Making the case: Eagles TE Zach Ertz is the NFL’s ultimate red zone weapon


The dominance of Zach Ertz has been well documented up to this point. Although the national media refuses to acknowledge just how impressive the Stanford product has been this season, all it takes is a quick look at the numbers to raise some eyebrows. With five games remaining on the schedule, Ertz has already set new career-highs in receiving yards and his 91-yard game against the Giants saw him become just the sixth Eagle in history to reach four consecutive seasons of 800+ receiving yards. As wildly impressive as Ertz has been, there’s one area of his game that is very rarely praised.

The Eagles red zone offense has been lackluster this season. After scoring touchdowns on 64% of their red zone drives in 2017, that number has fallen to just 55% in 2018. However, the man keeping that number from completely drowning in an ocean of offensive inefficiency is the franchise tight end.

Ertz leads all NFL tight ends in red zone touchdowns since 2017, amassing 14 in that span. This year, he leads the Eagles with 6 receiving touchdowns to his name. All of these were scored inside the opposing 20 and have come in the last seven games. If that doesn’t scream brilliance, I don’t know what will.

His most recent score against the Giants is what really turned heads. Ertz topped off a 6-play, 75-yard scoring drive at the end of the second quarter with a 15-yard reception that saw him push through contact to drive into the end zone, cutting the Eagles deficit to just 8 points. As you’ll probably know by now, ‘breaking tackles’ hasn’t exactly been a well-documented strong point in the skillset of Zach Ertz. But this season, that’s beginning to change.

“Yeah, he made a great play for us the other day.” Said Eagles offensive coordinator, Mike Groh. “He was able to step back in front and cut the defender off and then break a couple tackles and get in the end zone. It was a really good play by him. Obviously we’ve got a lot of trust in him. Carson [QB Carson Wentz] has a lot of trust in his ability. And he’s [Ertz] got strong hands and we all know that,. He’s having an outstanding year. He’s just another one of these guys that we’re always trying to involve.”

Ertz being vicious in the red zone is nothing new however. Last year, he recorded 8 touchdowns inside the 20 and caught 64% of passes thrown his way in those situations. The tight end has really emerged as one of the league’s most lethal targets when the defense have their backs to the wall.

“Yeah, I think that’s part of what’s making him have the season he’s having.” Doug Pederson explained earlier in the week. “Where we were on the field and needed at that point to get in the end zone. It was a great — first of all, it was a great catch stepping back through the linebacker, through the defender, to be able to catch the ball and break that tackle and get in the end zone.

Those are all things you expect from your tight end, and he has really taken that to another level for him this year.”

There’s no denying that when inside the 20, Ertz is far more than just a security blanket. In fact, there may not be another player in the NFL as reliable as the Eagles tight end in these situations and for an Eagles offense scrapping for survival, that may be their biggest X-factor moving forward.


Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports