Philadelphia Eagles Zach Ertz Cure for Team’s Red Zone Ills


Dec 1, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz (86) scores a touchdown as Arizona Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson (26) attempts a tackle during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Cardinals 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The phrase “red zone” is the worst named expression in all of football, in my humble opinion. The red zone refers to the area inside an opponents’ 20-yard line just prior to the end zone. The color “red” is more often than not connected with stopping in the United States. Putting red and zone together to me just sounds like a place of danger where one shouldn’t go. For the Philadelphia Eagles this season, the red zone has been just that, a place where little success is found. The Eagles score only 40% of the time when they are in their opponents’ red zone; which ranks Philadelphia last in the NFL.

Some of the success the Eagles have had this year is due to their special teams returning kicks and punts for touchdowns, and the Philadelphia defense generating points off turnovers. Given the challenges the team has faced in the red zone, I believe that tight end Zach Ertz can be the cure for head coach Chip Kelly’s offensive struggles to score inside the 20. Ertz has been targeted just four times this season inside the red zone, and for a player of his caliber, that’s too few.

Ertz has prototypical size to play the tight end position registering over 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighing more than 250 pounds; which also makes Zach an ideal red zone target. His 2013 season receiving statistics may not reflect that of a great year, with Ertz catching 469 yards and 4 TD’s, but I believe he is a superior route runner, pass catcher, and excels in arguably one of the most complex offensive schemes in the league devised by Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.

For the 2014 season Ertz has 19 catches for 306 yards and two touchdowns, thus he’s already outperforming his rookie year. He also leads the Eagles in third-down catches with ten, and third-down catches for first downs, ten as well. More than once Ertz has bailed out quarterback Nick Foles with crucial third down receptions, so he’s proven he can make tough catches in high-pressure situations. Why not utilize one of the biggest weapons Foles has at his disposal more often? Ertz told reporters of Philadelphia’s red zone scoring problems on Thursday,

"“We want to have touchdowns every time we’re down there. Field goals are unacceptable in our eyes.” He continued, “We want to be selfish down there and we want touchdowns.”"

The one knock against Zach is that he is not considered a great run blocker. During the Giants game back on October 12th, tight end Brent Celek played 57 of 73 snaps because the Eagles game planned to run the ball more, thus using Ertz on only 30 snaps. Against the Arizona Cardinals defense which averages 284.8 net passing yards allowed per game, with 10 passing scores given up, however, I believe the Eagles can have success throwing the ball.

Zach Ertz had a break out performance last year against the Cardinals catching five passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns. If Chip Kelly can find a way to get his best pass catching tight end more involved when the team is in scoring position, there is a high probability that the Eagles will win the game while also improving their red zone efficiency.