Zach Ertz spent most of his 2015 offseason preparing to take a big leap forward in his third NFL season, and now others have taken notice of the big things the could be on the horizon for No. 86.
There has been plenty of buzz about Zach in the last month as he completed OTAs and mini-camp with the Philadelphia Eagles, but one word has been thrown around more than the rest lately: superstar.
First, it was one of Zach’s offensive teammates, Darren Sproles, who noticed that the Stanford product is poised for a breakout season. The Eagles scatback trained with Zach in San Diego during the offseason, and No. 86 praised Sproles’ work ethic in his recent blog post.
They’ve since been together during training camp, and Sproles returned the favor, telling the media how excited he is to see how the Philly offense will do with No. 86 as a focal point in the attack.
“He has great hands,” Sproles told CSN Philly. “His hands and his route running are just great, really. He’s about to be a superstar.”
At the same time as Sproles was singing Zach’s praises, the folks over at Pro Football Focus were working on a statistical analysis of No. 86’s first two years in the league. Their findings backed up Sproles’ statement, and PFF named Zach Philadelphia’s “secret superstar” for the 2015 season.
Philly has plenty of candidates for that honor, including newcomers at nearly every offensive position. But as J.J. Ziegler pointed out, the lone unchanged group is the tight ends and that group a prime candidate to produce a breakout player.
“Ertz had a very good first two seasons in the league. As an NFL sophomore, he had the fifth-highest overall grade among tight ends, was tied for the fourth-best drop rate, was the second-most targeted on deep passes, had the third-best deep pass catch rate, and is tied for fifth in Yards Per Route Run,” Ziegler wrote. “The main unknown is what Chip Kelly has planned for the Eagles’ offense. With a group of talented runners aboard, and his preference for three-WR sets, the scheme may limit Ertz’s targets. Ertz lines up in multiple positions, though, and has not been disposed of after two years in Kelly’s offense, which is an accomplishment and an endorsement.”
Entering year three, Zach is now officially a NFL veteran and he’s suddenly also one of the longest tenured players on the Eagles offense. That’s thanks in part to some major offseason roster alterations in Philadelphia.
At quarterback, the arrival of Sam Bradford means Zach is likely to be catching passes from the fifth different quarterback since he arrived in Philly. At wide receiver, most of the faces are familiar, but the departure of Jeremy Maclin led the Eagles to select Nelson Agholor in the first round in the draft and the rookie is expected to flank No. 86 all season But the biggest changes came at running back where the trade of long-time Eagles RB LeSean McCoy to Buffalo led to the additions of DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, two incredible talents.
With the wholesale changes, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is glad he can look to the tight end position, where he has a hard-working athlete in Zach to be a pillar of consistency and reliability.
“I know he’s doing a great job for us,” coach Chip Kelly said Tuesday. “He’s got an unbelievable work ethic, has really had no offseason in terms of what he did this past — from when our season ended against the Giants to when we started the offseason program in terms of what he did to work on his craft and make himself better not only as a receiver but as a blocker.”
In addition to working out with Sproles in San Diego, Zach has been training in other elite company this offseason. In his first blog entry, No. 86 documented his work with famed offensive line coach Hudson Houck and legendary tight end Tony Gonzalez. He’s also spent time working out with a few of the league’s most elite quarterbacks: his former Stanford teammate Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts and Russell Wilson, Super Bowl winning field general of the Seattle Seahawks.
As Eagles gathered for OTAs and mini-camp, Kelly took note of the work Zach has put in and was complimentary of his tight end’s continued desire to be great as evidenced by the effort he’s put in to improve since reaching the NFL.
“A lot of guys do things and try to get with a coach to prepare them for the combine, but then they forget about that. Zach is not that type,” Kelly said. “He was traveling all over the country trying to make himself a better blocker, a better receiver, doing all the little teeny things that’s going to make him kind of take that next step. We’re excited to see where he goes with that.”
- Darren Sproles on Zach Ertz: ‘He’s about to be a superstar’ (CSN Philly, June 18, 2015)
- Secret Superstars: Philadelphia Eagles (Pro Football Focus, June 22, 2015)
- Darren Sproles: Zach Ertz will be a ‘superstar’ for Eagles (NFL.com, June 22, 2015)
- Why Zach Ertz is ready to have a big season for the Eagles (NJ.com, June 21, 2015)
- To Be The Best (ZachErtz86.com, June 15, 2015)