Zach Ertz is showing the Eagles why he’s worth keeping around

NFL: DEC 09 Giants at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 09: Philadelphia Eagles Tight End Zach Ertz (86) watches the defense during the game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles on December 09, 2019 a Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Nicole Fridling/Icon Sportswire)

It’s been a bumpy 12 months for Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. Around this time last year, he was hoping for a contract extension, only to be shortchanged by Howie Roseman in a move that arguably acted as a catalyst for his sharp decline. After an offseason on incessant trade rumors, he not only remains on the team, but is setting the tone at Training Camp.

Whether or not Ertz is on the roster by the opening week of the season is anybody’s guess, but it’s logical to assume that if he was going to be moved, it would’ve been during the heart of the offseason where teams who desperately needed a tight end were willing to pay a bit more. Only adding to this argument is the fact that the Eagles recently restructured the deals of Lane Johnson and Derek Barnett, freeing up some much-needed funds without having to move on from Ertz, who carries a lofty $12M cap hit this season.

If we assume Zach Ertz is indeed staying on the Eagles, he’s got a lot of ground to make up – not just because of last year’s disappointment, but because this is his final contracted year. A second consecutive poor showing would see his value diminish and end any chances of attaining that long-term security he desires.

Maybe it’s a combination of that sitting in the back of his mind, and the understated happiness that he’s still on the team who drafted him, and the franchise he wants to play for, that’s sparked an encouraging camp performance thus far.

Sporting a new hairstyle, Ertz rolled into camp and immediately put his head down and got to work. Within the first day, he was seen coaching up DeVonta Smith. A couple of days later, he was seen working with former Bills QB and current summer standout, Tyree Jackson. It would be very understandable for Ertz to just show up to work and focus on himself, especially after such a tumultuous 12 months. Instead, he’s doing what he’s always done – putting the team first.

In terms of his actual performance, he’s been turning heads as a pass-catcher, which should be a surprise to absolutely nobody. This is someone that broke the NFL record for TE receptions in a single season not too long ago, and had a 916 yard campaign in 2019. His 2020 season was an uncharacteristically quiet one, but even then, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, Ertz’s top speed and separation on routes remained nearly unchanged. In fact, he created more separation on average per route this year than in 2019.

If Ertz can get back to his best, even if it’s just for one last swing of the bat in Philadelphia, it would bring a lot to Nick Sirianni’s offense – something the Head Coach acknowledged on Tuesday.

“Just seeing, again, what [TE] Zach [Ertz] can do and what all the tight ends can do, and really, really impressed with Zach and his ability — he’s been such a productive player in this league for so long, and you see it on game tape from afar, right? But then when you get to be able to go to practice and see in meetings, he’s just a very instinctual player and very smart football player. 

We want to use those strengths that he has right there to be able to find holes in the defense because he does have this — he just has a supreme feel that is very typical among good players.”

Nick Sirianni on Zach Ertz

After such a long year of non-stop trade rumors where a move was always described as “imminent”, it’s nice to be able to talk about the once-elite tight end in a positive light. The Eagles have one last chance to use both Ertz and Goedert in the same offense. Nick Sirianni has preached bending his offense to fit his players all offseason, and there’s no denying that if Ertz can reclaim his status as a dominant target over the middle of the field, then Jalen Hurts is going to be in quarterback paradise going into his second season with so many lethal targets around him.

Photo by Nicole Fridling/Icon Sportswire

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