Philadelphia Eagles: Zach Ertz is a lot more than ‘just a receiver’

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Hey Mychal Kendricks, some insider info, while he’s far from a dominant blocker, Zach Ertz is a lot more than just the Philadelphia Eagles’ best receiver.

When the Philadelphia Eagles selected Zach Ertz with the 35th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, he was nothing more than a glorified wide receiver.

Now don’t get me wrong, Ertz was a great receiver, having hauled in 112 passes for 1434 yards and 15 touchdowns as one of the focal points of David Shaw‘s incredibly potent Stanford offense, but even in the Cardinals’ typically power run-heavy offense, he was hardly a factor as a blocking tight end.

Fast forward half a decade and you can’t really say that anymore.

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Finishing out the 2018 NFL season as Pro Football Focus‘ seventh-ranked tight end, it’s safe to say that Ertz has elevated his game considerably, to the point where he is now regarded as one of the elite players at his position.

Which is what makes former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks‘ comments all the more confusing.

On episode 4 of HBO’s hit series Hard Knocks, highlighting the Cleveland Browns‘ preparation for their Week 3 preseason bout against the Eagles, Kendricks was brought up to the podium to address his new team about his former, and didn’t appear all too appreciative of the team that helped him earn his first Super Bowl ring.

After disregarding the team’s talent at certain positions like linebacker and offensive line, while also pointing out flaws in Nick Foles‘ game, Kendricks then decided to take a shot at the Eagles’ wide receiving room, most notably the team’s best ‘receiver’ Zach Ertz.

Now for some, this may seem like nothing more than a playful jab, but calling new school tight ends like Ertz a glorified receiver is like calling Lamar Jackson a running quarterback, the intention is firmly to discredit.

While it’s kind of disappointing to see a former fan favorite heelflip on such a public forum, especially after Howie Roseman did him right by releasing him before camp, it’s also a bit alarming to realize just how little nuance Kendricks actually understands about the tight end position.

Now granted, will Ertz ever go down as one of the elite blocking tight ends in NFL history? Definitely not, but over the last three seasons, his snaps per game have consistently gone up, whereas those of his blocking foil Brent Celek, who essentially served as a sixth lineman over his final few seasons with the Eagles, steadily dropped.

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Now one could point to the emergence of players like Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Isaac Seumalo as another reason for this drop, as Doug Pederson would often play an extra running back in some of his sets, but over the 2017 regular season Ertz logged 421 snaps as a blocker, 372 against the run and 49 against the pass, only allowing a single sack. Though his Pro Football Focus blocking grades were noticeably lower than his overall grade, that’s to be expected, as Ertz finished out the season with the fourth highest offensive grade of any player at his position. While he isn’t going to be mistaken for a right tackle any time soon, Ertz actually finished out the entire 2017 season, playoffs and regular season combined, with a pass blocking grade .3 higher than his recently retired teammate.

So is Zach Ertz the second coming of Tony Gonzalez, or even Rob Gronkowski? No, but to call him a glorified receiver completely disregard the work number 86 has done to hone his craft over the last five years. As a borderline elite receiving tight end, Ertz’s slightly above average defense is a big reason why he was on the field for 776 regular season snaps last season, the third highest mark of any player Philadelphia Eagles offensive position player.

Maybe Mychal Kendricks should use his newfound free time to better equate himself with Ertz’s developments as a player with some serious tape study. Couldn’t hurt, right?

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