As Zach Ertz enters his fourth year in the NFL, he knows it’ll bring a new set of challenges—but No. 86 is ready to meet them head-on.
The Philadelphia Eagles have been hard at work through May and June, during OTAs and minicamp, digesting the new offensive scheme brought in by head coach Doug Peterson. It marks the third offensive scheme Zach has had to learn, but the Stanford product is already enjoying watching the new attack come to life.
“This is my third offense, so I’m kind of used to learning something new,” ZE told the media. “At the same time, there are little intricacies that you can only learn through the reps in practice. There are things here and there that you’ll never be able to replicate in a meeting room. So I think everyone’s excited to learn the new offense.”
As with any offense, a lot of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the quarterback. Sam Bradford is back for his second year in Philly, and ZE is looking forward to establishing some continuity with his quarterback—especially knowing that open communication lines will go a long way in Coach Peterson’s new offense.
“There’s a lot more options,” Zach explained. “The quarterback has the ability, based on coverage, to go up there and change the routes—small things like a post or a corner based on the leverage of the defense. There is a little more freedom in that regard.”
While Bradford will have some added options in the back of his mind as he heads up the Eagles attack, he’ll also have plenty of options next to him on the field. The team’s top wide receiver, Jordan Matthews, is back after flirting with 1,000 yards through the air last year, and Zach returns as well after his best individual season as a pro.
He hauled in 75 passes for 853 yards last year, but while he looks to continue his rise to the top of the tight end ranks league wide, he sees the depth in his own tight end room—represented by himself, Brent Celek, Trey Burton and Chris Pantale—as great weapon.
“I think they like the depth at the position,” Zach said. “We have a lot of good players with Brent and Trey and myself, and Pantale is another good player as well. I think we have four really good tight ends, and I think they’re really excited about it.”
That tight end group, as well as the team’s growing crop of receivers, has had great competition on the other side of the field. Zach and Co. have been going head-to-head with some of the best in the business, and No. 86 believes that iron will sharpen iron, as the offensive skill players have seen the likes of Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod and others on a daily basis during camp.
“It’s always good to go out there and compete against the defense,” Zach said. “We have some unbelievable players in the secondary I go against with Malcolm and Rodney. It’s a good opportunity for me and the rest of the offensive guys to get better.”
The Eagles parted ways on June 9 at the conclusion of minicamp, but this isn’t the last many of them will see of each other. Zach, Bradford, Matthews, receiver Chris Givens and running back Darren Sproles are among a large Philly contingent who will meet in San Diego to train together in July.
The group of offensive players know that a large weight will be on their shoulders to learn new offensive intricacies while also building chemistry together, but as ZE explained, all of the hard work will pay off when they return for training camp on July 25—and most importantly in the fall.
“It’s somewhat different than last year, but at the same time, this offense can be as good as we want it to be as players,” Zach says. “Everyday we have to have that mentality that we’re going to get better, and I think that’s what we’ve done over the last two months.”