Philadelphia Eagles

Zach Ertz continues to produce despite unfair perception about toughness

Zach Ertz continues to produce despite unfair perception about toughness

Zach Ertz caught eight passes Sunday and put his head down and thundered forward for as many yards as he could pick up after all eight receptions.

And if that's not good enough for you?

If you still have your mind made up that Ertz is soft? Even after missing just two games last year with a torn pectoral muscle?

There's not much anybody can say or do to prove you wrong.

"You always want to be aggressive and be physical and be smart," Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Tuesday. "But I've played with a lot of great players who will step out of bounds rather than take a hit when they know they've got the first down.

"I mean, great players. Barry Sanders? He never took a hit on the sidelines. No one ever called him a coward.

"Sometimes you have to be smart, too."

If you haven't been paying attention, Ertz has been a different player since the Cincinnati game last year, when fans jumped all over him for a play near the sideline where he appeared to avoid contact.

"I remember after that Cincinnati game, there were multiple times of him being aggressive," Reich said. "It's always a fine line. There is a time [and place]."

Even though Ertz has been one of the most productive tight ends in NFL history through four seasons, he's never really gained widespread appreciation among Eagles fans, some of whom would rather see a guy run into a brick wall without a helmet to prove his toughness than making a catch down the field and run out of bounds to protect his body.

Ertz has actually been both. Smart and physical.

"You've got to sometimes sacrifice your body and lay it out, but I've never questioned Zach in that regard," Reich said.

"Zach plays to win. Zach's a winner. He plays aggressive, he runs his routes aggressive, he's aggressive to the ball, and I've never thought anything other than that."

Ertz caught eight passes for 93 yards Sunday in the Eagles' win over the Redskins at FedEx Field. He was targeted eight times and caught all eight passes.

In his last 16 games, the equivalent of a full season, he now has 95 catches for 1,061 yards and four touchdowns.

Since opening day of last year, only Travis Kelce of the Chiefs, who the Eagles will see this weekend, has more catches among NFL tight ends than Ertz. Kelce has 90, Ertz 86.

"I thought we had a good start," Ertz said. "There's some stuff we can improve on, not only me and Carson (Wentz) but as an offense. We weren't 100 percent. But it was a good start.

"I thought there were plays I got covered I shouldn't have and plays I was open and he missed me, but all that matters are wins, and it's very rewarding to get off to a fast start."

Ertz's 255 career catches are eighth most in NFL history by a tight end through 62 games. His eight catches Sunday led all NFL tight ends on opening weekend, and his 93 yards were second most.

Ertz, who played with Nick Foles and Michael Vick as a rookie, Foles and Mark Sanchez in 2014, Sam Bradford in 2015 and Wentz last year, said the luxury of having Wentz back for a second year is huge.

"It's great to have the same quarterback going into another year," he said. "Obviously, it's one game and we're trying to stack them each week. [But] 8 for 8 is where you want to be, you can't get much better than that."

With the Eagles' outside speed, the middle of the field should be open all year for Ertz.

The franchise record is 90 catches by Brian Westbrook in 2007. Ertz needs to average 5½ receptions the rest of the year to break that.

Honestly, it'll be surprising if he doesn't (assuming he stays healthy).

"They connected and had pretty good chemistry pretty quickly and that's just growing," Reich said of Ertz and Wentz.

"I think that chemistry is growing as an offensive unit, but not just those two guys, but everyone knows Zach is a key playmaker for us and we count on him every week to do that."

Doug Pederson on Beckham's celebrations: 'Our players see it, our fans see it'

Doug Pederson on Beckham's celebrations: 'Our players see it, our fans see it'

Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. scored two huge touchdowns in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game at the Linc. 

After the first, he mimicked a dog by getting on all fours before lifting his leg and fake urinating on the field. That drew a flag. On the next touchdown, Beckham raised a fist in the air and stood at attention. 

On Monday, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said he wasn't going to comment on it. Then he commented on it. 

"Our players see it, our fans see it," Pederson said. "It's one of those things I think you just kind of file away in the back of your mind. And you just remember those things and move on. It's unfortunate. I have to control our guys obviously and every other coach has to control their players. It's something that you don't want to see it in the game. It takes away from a great play that he just made."

Beckham was vague about the meaning behind the fist-raising celebration after the game. But Malcolm Jenkins has been raising his fist during the national anthem for about a year. 

When asked if the celebrations could have led to Jenkins' being a little more aggressive on a pass interference penalty later in the game — Jenkins clotheslined Beckham — Pederson said he thought it was "possible." But he also said it was just a play Jenkins made to prevent Beckham from possibly scoring a touchdown. 

Beckham, for his part, didn't see anything dirty on the play. 

"He made a smart play," Beckham said. "I'm running down the field. I'm gonna make a play and so he stops that. It's football. He made a play to stop me from making a play." 

After the game, Beckham didn't apologize for his celebrations. He understood that the penalty after the "urination celebration" led to his team kicking off from the 20. 

"But when I get in the end zone, I'm going to do what I'm going to do," he said. "I'm going to try to spark this team."

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz grateful Jake Elliott 'saved my butt'

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USA Today Images

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz grateful Jake Elliott 'saved my butt'

Zach Ertz was sitting in the locker next to Brent Celek after the game and at one point he leaned over to his teammate and said simply, "Thank God we won that game."

Because if the Eagles lost Sunday, Ertz would have been the goat.

Ertz had one of the tougher games of his career Sunday, with a costly fourth-quarter fumble that led to a game-tying Giants touchdown and also a dropped touchdown when he was wide open, although he did make up for that by catching a TD one play later.

"It sucks," Ertz said. "If we lost that game, I would have been in the dumpster."

Ertz, covered all day by Landon Collins, one of the NFL's best safeties, did catch eight passes for 55 yards and his first touchdown of the year in the Eagles' wild 27-24 win over the Giants at the Linc (see observations).

The fumble was only the third of his five-year career. That's three fumbles out of 268 receptions.

"The guy made a great play," Ertz said. "I was trying to gain some more yards after the catch, and he kind of just reached around and pulled my arm down and I fumbled. 

"I've got to work on ball security, something I'm going to emphasize this week. I've had (three) fumbles in my career, so I'm not going to over-think it, but at the end of the day, I've got to do better."

Ertz's last fumble came in a loss to the Redskins in December of 2015, forced by Bashaud Breeland and recovered by Dashon Goldson. That was Chip Kelly's final game as Eagles head coach.

His only other fumble came in a loss to the 49ers in San Francisco in 2014.

"I've never seen Darren Sproles fumble, and he fumbled last week, so it's going to happen if you play long enough in the NFL," Ertz said. "All you can do is work on it. Luckily, Jake (Elliott) saved my butt."

The end zone drop came with the Eagles up 7-0 in the third quarter. Wentz could have taken a little steam off the football, but it was still a ball Ertz should catch.

"I couldn't get my hands up fast enough," he said. "The linebacker flashed before me and the ball just kind of snuck up on me, kind of like what happened against the Redskins last year. 

"Luckily, came back the next play and I was able to make a much tougher catch."

Even on a bad day, Ertz still caught eight passes, and he's now second in the NFL with 21 receptions, five behind Antonio Brown. He's also 10th with 245 yards. Both numbers lead all NFL tight ends.

“With a guy like Zach, we know who he is," Wentz said. "Those mistakes don’t happen often. 

"That first ball I definitely threw it harder than it needed to be, and it kind of surprised him a little bit. We came right back to him, and that was huge. 

"I know with a guy like that, confidence is never going to go anywhere, and my confidence in him never is either. The fumble is one of those things you brush off and come right back to him. The guy made some great plays for us today.”

Ertz's 21 receptions are fourth-most in Eagles history after three games and seventh-most ever by any NFL tight end after three games.

Ertz has now played the equivalent of four full seasons in his career, and his 268 catches are seventh-most ever by a tight end after 64 games.

Most importantly, his five catches, 55 yards and touchdown against the Giants Sunday helped the Eagles knock off a division opponent and find their way to 2-1. 

“Last year we didn’t have a lot of wins (in) adverse situations like we faced today," Ertz said. "We weren’t perfect today, anybody in our division is not going to be perfect. But I think it showed a lot about our resilience today and overcoming adverse situations."