Zach Ertz: Criticism of Doug Pederson's play-calling was 'definitely misconstrued'

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Zach Ertz: Criticism of Doug Pederson's play-calling was 'definitely misconstrued'

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz and right tackle Lane Johnson clarified comments that were interpreted as critical of coach Doug Pederson’s play-calling.

Several Eagles players lamented the lack of offensive balance following the Eagles’ 27-20 loss to the Chiefs in Week 2, with Ertz’s postgame interview in particular drawing attention (watch here). The fifth-year veteran’s statements about the lopsided run-pass ratio were viewed by many as a direct indictment of Pederson — evidence, perhaps, the head coach runs the risk of a locker-room mutiny, if he runs nothing else.

Ertz attempted to set the record straight on Wednesday.

“Those were definitely misconstrued,” Ertz said after practice. “I would never second-guess Doug’s play-calling. I’ve never been a guy to question the head coach. People kind of took it way out of context.”

While Ertz acknowledged balance was an issue in Kansas City, he explained the ratio was a symptom of the problem, for which some of the responsibility falls on the players.

“I said, ‘It started with myself in the run game. I’ve got to be better,’” Ertz said. “And I said, ‘Ideally, in a game, it would be 50-50 if the situation presents itself,’ but that game, it never presented itself to be the opportunity to run the ball because we were down. We had to throw the ball 17 straight times at the end of the game, so the numbers were very skewed.

“People took my comments way off. I was pretty disappointed with how they were perceived, but I guess it is what it is.”

Pederson’s play-calling has been closely scrutinized since last season, but the fervor over offensive balance reached new levels this week. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz dropped back to pass a whopping 56 times, compared to only 14 handoffs in the loss.

Everybody, including Ertz, seemed to recognize it’s difficult to beat an NFL opponent that way.

“You can't be throwing the ball 40 times in a game,” Ertz said Sunday postgame. “How many times did he throw today?

“That's not ideal. Low 30s is probably where you want him at. Thirty runs, 30 passes, if you're going to get 60 plays.

“We want to be a balanced offense. We’ve got the linemen to do it, we've got the running backs to do it, we've got the tight ends to block, we've got the receivers to block, we've just got to go out there and put it together.”

At the same time, the Eagles have struggled to run the football consistently in 2017, averaging only 3.5 yards per handoff. Furthermore, the passing game was working against the Chiefs, allowing Wentz to throw for 333 yards. The Eagles offense never took the field with a lead at any point during the contest, either, and therefore maintained an aggressive approach throughout.

Johnson appeared to question the run-pass ratio postgame as well, saying the Eagles have to run the ball to take pressure off of Wentz. On Wednesday, however, Johnson defended the game plan against Kansas City’s defense.

“(Pederson) felt outside on the edge that they couldn’t guard Zach, they couldn’t guard (Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery). You saw (Ertz and Jeffery) made big plays, so they really couldn’t.

“That’s what he saw, pretty much was mismatches all week. You saw Ertz with a big game. That’s why we threw the ball so much.”

Ertz also feels Pederson’s plan was appropriate plan given the circumstances.

“You’re going to put your team in the best position,” Ertz said. “Whatever he thinks the matchups are to benefit the team, whether it be in the run game or the pass game, that’s going to be the majority of the play calls.

“It’s going to differ each and every week, and that’s why you build an offense like we have, because we’re able to be so different each and every week, and it’s just going to depend on the week, on the matchup.”

There’s no denying that Ertz, Johnson and probably the rest of the roster would either agree with or wouldn’t mind a little more play-calling balance from Pederson. That’s not a sign of a head coach losing the locker room. The players are confident in Pederson to make the correct calls and right the ship – and for their part, that they will be able to execute in the run game when the time comes.

“We have a lot of great pass-catchers on this team,” Ertz said. “That’s not a knock on (our run game). I think we’re a very balanced team. Our O-line can run the ball when we establish the run game.

“We’re going to be better at it this week, the rest of the season hopefully. We have a lot to improve on as an offense. We’re not going to be where we are now in five weeks or so. We’re excited about having the opportunity to play a really great front this week, and we have to establish the run game.”

Brian Dawkins chooses longtime teammate for Hall of Fame intro

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Brian Dawkins chooses longtime teammate for Hall of Fame intro

Brian Dawkins has chosen longtime teammate and close friend Troy Vincent to introduce him this summer at Dawk's Hall of Fame induction.

Dawkins was selected in February for enshrinement in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction class.

"The presenter that will actually be on the stage will be Troy Vincent," Dawkins said in a video posted on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's website.

"My teammate in Philadelphia. We came there the same year. Almost from Day 1 he kind of ... not kind of, he took me under his wing on becoming a professional. Not just a football player but a professional. The details. The details that he went through, the particulars of how he played the position of cornerback was the same way he lived his life (and ran) his businesses that he had off the field.

"He's a guy I can call anytime. Any time of night. And tell him 100 percent all what's going on with me, and I know he's not going to judge me, and it's not going to leave his lips (for) anybody else.

"And the most important thing for me, being a man of faith, is that I know he's going to pray with me. So all those things combined are the reasons why Troy was the perfect guy to introduce me to the Hall of Fame."

Vincent, a native of Trenton and graduate of Pennsbury High in Fairless Hills, Bucks County, spent his first four seasons with the Dolphins before signing an offer sheet with the Eagles before the 1996 season that the Dolphins didn't match.

The Eagles drafted Dawkins in the second round a month after signing Vincent, and the two spent eight years together in the secondary, reaching the playoffs five times and the NFC Championship Game three times.

During those eight seasons, Vincent reached Pro Bowls and Dawkins made the first three of his nine Pro Bowls.

Vincent retired after the 2006 season and Dawkins after the 2011 season.

Dawkins, Vincent and Eric Allen are the only Eagles defensive backs picked to five or more Pro Bowls.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame 2018 enshrinement ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 4 in Canton, Ohio.

Dawkins' former Eagles teammate, Terrell Owens, will also be inducted. He hasn't yet announced who will present him.

Dawkins will be the 21st former Eagle inducted into the Hall of Fame but only the ninth who spent the majority of his career with the Eagles.

Was Carson Wentz sending Nick Foles a message with Instagram video?

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Was Carson Wentz sending Nick Foles a message with Instagram video?

Offseason quarterback controversies are a rite of passage in the NFL. A time-honored tradition, really. 

We’ve certainly had our share in Philadelphia over the years. There were calls for Ron Jaworski to sit in favor of a young Randall Cunningham. Then cries for Jim McMahon to take Randall’s place. When Andy Reid drafted Kevin Kolb in 2007, that began a groundswell that he was the better choice than Donovan McNabb. Of course, most recently we had the Michael Vick/Nick Foles back and forth. To look back now, it seems silly these were even debates.

Most of the time, when you have these “controversies,” it generally means you have no quarterback on your roster. Not always. The 49ers in the late-80’s and early-90’s had Joe Montana and Steve Young, both Hall of Famers and all-time great quarterbacks. Both also won Super Bowls for San Francisco. But that is the exception. So is the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles’ situation.

I use the word “situation” and not “controversy.” Because there is no controversy. If Wentz is cleared by the Eagles’ medical staff, he starts Week 1. Period. What Foles did was incredible and will go down as one of the great — if not the greatest — stretch we have seen in Philadelphia sports history. He came up as big as you can. But Wentz he is not. That’s no disrespect to Foles. There are a handful of people on the planet who are in Wentz’s class.

Just a refresher course on what Wentz did in 13 games last season (his second in the NFL, by the way). He threw for 33 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 3,296 passing yards and had a 101.9 passer rating. The 33 TDs were the second-most in the NFL despite his missing the final three games. He also led his team to an 11-2 record before succumbing to that knee injury late into that Rams game that clinched the NFC East. He would have been the league MVP had he not gotten hurt.

There is a great luxury having Foles on this team. Wentz does not have to come back before he is able. If he’s not ready, you have the best backup in the league to start the season. But that’s the only scenario in which Foles plays Week 1. Simply put: Wentz is the better quarterback. And he has earned the right to start the opener if cleared. 

Some people read into Wentz's Instagram video of himself throwing earlier in the week as him somehow sending a message to Foles. I don’t buy it. I think Wentz’s message was to the fans and himself that I’ll be back, better than ever.

Wentz and Foles are both good teammates who put the team above themselves. Sure, Foles is a competitor and would likely prefer to start. But there won’t be any behind-the-scenes maneuvering to undercut Wentz. And Wentz is secure enough to be able to handle a Super Bowl MVP backing him up and all that goes along with that. Not to mention a coaching staff and organization that won’t allow outside noise to become a distraction.

Wentz over Foles. There’s no quarterback controversy.