Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has groomed career years out of two very good wide receivers during his first two years in the league. With both DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin leaving the team an offseason after having career years, there is a vacancy on the Eagles for a true #1 wide receiver. With most people leaning towards second year receiver Jordan Matthews or rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor to fill that vacancy, I would like to discuss my dark horse candidate: Eagles tight end Zach Ertz.
First off, I love Matthews. He creates huge mismatches in the slot, he has tremendous run after catch ability, and I believe he can be the heart and soul of an offense that lacks a lot of year-over year consistency. Aside from what he does on the field, Matthews lightheartedly taunted JJ Watt last year. You don’t often see rookies taunting the best defensive player in the game.
However, as much as I love Matthews, the man will likely be staying the team’s slot receiver for one reason: he is not a great blocker. Sure Matthews has his moments. However, last year PFF graded Matthews 98th out of 110 qualifiers at blocking. Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper (kidding, of course) graded out at 8th overall. That is the main reason Matthews won’t lead the team in receiving, his blocking will keep him off the field at times.
Enter Ertz. Heading into his third year in the league, looks to finally have his breakout year many have been waiting for. Ertz is another player that struggled to find playing time due to lack of blocking ability. Overall, Ertz graded out as PFF’s 5th overall tight end. But in terms of pass blocking, Ertz was 52nd out of 67 qualifiers. That wasn’t good enough when the team had Brent Celek, who graded out at 31st overall.
However, all signs are pointing up for Ertz. This offseason, he worked a lot on his blocking. If that translates to the field, we may see a huge uptick in playing time. That, in turn, will lead to more production for a player who had 702 receiving yards playing about 50% of the offense’s snaps last year.
Another great sign that Ertz is headed for a breakout year is that he’s already building a rapport with new Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford. If the Eagles have any semblance of consistency at the quarterback position this year, Ertz might end up being the biggest beneficiary, especially if the consistency is from Bradford. Even with inconsistency at the quarterback position last year, prorating Ertz’ performance out to even 80% of snaps would end in a season with over 1,100 yards.
While I would love Matthews, Ertz, and Agholor all to have great seasons, one of the three will lead the Eagles in receiving this year. Go ahead and flip an imaginary three-sided coin to figure that one out, but I think Ertz might have the best chance.
Fly Eagles Fly.
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