With 10 catches, Zach Ertz gets some redemption after a trying week

With 10 catches, Zach Ertz gets some redemption after a trying week

Zach Ertz heard everything that was said about him last weekend. And he went into Sunday’s game against the Redskins determined to prove that the guy who avoided a block on Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict isn’t the real Zach Ertz.

“I don’t know if my teammates felt that I let them down by any means, but I wanted to prove to them that I wasn’t going to let them down ever again,” Ertz said.

“Obviously, there was a lot of noise. I know that. Everybody knew that. I was just going to go out and try to be the best teammate that I could be. Being physical. Being physical after the catch. Being physical in the run game. And hopefully I did that for them.”

Ertz didn’t have a perfect game Sunday, but you can’t question his effort.

His illegal block in the back penalty — and it was a borderline call — wiped out a Darren Sproles punt return touchdown. And he said he could have gotten better position on a Carson Wentz pass in the first quarter that Deshazor Everett picked off in the end zone.

But Ertz had his biggest receiving day of the year, with 10 catches for 112 yards, and he did play tough, with yards after the catch and a couple big plays down the field.

It was a rough week for Ertz after the Burfict play went viral. His decision to avoid contact with Burfict on a Carson Wentz scramble was analyzed and dissected all week.

“I'm sure it probably affected him personally, and he wanted to sort of redeem (himself) and get back out on the field and do what he can do,” head coach Doug Pederson said.

“Obviously I thought he did a nice job. ... He really stepped up and did a nice job this week. He had a great week of practice.”

Ertz said he prayed a lot in the wake of the Bengals game and came into Sunday’s game against the Redskins with a clear mind.

“Everyone deals with adversity in different ways,” he said. “I am not going to let one play define my career — good or bad.

“Obviously there was a lot of hoopla surrounding that play last week and I just wanted to tell my teammates that I got their back regardless of what is going on, on the outside.

“I was focused on being the best tight end I could be today and being the best teammate I could be. I think I did that today.”

Ertz and Wentz got off to a slow start this year.

In his first five games — remember, he missed the Bears and Steelers games — Ertz had just 15 catches for 150 yards and no touchdowns.

In six games since, he has 42 catches for 414 yards and two TDs. Over the last six games, Ertz has the most catches in the NFL by a tight end and fifth-most overall.

“We are learning on the fly, just like all the skill guys,” Ertz said of his football relationship with Wentz. “We didn’t really get a lot of reps during the preseason so everything has been kind of building and building with a lot of the guys.

“Jordan (Matthews) has kind of picked his game up. Trey (Burton) has had a couple of great weeks. I thought I picked my game up and I think we are going to continue to build.

“Carson’s a heck of a talent and we have a lot of talent at the skill positions. The most important thing between a wide receiver (or) tight end and quarterback is the chemistry and having the trust to be where you are supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and that just happens over time.

“People made a big deal that I wasn’t getting the ball at the beginning, but we are putting in the work each and every day.”

It’s kind of an odd statistical quirk that the five biggest games of Ertz’s career have come in December (or January).

Over the past three years, Ertz has the fourth-most December catches in the NFL (71), behind only Antonio Brown, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham.

His 740 yards in 10 December games are ninth-most in the NFL since 2014 and most by any tight end.

You can chalk that up to Ertz's having to get used to a different quarterback every year. He’s in only his fourth year but has already played with Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford and Wentz.

It seems like by the end of each season, Ertz has built up enough chemistry with his new quarterback to flourish.

“Opportunities,” Ertz said. “It’s hard to catch the ball when you have a couple targets. I was trying to get open to the best of my ability (earlier in the year), but December has kind of been the month where the hard work pays off.

“I work extremely hard to stay on top of my body throughout the year, and I don’t know if that has something to do with it or it’s just that we get in passing situations or what it is, but that’s just how it’s been the last couple years.”

The bottom line is that the Eagles haven’t reached the playoffs since Ertz’s rookie year, and they haven’t won a playoff game since 2008, when he was in high school.

The 27-22 loss to the Redskins Sunday at the Linc dropped the Eagles to 5-8 and left them one loss from a second straight losing season, something they haven’t had since 1997 and 1998.

“It’s tough,” Ertz said. “You play the game to get to the playoffs and give yourself a chance at the Super Bowl.

“That’s what the fans expet, that’s what the fans deserve. So every time you come up short it hurts. I kow it hurts them, but it hurts us even more.”

Zach Ertz's urgent message if there's no high school football

Zach Ertz's urgent message if there's no high school football

Pennsylvania high school football is in jeopardy, and Zach Ertz wants to make sure all the kids who are likely to miss out on the experience are OK.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday “strongly recommended” that high school football – and all interscholastic sports state-wide – be postponed until Jan. 1, 2021, at the earliest.

The Pennsylvania Scholastic Athletic Association, the governing body for Pennsylvania high school sports, met Friday and decided to delay the start of fall sports until Aug. 24 but has not yet decided whether all sports will indeed be cancelled for the rest of this calendar year.

During a Zoom call Friday, Ertz brought up the situation without being asked and emphasized how important it is – based on his own experiences as a teenager – that if high school sports are cancelled for kids to be provided other opportunities to learn, to grow, to develop and to keep them off the street.

I just want to talk a little bit about high school football and my experience,” Ertz said. “I was 15 years old, my parents separated, I was the oldest of four boys, and the only thing that I knew how to do, the only way I could express myself -- I was so frustrated inside -- the only thing I could do was play football. All I did was lift weights, play football, play basketball, and that allowed me to kind of release my internal stress and pressure that I had built up. 

“And Tom Wolf  came out with the recommendation that there is no fall football or fall sports in general. And the adversity I faced when I was 15 is about 1-1,000th of what many kids in this state in particular are going to be facing if they don’t have an outlet, if there is no football in the fall for these kids, and I would just really challenge everyone if the decision is no football, there’s got to be an alternative where we (don’t) just allow these kids to go about their days with no guidance, with no further investment. 

“Obviously, football costs money. So if they were to disband football, where is that money going to go? I’d love to see it invested in these kids to make sure that they’re OK and taken care of and not on the streets from 3 to 7. Because that’s what I was fortunate enough to do. I had organization after school with football and basketball and I couldn’t imagine the path that I would have gone down if I didn’t have football to express myself. 

“I want kids to be healthy, first and foremost, that is the primary goal, and if that is the decision to really think outside the box and how we can keep these kids safe.

Ertz grew up in Danville, Calif., and played football and basketball at Monte Vista High School. He earned a scholarship to Stanford, where he spent three years before joining the Eagles in 2013.

He ranks 13th in NFL history among tight ends with 525 receptions.

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The 10 greatest NFL players who became irrelevant Eagles

The 10 greatest NFL players who became irrelevant Eagles

They’re all-time NFL greats. And they’re former Eagles.

But they were never both at the same time.

We thought it would be fun to come up with a list of the 10 greatest NFL players who finished their careers in obscurity as Eagles.

Two rules: They weren’t allowed to spend more than one season with the Eagles and their final NFL game had to be in an Eagles uniform.

That eliminates guys like Mark Bavaro, Roy Green and Greg Townsend.  

But there are some pretty notable players - including three Hall of Famers - who finished their brilliant NFL careers as mediocre and forgotten Eagles.

Interesting to note that seven of the 10 played for the Eagles between 1993 and 1997!

Tomorrow, we'll do the opposite top-10 list ... the 10 greatest players who began their career in obscurity with the Eagles! 

1. DE Richard Dent

Before he was an Eagle [1983-1996]: Four-time Pro Bowler with the Bears and an all-pro and Super Bowl MVP in1985. One of only six defensive players named Super Bowl MVP.  Ranked 3rd in NFL history with 133 sacks through 1996 (behind Reggie White and Bruce Smith). One of only four players in NFL history with consecutive 17-sack seasons (White, J.J. Watt and Mark Gastineau are the others). Was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

As an Eagle [1997]: Had 4 1/2 sacks in 15 games with no starts playing for a 6-win team. Finished third on team in sacks, behind Rhett Hall [8.0] and William Thomas [5.0]. 

2. WR James Lofton

Before he was an Eagle [1978-1992]: Eight-time Pro Bowler with Packers and Bills. 

Held NFL record with 13,821 yards when he signed with Eagles and ranked 3rd with 750 catches [behind Art Monk and Steve Largent]. Had 18.4 yards-per-catch average, 4th-highest in NFL history. Had 6th 1,000-yard season at 35 years old. One of seven players in history to average over 20 yards per catch four times. Named to NFL team of the decade for the 1980s. Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2003.

As an Eagle [1993]: Played nine games. Caught 13 passes for 167 yards and no TDs. Final career reception was 32-yarder from Bubby Brister against 49ers on final day of 1993 season.

3. WR Art Monk

Before he was an Eagle [1980-1994]: Held NFL record with 934 receptions when he signed with Eagles and ranked 4th with 12,607 receiving yards. Set NFL record with 106 catches in 1984 all-pro season. Won two Super Bowls. Had over 1,000 yards in postseason. Named to NFL team of the decade for the 1980s. Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2008. 

As an Eagle [1995]: Played in three games. Caught six passes for 114 yards. Final career reception was a 36-yarder from Rodney Peele in Christmas Eve loss to Bears at Soldier Field. Monk broke his arm on the play while being tackled by Mark Carrier. He never played again.

4. PR-KR Mel Gray

Before he was an Eagle [1986-1997]: Three-time all-pro and three-time Pro Bowl returner with the Lions. Had six kick return TDs and three punt return TDs. Led NFL in kick return average in 1991 and 1994 and in punt return average in 1987 and 1991. One of four players in NFL history to average 10 yards per punt return and 24 yards per kick return and one of only four players with 3 TD returns on both punts and kicks. Was named to the team of the decade for the 1990s second team as both punt returner and kick returner.

As an Eagle [1997]: Played in three games. In his first game called for a fair catch of a Brad Maynard punt at the Eagles’ 5-yard-line.  Returned two punts for an 8.5 average and one kickoff for 8 yards. 

5. WR Mark Duper

Before he was an Eagle [1982-1992]: Had 511 catches for 8,869 yards and 59 touchdowns with the Dolphins, made three Pro Bowls, had five straight years averaging at least 18 yards per catch and as of the end of the 1992 season had a 17.4 yards-per-catch average, 6th-highest in NFL history.

As an Eagle [1993]: The Eagles actually signed him on Aug. 18, two days after Carter retired. He was released 12 days later (along with Casey Weldon, Siran Stacy and Ephesians Bartley). 

6. DT Michael Carter 

Before he was an Eagle [1984-1992]: Three-time Pro Bowler and all-pro defensive tackle with 49ers. Starter on three 49ers Super Bowl teams. Olympic silver medalist in the shot put in 1984.

As an Eagle [1993]: Signed with the Eagles on July 15 and retired on Aug. 16. 

7. DT Haloti Ngata

Before he was an Eagle [2006-2017]: Ngata made five straight Pro Bowls as a Raven and two all-pro teams.  He was a starter on the Ravens’ Super Bowl-championship team in 2012. His teams made the playoffs in 9 of his 13 seasons. His 19 career playoff games are 2nd-most in NFL history by a defensive lineman (Vince Wilfork played in 24). He’s already been inducted into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor. 

As an Eagle [2018]: Played in 13 games starting nine for the 2018 Eagles. Played 368 snaps and had 17 tackles. Retired after the season.

8. RB Chris Warren

Before he was an Eagle [1990-2000]: Warren was one of the most accomplished running backs in the NFL in the 1990s. He made three straight Pro Bowls for the Seahawks, had four straight 1,000-yard seasons and during the 6-year span from 1992 through 1997 was the 3rd-leading rusher in the NFL, behind only Hall of Famers Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith. 

As an Eagle [2000]: With Duce Staley out for the season and the running game ineffective, the Eagles signed Warren late in the 2000 regular season. He rushed for 42 yards in the regular-season finale against the Bengals, then was 22-for-85 in the playoff win over the Bucs - the Eagles’ first playoff win under Andy Reid. In Eagles history only Wilbert Montgomery has more carries in a playoff game. Warren ran for 11 yards against the Giants a week later in his final NFL game.

9. DT Keith Millard 

Before he was an Eagle [1985-1992]: Two-time all-pro defensive tackle for Vikings. Had 54 sacks as an interior lineman. Set NFL record for defensive tackles with 18 sacks in 1989. His 51 sacks remains 2nd-most in NFL history by a defensive tackle in his first five seasons (behind Aaron Donald’s 59 1/2). 

As an Eagle [1993]: Played in 14 games, starting six on a defensive line with Andy Harmon, William Perry, Mike Floes and Clyde Simmons. Played his final NFL game on final day of 1993 season - also Lofton’s final NFL game. Sacked Steve Bono on the final play of his career.

10. WR Carlos Carson

Before he was an Eagle [1980-89]: Caught 353 passes for 6,372 yards and 33 touchdowns with the Chiefs and made the Pro Bowl in 1983 and 1987. Had three 1,000-yard seasons, and in 1983 finished second in the NFL to Mike Quick with 1,351 yards. Piled up 6,431 scrimmage yards in a Chiefs uniform.

As an Eagle [1989]: In his first game as an Eagle, against the Redskins at the Vet, he dropped a perfectly thrown pass from Randall Cunningham that would have been a long touchdown. He finished the season with one 12-yard catch and minus-nine yards on an end around for three scrimmage yards.

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