Zach Ertz Should Be An Elite Tight End In 2017

By Tucker Bagley, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

Zach Ertz has seen a lot in his time with the Eagles. Regime changes, quarterback changes, coaching changes. In fact, the only thing the tight end hasn't seen is consistency. Until now.

Proclaiming Ertz is going to have a breakout season has become a summer tradition over the past three seasons. The fact that the Stanford product hasn't yet made the Pro Bowl or an All-Pro team may be surprising to some people, but after years of being surrounded by question marks, it seems like Ertz has finally found himself in a situation where he can truly thrive.

Since Ertz joined the Eagles as a second-round draft pick in 2013, the Birds have cycled through five different starting quarterbacks. Starting with Michael Vick and ending with Carson Wentz, it has been difficult for Ertz, or any of the Eagles' receivers for that matter, develop a rapport with their signal caller. But now, with Wentz entrenched as the Eagles quarterback for the foreseeable future, Ertz will get his chance to shine.

One thing Ertz has proved over his career is he's able to perform at a high level when given the chance to develop chemistry with his quarterback, just look at his statistics from 2015. Playing with Sam Bradford as his quarterback, Ertz never was able to top 65 yards in a game or score a touchdown in his first eight games with Bradford. 

However, in the final six games of that season — Bradford missed two games due to injury — Ertz caught 44 passes for 527 yards, leading all tight ends in that latter category in the same time-span. 

“I think we’ve kind of taken that next step the past three games,” Ertz told during that hot streak. “We always saw the game the same way, but now we’re actually going out there and executing it the way we see it and it’s good for the team.

“Third down, any time our team needs a play, I want to be the guy that gets the ball. And last Sunday I think we did a pretty good job of it. There were some plays we would have liked to have had back, but I thought it was a good game overall for the two of us.”

It's fair to question the caliber of Bradford's play when he was with the Eagles, but just having a steady hand at the helm made it easier for Ertz to make plays and produce at a high level. And with Wentz playing all 16 games a season ago, a similar trend developed. 

Ertz played well in Week 1, but missed the next two games with injuries and struggled to get back on track. But just like in 2015, Ertz came alive down the stretch and finished off the season with a 13-catch, 139-yard, two-touchdown game against the Cowboys in Week 17.

Ertz knows this offseason is important and he expects to hit the ground running when the regular season kicks off.

" I’m just excited about finally having the same quarterback," Ertz said in April. "Having the whole offseason, the summer, really getting into the fine details of the route-running with him. How he sees things, how I see things based on certain coverages. I think that’s really exciting for me and all the other guys as well."

Maybe now, finally, Ertz is ready for a true breakout season.