Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
The stage is set for Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz to breakout this Sunday.
The Philadelphia Eagles play the Arizona Cardinals Sunday and Zach Ertz is primed for the biggest game of his career. The Arizona defense is good but not great; a number of injuries have left them deficient in certain areas. They have struggled to cover tight ends throughout the season: Antonio Gates and Larry Donnell had 81 yards against them, Jordan Reed had 92 yards and Julius Thomas had 66 yards and a touchdown.
Covering tight ends has clearly been the Cardinals defensive weakness this season.
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The Cardinals have been very good against the run and haven’t allowed a 100 yard rusher against them for 16 games. I expect the Cardinals to prioritize stopping the run and they will frequently stack the box and dare the Eagles to throw it on them.
Zach Ertz was supposed to have a monster role in the offense this year following the release of DeSean Jackson but it hasn’t quite happened yet. Ertz was superb for the first two games of the season, gaining 163 yards and a touchdown on 7 receptions.
Since then however, Ertz only has 143 yards and a touchdown in his last 4 games. Only having 19 receptions on the year, the ball hasn’t been coming to Ertz as much as many expected before the season began. This could all change Sunday. Ertz caught a phenomenal touchdown against the Giants last week. The play highlighted the trust that quarterback Nick Foles has in Ertz now; Ertz hadn’t even made his break when Foles released the ball but he trusted that Ertz could make the play.
The Eagles offense has a number of weapons in the passing game but I expect Ertz to be the number 1 target on Sunday. Running back Darren Sproles is most likely out. If Sproles plays, Ertz value may go down slightly as Sproles should have great success against these Cardinals linebackers in coverage. Early reports suggest Sproles will not play. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin will have a tough day if he goes against cornerback Patrick Peterson all game.
The Eagles will continually target the middle of the field, leading to an increased number of targets for Ertz as well as rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews. Foles seems to have more trust in Ertz at the moment and I expect Ertz to be Foles’ favorite target on Sunday.
One reason Ertz has not yet put up an incredible season statistically is because of Nick Foles’ below average quarterback play. Ertz is not blessed with elite speed but he is a sneaky route runner and always finds ways to create a yard of separation. Foles has to improve his accuracy on deeper throws with Ertz and give him a chance to make big plays like he had last Sunday.
I expect Ertz to breakout and have the best day of his career Sunday against the Cardinals. Ertz previous best game of his career came last year in week 13 where he had 68 yards and 2 touchdowns. Guess who that was against? The Arizona Cardinals. Nothings changed from last year, if anything the Cardinals defense has declined, expect Ertz to have the best game of his career.