Eagles’ tight-end Zach Ertz may be listed at number two on the depth-chart in training camp, but fans can expect two things from him in the 2014 regular season. Ertz will either eclipse the starting lineup, or he will be used heavily in double tight-end sets.
The second-year man from Stanford is primed for a breakout season in 2014. Despite technically playing behind starter Brent Celek, Ertz finished fourth on the team in touchdowns, and finished with four more receptions than Celek in 2013. Chip Kelly’s high-paced offense requires a lot of quick substitutions, which is why he loves using every layer of his depth chart. Ertz made the most of his time, and will look to build on a year where the Eagles rewrote the way offensive football is played.
The tight-ends played a large role in the offense last year. They combined for 971 yards and ten scores. Ertz and Celek will be asked to harbor a larger amount of weight in their shoulders in 2014. DeSean Jackson isn’t in the picture anymore, leaving the idea of Nick Foles targeting the tight-ends even more this year. The two-headed attack at tight end will suffice.
The birds have been searching for a complimentary tight end for some time now. They cycled through many failed experiments with Cornelius Ingram and Clay Harbor, and the third time appears to indeed be a charm with Ertz.
It was a bumpy road for Ertz to assimilate to Kelly’s offense. He was in good company. Not many players have experienced an offense that reels off plays every 15 seconds or less. Kelly’s fast-break offense isn’t something you can cram into your head overnight, and this hurt Ertz early on last year. He missed OTAs, and was a few steps behind everyone else in learning the playbook. Ertz struggled picking up the intricacies at first, but flourished in them as the season ended.
Nevertheless, Ertz feels lightyears ahead of the system this year, and enters training camp beaming with confidence.
“I’m so confident this year in my abilities,” Ertz told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Last year, I was a wide-eyed rookie. I wasn’t even here for OTAs. It’s a completely different situation. I have confidence in myself and I think the coaches do, as well.”
Even though Jackson is a Washington Redskin, there are still many mouths to feed on offense. In order for the tight-ends to find their groove, they will need to conduct a few test runs to see who gels the best with Foles.
“The first couple of games it’s probably going to be a lot of trial and error, see who gets open the most,” Ertz told the Inquirer. “(Quarterback) Nick’s (Foles) going to find a groove with somebody and they’ll be the primary receiver. We don’t really know who it is right now.”
Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez devastated secondaries with the double-tight formation, and crated a new nuance in aerial football. With Hernandez out of the picture, a new tandem of tight ends is destined to emerge, and the Celek/Ertz duo could fit that mold.
There may still only be one football, but Ertz is playing in an offense that is reeling of 3o plays during team drills, which is 12 more than last year. He should see his fair share of balls coming his way. If he takes larger strides this year, a new weapon will emerge in this talented young offense.