Zach Ertz (left) and Brent Celek combined for eight catches, 69 yards and two touchdowns in Oakland. (USA Today Images)
Before the season began, Chip Kelly and Pat Shurmur talked a lot about the Eagles using sets with multiple tight ends in order to take advantage of the versatile players they have at that position. Despite those preseason proclamations, Eagles tight ends have been better –- or at least more noticeable -– as blockers this year than pass-catchers.
That trend changed last weekend in Oakland. Brent Celek was targeted four times, catching three passes for 27 yards and a touchdown. Rookie Zach Ertz had five catches on six targets -- both of which were season highs –- for 42 yards and a touchdown.
It was the most combined targets and catches for Celek and Ertz in a single game this season. Were they effective because quarterback Nick Foles had an historic afternoon? And did their combined success have anything to do with the Eagles using them in two-tight end sets?
“I don’t know if you can put both together like that –- Nick’s good because we have two tight ends in the game,” Chip Kelly said. “It’s usually you’re trying to look at what the defense is doing to you and try to match that in terms of that standpoint. If you had a hot guy –- if all of a sudden we had [two tight ends] in the game and the tight ends had 18 catches, now you’re saying there’s something to that. We don’t look at it and say ‘Nick is in a little bit more of a rhythm because [two tight ends] are in the game as opposed to [one].”
When asked if the Eagles made a concerted effort to get Celek and Ertz more involved as pass catchers against the Raiders, Shurmur said their success in Oakland “was just the flow of the game.”
“We’ve got plays where they’re first or second in the progression,” the offensive coordinator continued. “And then there were plays in the [Oakland] game when they caught the ball when they were third or fourth in the progression. It’s just the way the game flows.”
Shurmur pointed to Ertz’s touchdown –- his first NFL score –- as an example of a play where the tight ends are involved but not the primary receiving option.
“We hit [Zach] Ertz on a touchdown throw, and he was really not the primary read as you saw,” Shurmur said. “Nick pump faked and he scrambled and was in the right spot and was able to catch the ball. He caught a touchdown in that case, but he was not the primary throw.”
Ertz has 19 catches to Celek’s 17 this season, despite the fact that Celek has played 76 percent of the team’s offensive snaps while Ertz has been on the field for 39 percent.
“Every week we want to make plays, whether it’s in the run game or the pass game,” Ertz said. “I think we had our number called a few times [in Oakland] and we made the most of our opportunities. ... We think, as tight ends, since it is your position group, that we can do it all –- whether it’s line up out wide or in the slot or blocking.”