Double teams frustrating Zach Ertz, stalling Eagles' offense

Double teams frustrating Zach Ertz, stalling Eagles' offense

Considering the way the Eagles’ wide receivers have played since DeSean Jackson got hurt, why wouldn’t you double Zach Ertz and make somebody else beat you?

That’s what teams are doing to the Eagles right now, and to a large extent it’s working.

Ertz has seen more double teams than ever this year, in particular the last few weeks. His numbers are down — from 48-for-480 at this point last year to 33-for-366.

That in itself isn't a huge issue. Nobody expected him to catch another 116 passes this year. The problem is nobody has picked up the slack.

It's one of the big reasons the Eagles’ offense hasn’t been able to find a consistent rhythm since Jackson got hurt.

It’s frustrating at times, but I’ve got to focus on not allowing it to frustrate me,” Ertz said Wednesday. “Obviously, that just means I’ve got a lot of respect from the other (team). But at the same time, I'm not going to be satisfied with just being a guy out there. I'm going to focus on being better each and every week. I feel like I've played well at times, a little inconsistent.

Ertz is still fourth among NFL tight ends with 33 catches and sixth with 366 yards, and he’s on pace for just under 1,000 yards this year.

But we've yet to see him really go off this year. He's got an uncharacteristic three drops and had a costly fumble in Minnesota on Sunday.

“I feel like I've played pretty well,” he said. “Obviously, had a fumble last week that was unacceptable. Probably had one drop that was uncharacteristic, didn't really see the ball until late. Not an excuse by any means. But I’ve just got to keep pushing, keep pressing, and it’ll come.”

Ertz has gotten doubled at times throughout his seven-year career, but generally somebody else was there to take advantage of the single coverage and big plays.

This year, with Jackson out, the wide receivers have been largely quiet, and for whatever reason Dallas Goedert hasn’t put up big numbers either.

Ertz said all he can focus on is beating the double team and making plays no matter what coverages he’s seeing.

“If you have an out-breaking route, beat the guy that's on the outside,” he said. “If you have an in-breaking route, try and beat the guy on the inside. At the end of the day, they're putting two guys on you, other guys are going to make plays.”

It’s not like Ertz isn’t producing. 

He’s one of only three players in the NFL who’s had 50 yards in every game. The others are Travis Kelce and Michael Thomas.

It’s just that six games in, nothing has come easy for him.

And the double teams aren't going to stop until other people start making enough plays to keep defenses honest.

I always know Zach’s going to get his, the same goes for Dallas, the same goes for Alshon (Jeffery), Nelson (Agholor), Mack (Hollins), Miles (Sanders),” Carson Wentz said. “We’re going to get everyone involved, and that’s what I think we do a really good job of. But there’ve been weeks sometimes they double him, they do different things, they cheat the safety toward him, and I don’t think overthink that and keep playing ball.

The Eagles don't have a wide receiver among the top-50 wideouts in the NFL in yards, and Agholor and Jeffery rank 71st and 79th in the NFL in yards per catch.

Ertz has 470 career catches. With 30 more, he’ll become the 17th tight end in NFL history with 500 catches. 

Unless he gets a little help, it could take a while to get there.

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40-year-old Josh McCown was getting ready to play WR on Monday night

40-year-old Josh McCown was getting ready to play WR on Monday night

The Eagles entered Monday night’s game with just three healthy wide receivers and after Alshon Jeffery and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside got hurt, they were down to just one. 

So who would have been the next guy in? 

Well, 40-year-old quarterback Josh McCown was getting ready. 

“I was ready to go,” McCown told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark. “We had the helmet ready to go. The equipment guys were all over it. Had the radio-less helmet because you can’t have two green dots on the field at the same time.” 

McCown didn’t end up playing in Monday’s 23-17 overtime win. The Eagles got by with what they had, which meant playing third tight end Josh Perkins in several different spots. 

But the oldest player on the roster was ready. 

“We were ready to roll,” he said. “Shoot, I’d get in there and go. Obviously, as a quarterback, you know the offense. I guess it was like 12 years ago in Foxboro I had to go in and do it.”

That game McCown was talking about was on Dec. 3, 2006. That was the last time he caught a pass in an NFL game. 

In that game, McCown caught two passes for 15 yards from Lions quarterback Jon Kitna in a 28-21 loss to the Patriots. He also caught a 31-yard pass but it was brought back on an offensive pass interference call that he claimed was “a little suspect.” 

“Hopefully, I don’t get retroactively fined,” McCown said late Monday night, 13 years after the call. 

Is there a statute of limitations on that? 

Anyway, the fact that a 40-year-old McCown was even preparing to enter a game as a receiver is telling. First, about the injuries at that position. And, second, about the poor decision to go into a game with just three healthy receivers. 

Doug Pederson said the Eagles were hoping to have Nelson Agholor for the game, but he came in questionable and was inactive. 

At least they had McCown. 

“I’m not quite the option that J.J. (Arcega-Whiteside) is or Greg (Ward), obviously, but again, we were kind of up against it a little bit,” McCown said. “Just being able to have a contingency plan was the main thing. I was ready to roll.”

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Carson Wentz rallies Eagles past Giants throwing to ... who???

Carson Wentz rallies Eagles past Giants throwing to ... who???

It was Carson Wentz’s best stretch of football this year and it occurred under some of the most unusual circumstances you can imagine.

Tight ends playing receiver. Slot receivers playing outside. Practice squad guys in key roles.

A week after the Eagles blew a 14-point second-half lead to one two-win team, they rallied back from a 14-point second-half deficit against another two-win team.

And Wentz, after another slow start, finally looked like his old self.

Wentz not only rallied the Eagles back after they trailed by 14 points with two minutes left in the third quarter, he did it while throwing to Boston Scott, Greg Ward, Josh Perkins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside – none of whom were even playing a month ago – as well as Zach Ertz.

It is not easy,” Ertz said. “As a quarterback, chemistry, trust and timing is the No. 1 thing, and he’s putting a lot of trust in guys that he does not have a lot of reps with, and I think that speaks volumes of him. Being able to go out there, and it doesn’t really matter who is out there, NFC East opponent, down 17-3, and play his best football in that second half all year? I am extremely proud of him tonight with the way he led us.

Wentz threw for 350 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ critical 23-17 overtime win over the Giants at the Linc.

But look at his numbers on the Eagles’ five drives during their late comeback: 21-for-28 for 226 yards with two TD passes to Ertz, including the game-winner in overtime.

You go into the game with three receivers and now you’ve got Greg Ward usually in the slot and he’s out there playing (outside)," Wentz said. "You’ve got guys moving around. For me, I’ve got no choice but to trust these guys. Some of these routes I’ve never even repped before in those situations, but they stepped up and made plays. They did a great job.

This was vintage Wentz. But it couldn’t have happened without guys making plays around him.

And it's been a while since we've seen that.

With Nelson Agholor out, Alshon Jeffery leaving with an early injury and Mack Hollins and Jordan Matthews long gone, Wentz had to rally the Eagles back from 17-3 with guys he’s barely practiced with.

With a shot at the playoffs at stake.

Just keep believing,” Wentz said. “Keep believing and it’s time to make a decision how this is going to define us. Obviously, we knew it was not our first half. That was a rough one and that was an ugly one. We just said, ‘Keep believing and keep staying together.’ Defense was going to take care of their piece, which they did. And we were able to do enough offensively to get this win.

Wentz has had his issues this year, and he had his issues in the first half Monday night.

But it’s amazing how much better he looks when guys are actually catching footballs for him.

This was the first time the Eagles have come back from a 14-point halftime deficit since the 2014 opener, when they beat the Jaguars 34-17 after trailing 17-0.

Before that? Giants in 2010 at the Meadowlands. You might remember a DeSean Jackson punt return as time expired?

In all, the Eagles were 2-45 in their last 47 games when they trailed by at least 14 points at halftime.

Wentz was asked how big it was for him to win his first overtime game and engineer a rally from 14 down at halftime for the first time in his career.

This is huge for this whole team,” he said. “To come in after halftime, to be where we were, and obviously knowing that our backs were against the wall, season on the line-type of thing, for guys to just stay tough and stay together late in the game … and get the win and drive down to score right away? It’s huge for me personally and for this entire team.

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