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August 16, 2016

Eagles Links: Zach Ertz improving as a blocker

Eagles NFL

The Eagles first-team offense barely played in the preseason opener against Tampa Bay, but fans did get a chance to see Doug Pederson and Frank Reich break out the vaunted (OK, not so much) three-tight end set. And as Fran Duffy shows on the team’s website, Zach Ertz threw a productive block on Ryan Mathews’ touchdown run:

Also of note on this play is the personnel group. The Eagles are in what’s called 13 personnel here, with one (the "1" in 13) running back and three (the "3" in 13) tight ends on the field. All three tight ends - Celek, Ertz and Trey Burton - are lined up with their hands in the dirt on the right side, and watch all three of them get after it on this play. Celek does a great job on the defensive end, Ertz drives the linebacker to the ground and Burton works up to the safety as Mathews vaults in for six points to get the Eagles on the board.

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke also took notice of Ertz’s progression in the run game:

Zach Ertz continues to come along as a blocker, and the importance of that development as it pertains to Doug Pederson’s more traditional scheme (compared to Chip Kelly) cannot be understated. Ertz helped clear space in multiple ways Thursday, including as part of a three-tight end, overload set on Ryan Mathews’s early touchdown run. Later, he carried his block a good seven or eight yards downfield on a Kenjon Barner run. There has been definite progression from Ertz as a blocker during his career. If he can perform the way he did against Tampa Bay, he could make the leap to a Pro Bowl level.

Ertz came into the NFL as a receiving tight end, and it’s obvious that he wants to get better as a blocker. The Stanford product taking a leap as a player in his fourth year would be crucial for an Eagles offense in desperate need of playmakers.

In case you missed it at PhillyVoice:

1.    Practice notes: With another uneventful 10-10-10, Jimmy goes in-depth on the current state of the offensive line.

2.    Wentz update: The No. 2 overall pick hopes to be back by the end of the preseason, but “he’s hurting pretty good” at the moment.

3.    Seumalo starting? The rookie third-round pick knows he didn’t play well in his preseason debut, but Lane Johnson’s possible suspension might force him into the starting lineup.

4.    Coaching scared: Angelo Cataldi thinks Doug Pederson needs to change a few things up.

Other Eagles news, notes and analysis from around the web:

Week 1 preseason grades: Dak Prescott leads NFC rookies: Bucky Brooks,

Brooks gave Wentz a B- for his debut:

Although he was far from perfect, Wentz flashed outstanding arm strength, touch and accuracy when firing passes both from the pocket (if Eagles receivers hadn't dropped three of his passes, his numbers would've looked better) and on the move (during impromptu scrambles). In addition, he displayed the athleticism and movement skills that made him a legitimate dual threat at North Dakota State.

Sorting Out the Secondary With Schwartz, Jenkins: Josh Paunil, Birds 24/7

North Dakota State’s C.J. Smith has impressed Malcolm Jenkins:

“C.J., the rookie who’s been having a phenomenal camp, especially the last week and a half, played really well in the game and has really continued that in the practices here after,” Jenkins said. “I don’t think we’ve seen anybody catch a ball on him in about four days. His production really speaks for itself. I think there’s a big difference between him in the spring and him in the summer. I think it’s just that opportunity to grasp the playbook, grasp the technique and work on it day in and day out. You see the improvement in his game daily.”

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann