Replacing DeSean: More Zach Ertz, please

Replacing DeSean: More Zach Ertz, please

82 receptions, 1,332 yards receiving, nine touchdowns; that’s what the Philadelphia Eagles must replace in the NFL’s No. 2 offense after the release of DeSean Jackson. Where’s it supposed to come from? Not necessarily from any one player. In this four part series, we examine whose roles will increase as a result of the move. [ Part 1: Jeremy Maclin ][ Part 2: Darren Sproles ]

There was a lot of talk about how prevalent the tight end position was going to be in Chip Kelly’s offense when the head coach first arrived in Philadelphia. The Eagles quickly signed James Casey to a free-agent contract, then proceeded to spend the 35th overall pick on Zach Ertz out of Stanford.

We even saw a formation that put as many as four tight ends on the field at one time in a preseason game.

Once the regular season got underway though, Kelly didn’t go as heavy on tight ends as many presumed he would. The Eagles used 11 personnel—one back, one tight end, three wide receivers—roughly 75 percent of the time in 2013, often more than that earlier in the year.

It’s safe to say there should be an increase in the use of tight ends moving forward, if for no other reason than out of necessity. The Birds will surely draft a receiver, but there’s no telling how much a rookie will be ready to contribute from day one, and while there are some viable No. 3 candidates already on the roster, likely nobody that absolutely must be on the field.

Of course, the expansion of the tight ends’ role in Kelly’s offense should also be organic to an extent. The simple fact of the matter is Ertz demands more playing time based on his performance down the stretch last season.

In nine games from November on through the playoffs, Ertz was a beast, pulling down 25 receptions for 290 yards (11.6 AVG) and five touchdowns. Bear in mind he was still playing fewer than 50 percent of the offensive snaps, while games such as the Snow Bowl and a 54-11 blowout of the Chicago Bears naturally made for fewer opportunities to have an impact.

Ertz’s emergence in the second half came as no surprise. He’s an obvious matchup problem at 6’5”, 250 pounds with 4.68 speed—a smooth route-runner as well, particularly for a first-year player.

There’s no limit to what Kelly can do with Ertz in his offense. He can line up as a traditional in-line tight end or in the slot, as has become popular around the league. There were even instances where Ertz was lined up outside the numbers.

The key is getting Ertz on the field, only not necessarily at the expense of Brent Celek. While the seven-year veteran experienced a dramatic dip in overall production, he made his presence felt as one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL, particularly in the running game.

And although Celek’s 32 receptions and 502 yards were his lowest since taking over as starter, it wasn’t apparent that was due to any decline in his ability. 15.7 yards per reception was a personal best by over two yards, six touchdowns the second-highest total of his career.

With Jackson out of the picture, and no clear-cut No. 3 receiver, there is definitely room for both Celek and Ertz in the offense going forward.

Ertz wound up finishing the ’13 campaign with 36 catches, 469 yards and four touchdowns, which is better than all but a handful of active tight ends can say for their rookie seasons. Those numbers compare favorably and in most cases are better than the likes of Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Vernon Davis when they were pups, to name a few.

Not bad company. Not bad at all.

To be fair, it’s impossible to project exactly what Ertz’s ceiling is or exactly what type of figures he’ll post next season. Just because a player had a better rookie year than some multi-time Pro Bowlers/Hall of Fame types doesn’t guarantee he’ll ascend to that level himself.

That being said, if last season was any indication, Ertz has the potential to make a push for the 1,000-yard mark and/or double-digit touchdowns. All he needs is the opportunity, which it seems obvious he’ll have… and then some.

Eagles sign former third-round guard Dallas Thomas

Eagles sign former third-round guard Dallas Thomas

The Eagles have signed former Dolphins offensive guard Dallas Thomas to a reserve/futures contract. 

Thomas, 27, was drafted by the Dolphins in the third round (No. 77) out of Tennessee in 2013 and was with them until this past season.  

In his four-year career, Thomas has played in 37 games with 26 starts. He started nine games in 2014 and started all 16 games at left guard in 2015. 

Thomas (6-5, 315 pounds) and 2014 third-rounder Billy Turner were both released in October after a poor showing against the Titans. While Thomas was the team's starter at left guard in 2015, rookie Laremy Tunsil took over that position with the Dolphins in 2016. 

In 2015, when Thomas started all 16 games at left guard, he was ranked as the worst guard in football by ProFootballFocus. He gave up 10 sacks, 10 QB hits and 36 QB hurries. 

Mike Trout wins Eagles-Cowboys bet forcing friend to look ridiculous

Mike Trout wins Eagles-Cowboys bet forcing friend to look ridiculous

Mike Trout sure does win a lot when the Eagless beat the Cowboys.

Not only did the Los Angeles Angels outfielder get a touchdown ball from Carson Wentz during the Eagles win over the Cowboys to cap off the season, but he also won a bet on the game with a friend.

Turns out, Trout had some sort of bet with DJ Cottrell, whose Twitter profile says he is from Trout's hometown of Millville, NJ. Cottrell is likely a Cowboys fan and came up on the losing end.

"The fact I have to wear an entire Eagles uniform to the gym for a week is going to be the death of me," he Tweeted on Tuesday.

Then he posted a photo of himself in the ridiculous football uniform while posing alongside Trout.

It's good to be Mike Trout. Not so much a Dallas Cowboys fan these days.

[via Cut4]