Going into the 2020 season, the stars were aligning for another big year from Zach Ertz. Having been an Eagle for eight seasons, there’s very little Ertz hadn’t accomplished. Three consecutive Pro Bowls, countless franchise records, a Super Bowl ring, and revered as a top tight end in the NFL, the Stanford product had evolved into the ultimate security blanket for Carson Wentz. But in a year where the wide receiving corps has been obliterated by injuries, Ertz is nowhere to be seen.
The disappearing act of Zach Ertz
While it was underdog Travis Fulgham leading the Eagles in receiving with 152 yards against the Steelers, Ertz had just one reception for 6 yards…on six targets. Against the Niners, Ertz caught 4 passes for 9 yards. 15 yards on 5 receptions marks the worst back-to-back game run of his career so far.
This is worrying for a player who not too long ago shattered the league’s single-season receptions record for his position, surpassing Jason Witten. A player who has produced more receptions (525) than ANYONE else at his position through their first seven years. A player has done nothing but exceed expectations and make his case to be held in the same light as George Kittle and Travis Kelce – both of whom received monster deals this offseason.
And that’s where thing get interesting.
Here comes the money
Ertz campaigned for his payday, but negotiations broke down and he went public in an emotional statement.
I kind of play with my heart as much as I can. Obviously it’s been frustrating at times, it’s been difficult. I said all along I want to be here for the long run. I don’t know for sure and if that feeling is mutual, but I know I’m going play this year like it is my last year, and I’m gonna leave everything I possibly have in the tank for this team and the city.
“It’s what this city deserves, nothing less. So I’m going into this year that I’m gonna leave it all out there, whatever happens happens. I’ll let the details be with my agent and Howie [Roseman]. But I’m going to do everything I can to give the city what it deserves, and that’s everything I possibly have even if it means playing with that lacerated kidney. Whatever it takes to win football games and do whatever I can to kind of leave a mark on this team and the city.”
You can understand why there’s a sense of urgency. After reportedly being lowballed on more than one occasion, Ertz watched on as the Niners and Chiefs paid their franchise tight ends handsomely. All of this while taking pay-cuts, restructuring his deal, watching his team draft Dallas Goedert, and realizing that his contract and that of his new TE2 expire during the same offseason.
Surely, if there was ever a season to go HAM, this was it. Dallas Goedert is injured, as is the majority of the Eagles receiving corps. He has all the motivation in the world to prove he does belong in those elite TE discussions. What we’re actually seeing is something really, really worrying.
No fairytale ending
There were a couple of plays yesterday that stood out. On a Carson Wentz interception, Ertz was bumped off his route but appeared to stop running, leading to the ball falling into the hands of Steven Nelson. On a few others, Ertz looked dejected. His body language was full of shrugs and his attitude just looked off.
It’s confounding and it’s not like much has changed since last year, on the surface at least. The age-old adage of ‘he’s double-teamed’ had never stopped him before. It didn’t stop him breaking a single-season receiving record. It didn’t stop him when he was the team’s only legitimate receiving target outside of Jordan Matthews in 2016…or when the position was ravaged by injury in 2018 or 2019.
Even now, Zach Ertz is getting open. Carson Wentz misplacing passes certainly doesn’t help, but it’s not like he is suddenly being smothered out of the game.
Ertz has 20 catches for 145 yards and 1 touchdown through five games. His contract is up next year. I don’t know where the Zach Ertz who caught the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl 52 has gone, but all this Zach Ertz is doing is further showing the gap in talent between himself, Kittle, and Kelce. All this Zach Ertz is doing is proving Howie Roseman right and if he or Pederson don’t change something soon, all this Zach Ertz is doing is running himself out of Philadelphia.