Bradford has to place trust in Zach Ertz if Eagles are to overcome drops

The Eagles had seven dropped passes against the Carolina Panthers alone and they have the most of any team in the NFL as they head into their bye week. But besides the obvious “catch the ball” comments, what can Chip Kelly do to minimise a problem that has been persistent since week one?

It’s obvious that nothing is improving on that front. The problems were present against the Falcons where Matthews tipped a pass for a crucial interception just as they were in game seven with the teams countless drops. If things aren’t improving and the consistency just isn’t there, they simply have to change the gameplan..and this is where things get messy.

The instinctive reaction would be to say that if the birds can’t find prominence in the passing game, to focus on the running game but as we all know..that’s an area that’s just as inconsistent. It was clear that during the Panthers game, Kelly realised that his receivers were not effective and began to spread the ball around the running backs. Darren Sproles was targeted a total of ten times but unfortunately for Kelly, the former Saints back also struggled..catching only five passes. DeMarco Murray caught two of four and Ryan Mathews was able to receive all three successfully, but in an Offense that until recently has struggled running the ball and are hugely inconsistent passing it, the versatility of these backs should be a saving grace but instead it’s continuing to hold the team back.

So what do the Eagles have to do to succeed? The answer appears to be simple. Use the tight ends. Zach Ertz and Brent Celek were targeted 11 times against the Panthers, more than they have in any game so far this season. This is encouraging, especially when combined they are the most efficient receiving unit on the field, catching 70% of their passes against Carolina.

It was reassuring to see the tight-ends finally being utilised in plays that weren’t just slants but there is still a big issue. The plays they are targeted on become so predictable that the yards gained after the catch take a huge drop. But when they drift to the outside and essentially play as wide receivers, they become different entities entirely.

Bradford has a tendency to throw to his first read as we know, but for this Offense to succeed in a time where wideouts can’t “catch” a break, he has to read the field much more intensely and not just throw to the hot route. Why? Because there have been countless times where Ertz or Celek have been wide open over the top and he has instead sought out Jordan Matthews or Josh Huff who then would drop the pass.

As Josh Paunil pointed out on twitter, “that” drop by Josh Huff in week seven could have easily been a Zach Ertz touchdown.

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 16.41.21

There is a contrast between Matthews and Ertz that simply has to be raised. When in coverage, Ertz is far more dangerous than Matthews. Jordan will leap up quite recklessly in a messy play which results in an incompletion whilst Ertz focuses much more on ball security like in this play against the Saints.

Right now, the Eagles don’t have a lot of options. For a fan it’s easy to say “catch the ball” but at this stage you have to believe it’s a mental thing. It’s almost like gambling to try and earn back money you have previously lost. The more you think about it and the harder you try, the more you will struggle. Every pass there could well be a doubt in the receiver’s mind. Every snap could see hesitation and mistakes. There is no hot hand in this Offense and the problem is that the closest the Eagles have to one is being totally ignored.

Ertz is by far the safest option at the moment and is constantly overlooked because Bradford doesn’t like to spend too long making reads. Instead, he is used to help the Offensive line make blocks which is fine..but the Eagles desperately need some help in moving the chains down the field and Ertz might be the best equipped for the job. If the receivers continue to make drops in week 8 they simply HAVE to look for Ertz or Celek. We’re not saying they’re perfect and sure they have made drops too..but they appear to possess greater ball security and route running than most of the receivers on the roster as of right now.