Eagles

Zach Ertz having record-setting season but won't talk about it

Zach Ertz having record-setting season but won't talk about it

SUNBURY-ON-THAMES, England — He won’t talk about it. He can’t talk about it. 

The reality is, Zach Ertz is having one of the greatest seasons a tight end has ever had.

Ertz’s relationship with Eagles fans is an odd one. All he does is produce huge numbers and yet, the focus by many fans is on a misguided belief that he somehow should be picking up more yards after the catch.

He caught the game-winning touchdown in the Eagles’ first Super Bowl championship ever, and has followed that up with the hottest start an NFL tight end has ever had.

And yet a good portion of fans choose to focus on the fact Ertz doesn’t make a habit out of heroically busting out of tackles while carrying two linebackers and a safety on his back for an extra yard.

The reality is, Ertz is having a remarkable season by any measure.

“Having Zach out there, my favorite attribute about him is how smart he is,” Carson Wentz said Friday at the Hazelton rugby complex. “He’s sometimes asking for the check before I even make a check. We’re in each other’s minds with that stuff.

“Just knowing where he’s going to be, knowing his body language and how he plays, that’s big for us. We’re great friends and that just really helps us out on the field as well. We have great chemistry.”

Let’s look at the numbers:

• Going into the Eagles’ game, Ertz has 57 catches for 630 yards. The 57 catches are six more than any tight end has ever had after seven games. The 618 yards are sixth-most all-time, 56 fewer than Jimmy Graham’s record 674 in 2011.

• Ertz is averaging 8.1 catches per game. He needs to average exactly 6.0 the rest of the year to break Jason Witten’s record of 110 catches in a season by a tight end, set in 2012. He’s on pace for 1,412 yards, which would break the single-season record of 1,327, set in 2011 by Rob Gronkowski.

• Ertz now has 378 receptions, already seventh-most ever by a tight end in his first six seasons. He needs 57 more catches to break Graham’s record of 434 catches by a tight end in his first six seasons.

• Ertz already has eight career games with 10 or more catches. The only tight ends with more are Tony Gonzalez (15), Witten (11) and Ozzie Newsome (11).

• Going back to last year’s playoffs, Ertz has nine straight games with five or more catches. That ties the NFL record for tight ends set in 2012 by Jason Witten. It also ties the Eagles record with Irving Fryar and Brian Westbrook.

Ertz has already moved up from 11th to fifth in Eagles history in career receptions, trailing only Harold Carmichael (589), Pete Retzlaff (452), Brian Westbrook (426) and Brent Celek (398).

Ertz is understandably reluctant to talk about his personal achievements while the Eagles are 3-4 and losers of three of their last four games:

I think it’s tough to focus on individual stuff right now. It’s tough in the sense that even if I go out there and have 10 catches in a loss it doesn’t matter. I’d much rather have two catches and win than 10 catches in a loss. I’m just trying to do everything I can to put the team in a position to win football games. Carson and I are seeing the game extremely similar. If you’re able to see the game the same way with the quarterback — and that only develops over time — then you’re able to be successful. When you’re playing with a guy like Carson that obviously helps. But we’ve got to win football games and that’s what matters to me right now. After the season, hopefully in February, I’ll be able to talk more about that.

Nobody gets more out of their ability than Ertz. Nobody prepares harder than Ertz. Nobody is more of a leader than Ertz.

It’s time for people to start focusing on all the positives he brings to the table instead of a perceived negative.

Ertz is just 27 years old and in his sixth season, but he’s already an all-time great Eagle.

If you don’t like it, too bad.

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Who are the Eagles' 10 best players under 25 years old?

Who are the Eagles' 10 best players under 25 years old?

There was a piece on NFL.com this week listing the top under-25 players in the NFL by position.

The list was impressive and really makes you realize how much remarkable young talent is in the league.

Among those listed are record-setting Chiefs quarterback Pat Mahomes; Bucs receiver Chris Godwin, who had over 1,300 yards last year; Pro Bowl offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Orlando Brown; sack machines Nick and Joey Boss; and star defensive backs Marshon Lattimore, Marlon Humphrey, Jamal Adams and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

There were 25 guys in all. 

And no Eagles. 

Not surprisingly.

The story used the scheduled 2020 opening day as its cutoff. Only players who will be 24 or younger as of Sept. 13, 1995, were eligible.

Which got us thinking about the best Eagles under 25.

And it’s a little ominous.

The Eagles haven’t had a player under 25 make a Pro Bowl since kicker Cody Parkey in 2014 and they haven’t had a position player under 25 make a Pro Bowl since Nick Foles in 2013. Their last defensive players under 25 to make a Pro Bowl were Michael Lewis and Lito Sheppard in 2004.

For the sake of comparison, 30 NFL players who began last year under 25 made a Pro Bowl just last year, and 91 different players under 25 have made at least one Pro Bowl since the last Eagle did.

The Cowboys, for the sake of comparison, have had five.

Now, Pro Bowls are just one way of measuring young talent, but the urgency for the Eagles to begin developing younger players is clear. 

Especially when you look at this list of the top 10 Eagles under 25. 

For the record, Dallas Goedert, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Hassan Ridgeway and Will Parks are already 25, and Greg Ward, Rasul Douglas and Joe Ostman turn 25 this summer. And we’re not including rookies just because who knows.

1. RB Miles Sanders
Had one of the finest rookie seasons in Eagles history, with 818 rushing yards, 50 catches and 1,327 scrimmage yards. Led all NFL rookie running backs in scrimmage yards. Turns 25: May 1, 2022.

2. DE Derek Barnett
Barnett has been OK, but a top-15 pick with 14 sacks in three years probably shouldn’t be your second-best under-25 player. Among players who entered the league in 2017, Barnett’s 14 career sacks are only 11th. Turns 25: June 25, 2021.

3. CB Avonte Maddox
Has shown a lot of promise, mainly as a slot and mainly down the stretch in 2018. May have inside track for a starting outside corner spot in 2020. Turns 25: March 31, 2021.

4. OT Andre Dillard 
His three decent starts at left tackle last year earn Dillard the No. 4 spot. His awful start at right tackle is why he’s no higher. Turns 25: Oct. 3, 2020.

5. DE Josh Sweat
OK, now it gets tricky. Sweat had 4.0 sacks in 352 snaps last year, which isn't a great ratio. But at least he played and contributed. Turns 25: March 29, 2022.

6. LB T.J. Edwards 
Didn’t play a lot as an undrafted rookie — 112 defensive snaps all year — but looks like a solid inside linebacker prospect. Turns 25: Aug. 12, 2021.

7. CB Sidney Jones 
Obviously, Jones has been a huge disappointment since the Eagles drafted him in the second round in 2017, but at least he showed a couple brief flashes last year that give us hope. Turns 25: April 29, 2021.

8. DT Anthony Rush 
Came off the practice squad to give the Eagles a late-season lift with 152 snaps over the last nine games. Turns 25: Sept. 1, 2021

9. CB Craig James 
We’re at the point where we’re going with a special teamer here. James played nearly 250 special teams snaps last season. Turns 25: April 29, 2021.

10. WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside 
I know, I know, but somebody has to be No. 10, and at least JJAW had seven 1st-down receptions last year. That’s 70 percent of his career catches! Turns 25: Dec. 31, 2021.

The rest: Here are the remaining players on the current roster (not including rookies) who will be under 25 on opening day: Marcus Epps, Marcus Green, Deaontay Burnett, Nate Herbig, Elijah Holyfield, Albert Huggins, Jordan Mailata, Shareef Miller, Sua Opeta, Keegan Render, Tremon Smith.

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Doug Pederson compares Andre Dillard to another former 1st-round pick

Doug Pederson compares Andre Dillard to another former 1st-round pick

Doug Pederson last week gave left tackle Andre Dillard the strongest vote of confidence we’ve heard from the Eagles thus far this offseason, saying he has “a ton of confidence” in Dillard’s ability to hold down the left tackle position. 

The day after that vote of confidence, Pederson was on WIP and was asked if Dillard is mentally tough enough to take control of that spot. That’s when he brought up an interesting name. 

I have no doubts about that. Listen, I was with Kansas City when we drafted Eric Fisher. He was the first overall pick that year. It comes with the territory. People are looking at you and people want to see what type of player you are. And anytime you give up a sack or you miss your run block, you’re going to be crucified, that’s just the nature of the business. 

“You go back and look at last season and the four games [Dillard] played and the preseason. He’s got tremendous upside. He’s got a great skillset. He’s working on his strength, getting stronger this offseason, even through virtual workouts. But he is doing that, getting reports on him on a daily basis. I have no doubt that he can step in Day 1, fill in, he’s smart enough, very talented, obviously, to assume that role.

This has been a big topic all offseason as we wait to see whether the Eagles bring back Jason Peters for another season or turn over the position to their 2019 first-round pick. 

The similarities between Dillard and Fisher are worth exploring. 

As a reminder, when Andy Reid took over in Kansas City (and brought Pederson with him) in 2013, they used the No. 1 overall pick on Fisher out of Central Michigan. 

Fisher started 13 games at right tackle as a rookie but struggled and fans took notice. It took him a few years to remove the bust label from his name but in 2018 he was named a Pro Bowler and in 2019 he was the starting left tackle in Super Bowl LIV. 

There are plenty of similarities between Fisher and Dillard: 

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As you can see, both players were known for their athletic profiles when they came out of college. But both also needed to work on their strength. 

After the 2013 season, then-Chiefs GM John Dorsey said this about Fisher: “He understands that he’s got an offseason to get bigger and stronger. Size will help him a little bit.” 

Sound familiar? 

It should. Getting stronger was the No. 1 thing Dillard needed to do this offseason. It was even the first thing he mentioned the day after the 2019 season ended. He said he already weighed around 320 pounds but he needed to change the composition of that weight. 

“I just want to get stronger and keep studying up and learning different tips and tricks,” Dillard said on locker cleanout day. 

And earlier this month, All-Pro center Jason Kelce also admitted that building strength is the main thing Dillard needed to work on. The good news, Kelce said, was that Dillard had all the things that can’t be added later like his quick twitch, athleticism and intelligence. 

Fisher played his entire rookie season as a right tackle before moving to left tackle in 2014. Dillard played minimally overall in 2019 but was much better in his three starts at left tackle than he was in his one disastrous half at right tackle. 

It’s not like Fisher has really grown into a superstar and he still probably hasn’t lived up to his No. 1 draft pick status. Remember, Lane Johnson was taken at No. 4 that season (Luke Joeckel was No. 2). But Fisher has improved a lot since he entered the league and has started nearly 100 games in the NFL for one of the best teams in the league. 

Fisher was mentally strong enough to get over his early-career struggles and the Eagles have to hope that Dillard is able to do what he needs to do to be successful too. And unlike Fisher in 2013, we didn’t really see Dillard on the field very much as a rookie. 

Still, Dillard said he made his biggest jump as a player in his one NFL season and learned a lot from the few games he did play. 

“I’m really glad that I got those chances because that’s what I was brought in to do for the future,” Dillard said in January. “It helped me get my feet wet a little bit and really helped me kind of gauge what it’s like being out there on the big stage in live situations.”

The Eagles are counting on Dillard to return with more physical and mental strength, ready to take over as their starting left tackle. 

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