t maximizing what Ertz is capable of deep in the red zone.
This season, Ertz is rewarding the belief in the coaching staff and the confidence from Wentz and become the quarterback’s favorite and most reliable targets.
Beyond his contributions in the passing game, Wentz has made a concerted effort to improve his run-blocking as well, after being labeled as ‘soft’ by at least a portion of fans.
“It’s something that hasn’t come naturally to me in the past,” Ertz said last week. “But, I put a lot of effort in with my tight end coach, obviously having Brent [Celek] here for me has been huge. Just getting able to watch how Brent approaches blocking, and the running game. Between those two guys, I’ve leaned on them a lot and I think that we’ve definitely made strides in that regard.
“I don’t want to be viewed as a weakness, in any means. I don’t want to be viewed as a weakness in the passing game. I definitely don’t want to be viewed as a weakness in the running game. It’s a little bit of pride … You hear things like ‘You have to take [Zach] out on certain plays,’ it’s something that I’ve taken a lot of effort, but I don’t want to be viewed like there’s a weakness in my game, or an area of my game that’s weaker than the other areas. It’s something that I take a lot of pride in as a competitor.”
As Wentz continues to evolve into a top-tier quarterback, Ertz seems primed to ascend right along with him as a preeminent tight end both because of his desire to become a well-rounded contributor as well as a budding connection with Wentz that will only increase his role and production in this system.