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November 27, 2018

#Analysis: Zach Ertz is good

Eagles NFL
112618ZachErtz Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Zach Ertz is going to be in the Hall of Fame is he continues to play the way he's playing.

The lone unanimous bright spot in an otherwise (we'll be kind) sluggish Philadelphia Eagles offense in 2018 has been Zach Ertz, who has 84 receptions for 895 yards and six TDs. Ertz has already reached season highs for receptions and yards, and is on pace to shatter both team and NFL single-season receiving records.

Next Monday against the Washington Redskins, if he can catch seven passes, Ertz will pass Brian Westbrook (90 receptions in 2007) on the team's single-season receptions leader board, with a quarter of the season to go. But that only scratches the surface of what Ertz can do over the Eagles' final five games.

• Only 17 tight ends in NFL history have had at least 84 catches in one season. Ertz is already there with five games to play. Only three tight ends have ever had more than 100 receptions in any one season:

 Year PlayerTeam Receptions 
 2012Jason Witten Cowboys 110 
 2004Tony Gonzalez Chiefs 102 
 2009Dallas Clark Colts 100 


Ertz is on pace for 122.

• Only 20 tight ends in NFL history have had more than 1,000 receiving yards in a single season. Only two have had more than 1,300 yards.

Year Player Team Yards 
 2011Rob Gronkowski Patriots 1,327 
 2011Jimmy Graham Saints 1,310 


Ertz is on pace for 1,302.

• On the all-time Eagles receiving yards list, Ertz ranks 12th overall in just his sixth season. If he stays on his current receiving pace this season, he'll move ahead of Jeremy Maclin, Ben Hawkins, and Fred Barnett by the end of this season. He's only 439 yards away from Brent Celek for the Eagles' all-time lead among tight ends, which he should easily pass by early 2019, at the latest.

If he can stay healthy, there's an outside chance Ertz can pass Harold Carmichael for the team's all-time yards record before his 32nd birthday.

• Just looking at receptions, Ertz is already fourth in team history.

Player Receptions 
Harold Carmichael 589 
 Pete Retzlaff452 
 Brian Westbrook426 
 Zach Ertz405 


Ertz could own that record before he turns 30.

My conclusion: Zach Ertz is good. Doug Pederson pointed on Monday out why he thinks Ertz has taken his game to the next level.

"One, I think it's a combination of how he's worked in the off-season," he said. "How he has prepared himself for the season. He's a year older, a year wiser. He is understanding defense, leverage, how teams are trying to either take him away or defend him. I think that’s part of it. I think the other thing is the emergence of and really the influx of the talent on offense. You think about Alshon and the things he's done, and now Dallas [Goedert] being at that position. It's really kind of freed up Zach for us to move him around a little bit and put him into some receiver-type positions and be successful there.

"So I think it's a combination of stuff, but definitely a credit to him and how he works, how he prepares. I think just being a year older has really helped him."

In the past, a criticism of Ertz's was that he was far too willing to concede tackles to smaller defensive backs once he had the ball in his hands, thus lowering his effectiveness getting yards after the catch. PhillyVoice critiqued that deficiency in detail during the 2016 season.

More recently, Ertz has done a far better job of fighting for extra yards after the catch. On Sunday, for example, Ertz caught a ball near the eight yard line, broke a tackle, then powered through two more defenders on his way to the end zone.

"I think [his yards after the catch] are part of what's making him have the season he's having," Pederson said. "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."

That is simply not a play Ertz used to make.

If you look at Ertz's numbers from his rookie year to this season, there's a strong argument to be made that they have improved every year.

Zach Ertz Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201336 469 13.0 
 201458 702 12.1 
 201575 853 11.4 
 201678 816 10.5 
 201774 824 11.1 
 2018 (5 games remaining)84 895 10.7 


Ertz has a fourth quarter, lead-changing Super Bowl touchdown reception to his credit, and provided he stays healthy, there's no reason to think he won't continue to pile up big numbers over the next 5-10 years alongside Carson Wentz. If so, he's going to be in Canton.


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