Zach Ertz

Most important Eagles for 2020: Zach Ertz is still a beast

Most important Eagles for 2020: Zach Ertz is still a beast

Over the next four weeks, we’ll be counting down the 20 most important Eagles for the 2020 season. 

20: Nate Sudfeld 
19. Avonte Maddox
18. Nathan Gerry
17. Dallas Goedert  
16. Derek Barnett
15. Jalen Reagor 
14. Jalen Mills
13. Brandon Brooks
12. Rodney McLeod
11. Javon Hargrave
10. Miles Sanders  
9. Andre Dillard
8. Brandon Graham
7. Zach Ertz 

We got to Dallas Goedert earlier in this countdown at No. 17, but let’s not lose sight of just how good Zach Ertz is. He’s still the better tight end and one of the three best in the entire league. 

Last season, Ertz caught 88 passes for 916 yards, both the second-highest totals of his career and he also added six touchdowns. He’s been to three straight Pro Bowls and has caught 70+ passes for 800+ yards in five straight seasons. 

There are just two players in the NFL who have longer season streaks with 70/800: DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones, who have both done it for six straight seasons. 

The craziest thing is that Ertz has gone 70/800 for five straight seasons and just two other Eagles have ever had 70/800 in two straight seasons: Irving Fryar from 1996-97 and Jordan Matthews in 2015-16. 

So what Ertz is doing isn’t just amazing. He’s putting up all-time great numbers. 

With 65 more catches, he’ll pass Harold Carmichael for first on the Eagles’ all-time receptions list. 

Ertz and Carson Wentz have become close on and off the field and Ertz is his go-to target. Of his 204 catches over the last two seasons, 122 of them have gone for first downs. 

One main reason Ertz has been so important to the Eagles is because they haven’t had consistent play at the receiver position. He’s been the offense’s best and most consistent weapon in the last several seasons. In fact, he’s led the team in receiving for each of the last four years. 

While the Eagles have added some new receivers this offseason, my best guess is that as long as Ertz stays healthy, he’ll lead the team in receptions again in 2020. 

Ertz is 29 now and he’s under contract through the 2021 season, which also happens to be when Goedert’s contract runs out. The Eagles will eventually have a decision to make, but as long as Ertz keeps playing at this high of a level, he’s going to be a key part of the Eagles’ offense. 

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Inside Rodney McLeod's 'mind-blowing' talk with Dallas Goedert amid George Floyd protests

Inside Rodney McLeod's 'mind-blowing' talk with Dallas Goedert amid George Floyd protests

A number of Eagles players, current and former, have spoken up in the weeks since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis and protests against institutional racism and police brutality swept across the nation, including here in Philadelphia.

One player who took to the streets alongside Philadelphia residents was safety Rodney McLeod, who protested in Center City, as did former Eagles safty Malcolm Jenkins.

Jenkins became the team's de facto leader on societal issues during his time in Philly, but with Jenkins leaving the Eagles this offseason, McLeod said this week that he's trying to take the lead and be an agent for change.

And that includes in his own (virtual) locker room.

McLeod appeared on NFL Network's Good Morning Football on Wednesday to talk about his role in the protests, and his conversations with teammates amid the ongoing protests:

The ninth-year safety said he's spoken to a number of Eagles, but one conversation in particular stuck out:

I had conversations with guys like Carson, Zach Ertz, [Jason] Kelce, Jake Elliott, and Dallas Goedert, and two guys who we all know have spoken out in a very powerful way and made statements were Zach Ertz and Carson. And I challenged them to not have their voices end there, to now take action. One thing I observed from them was their willingness to listen, and also being eager to learn more, to get out there in the front lines, to be a participant, and to stand alongside their brothers like myself. 

I had a very candid conversation with Dallas Goedert where he told me his first encounter with an African-American man was in college. It was mind-blowing for me to hear him say that, to think that neighborhoods or people's upbringings exist, because I come from a different background, where I've seen all different types of races, and I've encountered them all, and shared experiences with them. So you have to think that there are plenty of Dallas Goederts out there who, unfortunately, don't get the opportunity to experience the African-American man, and when they do, what is their perspective? How has that race been portrayed, either through the news or what they see on television, or what they're talking about in their homes?

That's quite a detail from Goedert. The 25-year-old tight end grew up in Britton, South Dakota, a small town with a population just over 1,200 and an overwhelmingly white demographic breakdown, so it makes sense.

McLeod, on the other hand, grew up around Clinton, Maryland, a town of over 30,000 with a majority African-American population.

It's really cool to see Eagles players of different backgrounds and upbringings coming together and having important conversations as a team during such a unique moment.

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NFL 2020 tight end rankings: Could Zach Ertz miss the top-four cut?

NFL 2020 tight end rankings: Could Zach Ertz miss the top-four cut?

Zach Ertz has been an elite pass-catching tight end basically since 2014, his second season with the Eagles. His size, route-running, and athleticism makes him a near-impossible matchup for defenses.

But Ertz turns 30 this November, and he has a TE1-in-waiting sitting behind him on the depth chart in Dallas Goedert. Is 2020 the year we see him take a step out of the elite tight end ranks?

The folks over at Pro Football Focus think, even if it's not a big step, Ertz won't be a top four tight end in the NFL this season. They projected receiving totals, and instead of Ertz rounding out the top four, as most would expect, they have...

Rob Gronkowski?

Yep:

There's a lot to take in here. Let's look at some things that aren't Ertz.

For one, Mark Andrews at No. 1 would be quite a jump for the third-year tight end. He's had two great seasons to start his career, but the Ravens aren't a pass-happy offense. I don't see the yards piling up like this.

The Raiders' Darren Waller had 1,145 yards last year. It's possible he's a one-year wonder, and it's likely rookie Henry Ruggs III sees Waller get fewer targets, but having Gronkowski over Waller is... odd.

As for Gronk, he hasn't played a 16-game season since 2011, and he went for just 682 yards in his most recent NFL season. Is he well-rested enough to return to 2017 form? Maybe. But with stud wideouts like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin available for Tom Brady, there likely aren't enough targets in Tampa Bay to push Gronk to 999 yards.

Now, for Ertz. Ertz has reached 999 yards in a season just once: 1,163 yards in 2018. He saw his yards number tumble last year, but the whole team really took a step back, and Dallas Goedert became more comfortable in the offense. Ertz is still a stud until proven otherwise, and I think he's still a top-four tight end. 

Of course, with rookie Jalen Reagor catching passes, Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson both ostensibly healthy, and Goedert continuing to grow, Ertz could either see his pass-catching opportunities get easier... or see his targets dry up. So it's not unthinkable that he finishes with, say, 825 yards in 2020.

But I certainly don't think he'll finish lower than a recently-unretired Gronk.

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