Training camp is underway for Zach Ertz and the Eagles, and the third-year tight end is working hard to take another big step forward for Philadelphia in 2015.
Zach hauled in 58 passes and tallied 702 receiving yards last season, solidifying himself as a very reliable receiving option in the Philly offense. Now, as the Eagles hit the field to prepare for the coming season, the main focus for No. 86 is working on the other aspects of his game as a tight end, particularly blocking.
That process has been ongoing for Zach and this offseason he took a unique approach to sharpening that end of his sword. Long before he arrived at Eagles Camp, Zach was in West Hollywood at Unbreakable Performance Center, the mixed martial arts gym run by Jay Glazer and co-owned by eight-time Pro Bowler Brian Urlacher, where he spent time training. His workouts there included boxing, wrestling and hand-fighting techniques, and Zach believes that work has been very valuable going into camp.
“We’re not allowed to do the blocking stuff during the offseason,” Zach said. “We’re not allowed to be on the field going up against one another, so you have to find other avenues to be able to train at blocking people in the offseason. This was an avenue I reached out for, and I think it’s helped me a lot. Being in balance, using your hands and understanding leverage is what it all incorporates.”
The results so far have been good for No. 86 as Eagles Camp heats up. On Tuesday, before the Eagles donned pads for the first time during camp, head coach Chip Kelly praised Zach’s progress while noting that the true test of his young tight end’s blocking will come later in camp.
“He has done a great job, from a technique standpoint,” Kelly said. “He’s worked real hard, but we haven’t had pads on. His footwork, hand placement and things like that have really improved, but now, when you get to days like this, hopefully things continue on. In what we could get accomplished with just helmets on in the offseason and now in the last couple of days, I think he’s done a good job.”
Coach Kelly isn’t the only one to have taken notice of Zach’s potential. Philly’s veteran tight end, Brent Celek, lauded No. 86 at camp, and talked about how he’s doing all he can to groom his young teammate.
Celek has more than 4,000 receiving yards and eight full seasons under his belt. In those eight years, while competing as an all-purpose tight end, Celek has missed just one game. That’s precisely the type of player Zach is trying to become, and learning alongside Celek while in Philadelphia has been a big puls for No. 86 over his first two seasons plus.
“I’m going to do everything I can to help Zach become as good as he can, because that’s going to make us win football games,” Celek said. “That kid’s a talented player. He’s a great tight end. And our team needs him. Anything I can do to help him, as well as he grows and I continue to get better, that’s the goal. We want to be the best tight end group in the NFL.”
While working on his blocking in front of the team’s new three-headed monster at running back, featuring DeMarco Murray, Darren Sproles and Ryan Matthews, Zach is also using his time at camp to build a rapport with the Eagles new quarterback, Sam Bradford.
“What you see is what you get,” Zach said of Bradford. “He was the No. 1 overall pick for a reason. He can put the ball wherever he wants it. The team has to carry Sam as well, it’s not Sam carrying us, it’s all 22 of us kind of building around each other, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun this year.”
That kind of teamwork is a crucial part of training camp. There are several new faces on the Eagles roster, and becoming comfortable with teammates off the field in camp is just as vital as establishing familiarity on it.
“It’s great. I mean, this is what training camp is for, to build that camaraderie,” Zach said. “We have a lot of new guys obviously, so all the camaraderie is going to be built out on the field and the hotel, and in meetings each and every day. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see this team grow because where we are now is not where we’re going to be come September 13th.”
- Eagles players are getting in great shape MMA training (Bleeding Green Nation, July 23, 2015)
- For Zach Ertz, blocking is the final piece (Philly.com, Aug. 5, 2015)
- Zach Ertz is pushing for the starting job (Bleeding Green Nation, Aug. 5, 2015)
- Celek on Zach Ertz: Our team needs him (Fox Sports, July 30, 2015)
- Tweetcap: Zach Ertz’s progress (Eagles.com, Aug. 4, 2015)
- Eagles practice observations: Ertz explodes (Philly.com, Aug. 4, 2015)