Eagles

As he chases his records, Zach Ertz reflects on Jason Witten's influence

As he chases his records, Zach Ertz reflects on Jason Witten's influence

Long before he was a really, really bad TV color analyst, Jason Witten was a really, really good NFL tight end. 

And that's the one Zach Ertz has always looked up to.

As the Eagles prepare to face the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Ertz continues his assault on several of Witten's records, most notably most catches in a season by a tight end.

With Ertz playing Sunday afternoon in the stadium Witten called home from 2009 through 2017, it's a good time to take a look at the relationship between these two high-octane tight ends.

"I've studied him for so long, finding the intricacies of how he ran routes from the moment I came into the league," Ertz said this week. "He was the guy I was always watching because it seemed like on third down, he was always getting his number called. He was always attacking leverage. So I really just modeled my game after him. There are some differences, but there are also a lot of similarities. I've said it since I was 16, he was the guy that was always on TV in California. He was the perfect guy for me to watch because I got to see at 16 years old how a tight end should play. I have the ultimate respect for him, and we have a good relationship. I wish he didn't play for the Cowboys, but it was fun playing against him too for a couple of years."
 
Ertz has 93 catches this year. He needs 17 to tie and 18 to break Witten's record for catches in a season by a tight end.

Tony Gonzalez (1,233) and Witten (1,151) are also the only tight ends ever with 1,000 career receptions. 

Ertz, with 21 more catches these last four games, will have the most catches in history by a tight end in his first six seasons. Jimmy Graham (434) and Witten (429) currently have the most. Ertz is third with 414.

The Eagles face the Cowboys at 3:25 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Stadium in a game they desperately need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Witten retired after the 2017 season and is now a color analyst on Monday Night Football.

Witten played 15 years in the NFL but Ertz is the only player he ever gave his jersey to.

"He told me in the past, it wasn't because he was my favorite tight end growing up," Ertz said. "He said it was because he really respected the way I played the game and how I was always trying to get better. 

"He said he was watching my game from the moment I came into the league, and that I was one of the guys he would study in the offseason. Being the only guy he's traded a jersey with is honestly special. Obviously, everyone knows how I feel about him. I'm excited for the game in Dallas."

Ertz, also as active in the community as any NFL player through his Ertz Family Foundation, has already had a remarkable career, with over 400 catches in just six seasons along with two of the biggest plays in the Super Bowl — a 4th-down catch and the game-winning TD later on the same drive.

If he can break Witten's single-season record for tight ends it would be yet another remarkable accomplishment and one that would have special meaning for both Ertz and Witten.

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Nick Foles says Eagles nearly wasted Philly Special in NFC Championship Game

Nick Foles says Eagles nearly wasted Philly Special in NFC Championship Game

The Philly Special is one of the most legendary plays in NFL history because the Eagles used it against the Patriots in their incredible Super Bowl LII win. 

It almost didn’t happen like that.  

Nick Foles on his podcast with Chris Maragos, The Mission of Truth, said the Eagles almost ran the Philly Special two weeks earlier in the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings, which would have essentially wasted it. 

“There’s a lot of detail in the book ‘Believe It’ but this is one I don’t think is there,” Foles said. “We were going to run the Philly Special vs. the Minnesota Vikings and Doug called the play.”

But Foles said he played most of that NFC Championship Game in pain after taking a rib shot early from a blitzing Anthony Barr. While Foles was able to make it through the game and the Eagles won 38-7, that rib pain was one of the main reasons why Foles suggested to Doug Pederson to hold the call.  

The Eagles almost ran the Philly Special early in the fourth quarter during the NFC Championship Game when they already had a 24-point lead. 

We were already up, I think, 31-7, something like that,” Foles said. “I talked to Doug and I was like, ‘ah, we don’t need it. We’re up by so much, let’s not waste it.’ But in reality, another reason was I was worried about turning and running out and trying to catch the ball. I didn’t know if I would be able to lift my arm up and turn and catch it because of the rib shot earlier in the game.

Instead, the Eagles called a play that put Alshon Jeffery in motion and Foles hit him in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown pass that extended the lead to 31 points and gave us the final score of 38-7. Foles said that watching that touchdown play back, he can see just how stiff he was from the pain. 

So it’s a good thing Foles took a rib shot early in that game. Because if Foles felt fine the Eagles might have run the Philly Special two weeks too early. 

“It almost happened and it was one of those moments honestly it probably does happen if my ribs aren’t killing me,” Foles said. “Because it would have just lit the Linc on fire. It was already insane. Obviously, the Philly Special became a legendary play. I’m glad we didn’t use it then.” 

Yeah, Foles isn’t alone. Who knows what would have happened if they had. 

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Forbes' highest-paid athletes list highlights Carson Wentz's lucrative year

Forbes' highest-paid athletes list highlights Carson Wentz's lucrative year

Forbes released its annual list of the highest-paid professional athletes in the world earlier this month, and a surprising name popped up on the list: Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

Considering Wentz signed a four-year, $128 million contract last summer that currently ranks sixth among all NFL players in average annual salary, it was odd to see Wentz as the second-highest-paid football player on the list, behind only Kirk Cousins at No. 9.

It's not like Wentz is raking in money from some astronomical contract, so what gives?

It turns out, Wentz's place on the list is thanks in large part to perfect timing.

Forbes' list takes into account all earnings, winnings, and endorsements between June 1, 2019, and June 1, 2020, which helps Wentz's numbers enormously: he signed his current deal with the Eagles on June 6, 2019, and earned a $16.3 million signing bonus.

On top of that, Wentz was paid a sizable $30 million player option this past March.

While both the signing bonus and the player option are spread out across multiple years against the Eagles' cap, Wentz was awarded both figures in one-time payments. Very, very big one-time payments.

When you add that $46.3 million to his base salary ($1.38 million) and his roster bonus ($8 million), and then you tack on roughly $4 million in endorsements, you arrive at Forbes' estimation that Wentz brought in $59.1 million between June 1, 2019, and June 1, 2020.

That'll buy a lot of diapers!

Forbes notes that Wentz has endorsement deals with Nike, NRG, Bobcat, Amazon, Sanford Health, Bose, Scheels and BlackRidge Bank.

Tennis legend Roger Federer ($106.3 million), soccer legend Cristiano Ronaldo ($105 million), and soccer legend Lionel Messi ($104 million) took the top three spots on the list.

We probably won't see Wentz back here any time soon.

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