The most important receiver on the Eagles roster right now, might not be any of their wide receivers, despite the fact that they will have promising second-year pass catcher, Jordan Matthews and 2015 first round draft pick, Nelson Agholor lining up somewhere. The guy who might take over this year is third-year tight end Zach Ertz.
He’s got everything you would want in a receiving target. He’s 6’5, with deceptive speed and great quickness in and out of his cuts. Ertz does a great job of catching the football with his hands and he knows how to run a pass route, from finding open spaces in zone coverages to using his body to screen off a defender versus man-to-man.
The former Stanford Cardinal and second-round draft pick in 2013 had a break out game in 2014, when he caught 15 passes for 115 yards against the Washington Redskins. In the 2014 season, he caught 58 passes for 702 yards with three touchdown grabs, despite playing only 50% of the plays. His struggles as a blocker have allowed veteran tight end Brent Celek to keep his hold on the starting tight end position. Celek is a warrior and he’s not going to give Ertz the starting spot, the youngster is going to have to take it.
According to Jeff McLane of Philly.com, Ertz reached out to a former USC teammate of mine, Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott and Ronnie put him in touch with Hudson Houck, who coached Hall of Famers Anthony Munoz and Bruce Matthews, while we were at Southern Cal. Houck was also the offensive line coach for the Dallas Cowboys when won three Super Bowls in the 1990’s. Houck worked with Ertz for a couple of weeks to give him the fundamentals of blocking.
I’m sure Houck taught him as much as he knows about technique, but you need strong arms and hands to control the monsters that roam along the defensive fronts in the NFL. Blocking in the NFL is really nothing but holding, but you must be able to grab the defender on the inside of his pads and control him, so that he can’t pull away. If you can’t bench press 400 to 450 pounds, you’re going to have trouble blocking defensive linemen in the NFL. National Football League defenders are big, strong and nasty, so you had better have some power behind you when you try to deal with them.
Ertz needs to get in that weight room and get much more powerful in his lower body and much stronger in his upper body. His slender frame is fine when he’s running pass routes, but he needs to add 10 to 15 more pounds of muscle to consistently block the defensive linemen and linebackers in the National Football League. He’s listed at 6’5″ 250 pounds, well he needs to increase to 260 or 265 pounds of muscle. When he builds that power in his body, he will walk to the line of a scrimmage with the confidence he can maul the guys he’s blocking.
The youngster has already proven he can do the job as a pass receiver and there are teams in the league would have already put him on the field because having another legitimate playmaking threat like him on the field every play is worth a great deal because it puts increased pressure on the defense. Unfortunately for him, here in Philadelphia Chip Kelly has shown him that he’s not willing to sacrifice anything in his running game to have a playmaking tight end on the field, so Ertz had better be living in that weight room.
He might as well workout with the offensive linemen in the weight room because he’s asked to block the same guys, they’re blocking. As a tight end, he blocks down on defensive linemen all the time and he is assigned to drive block them, hook block them and pass block them. Most of these are 300 plus pounds and very powerful.
If he could take that starting job right now with Bradford taking over, he could gain the new quarterback’s confidence to the point where the new signal caller looks him up every time he drops into the pocket and uses him as a safety valve if he gets in trouble. A gun shy quarterback would like nothing better than to have an outstanding tight end to get the ball to, if and when he gets in trouble. Ertz already has Mark Sanchez in his corner, so he’ll be a top option any time they’re on the field together.
It all comes down to beating out Celek and getting on the field. If he becomes the starter, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him catching 80 or 90 passes in a season and that’s going to mean a better Eagles team, Pro Bowl appearances for the young tight end and a big new contract. Get in that weight room young man.