The Eagles announced today that TE Zach Ertz will be returning from short-term IR. While that may seem like a breath of fresh air, the Eagles may want to be careful with how they implement him.
To say that Zach Ertz has struggled this year would be an understatement. He amassed a lowly 24 receptions for 178 yards, and a touchdown before hitting IR in a highly uncharacteristic season. The reasons for this regression remain unknown, but the body language seemed off, he struggled with simple catches, and it didn’t help that his QB was suffering from accuracy issues.
Mentally, it would also be easy to see why Ertz looked dejected. After watching George Kittle and Travis Kelce receive handsome new deals, Howie sat on his hands. His franchise tight end, who has led the team in receiving in four consecutive seasons, openly campaigned that he wants to remain on the Eagles but doesn’t know if the feeling is mutual. What followed should have been his most explosive season yet, with every reason in the world to make a statement. The only statement made was that Roseman was right.
What really doesn’t help is that in his absence, an unlikely breakout candidate emerged. Former Packers TE Richard Rodgers, who returned for his third rodeo with the Eagles in hopes of finally being able to have an injury-free year. So far, so good. Second to only Travis Fulgham in team receiving yards, Rodgers has 345 to his name along with a pair of touchdowns. He’s also averaging close to 15 yards per catch and proving to be very handy with the ball in his hands. With at least 48 yards in each of his last 3 games, Rodgers has been one of the only consistent players on the entire offense. The last thing the Eagles want to do now is mess with that.
Rodgers is only playing around 35% of snaps per game so it can be assumed that Ertz will come in and give the Eagles some 12-personnel freedom and take on a key role. But this will likely mean a drop in playing time for one of the only players actually doing something on this offense.
It’s not the first time we’d have seen the Eagles choose players who aren’t in their long-term vision over more productive talent. Jason Peters somehow ended up replacing Jordan Mailata at LT when healthy until last week, where Mailata had his best game yet. Alshon Jeffery has ripped into Travis Fulgham’s playing time, who led the NFL in receiving yards over a 4 week span earlier this season, and now Richard Rodgers may be forced into a very minimal role.
I’m not advocating Rodgers to see 60%+ of snaps and Zach Ertz to sit twiddling his thumbs. But for whatever reason, Ertz was a shadow of the player he used to be and the Eagles looked more and more likely to move on from him with each week he regressed. If that is still the plan, taking one of the only bright spots in a flailing offense and flat-out replacing it with a player who has done nothing all year makes little sense.
Zach Ertz is an incredible talent and has been a huge part of this Eagles offense ever since his drafting in 2013. But in a ‘what have you done for me recently?’ league, the answers aren’t pleasant. Ertz should be eased back into action and earn a starting role which quite frankly, he wasn’t playing well enough to hold.
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