Ertz a shining light amid inconsistent season

Tight end Zach Ertz is having a record-setting season despite Eagles’ shortcomings on the field.

In the muddle that has been this 2018 Philadelphia Eagles regular season, the one shining, consistent light has been that of tight end Zach Ertz. The man who scored the winning points in Super Bowl LII with a catch of a Nick Foles pass and a run and dive into the end zone to complete the 11-yard scoring strike has not had a hint of a hangover.

If anything, he’s been better than at any time in his career and he’s having the best season of any tight end in the history of the franchise.

Ertz had 93 receptions, 978 yards and six touchdowns this season, the best numbers in the league at the position. He has been the go-to weapon in the struggling passing game and he’s been a force in the red zone. A second-round draft pick in 2013, Ertz is at the top of his game, and he’s a player to appreciate in the peak of his career.

“I haven’t let a day go by without pushing myself as far as I can go,” Ertz said. “If you aren’t going forward in this league, you’re going backward. That’s always been my approach. I try to work on the little things every day and become as complete a player as I can be.”

The tight end in today’s NFL game is more like a wide receiver wrapped in a 6-foot-5, 250-pound body. Tight ends have to be able to line up all over the formation and run every route in the offense. They have to have speed to be a threat in the vertical passing game and they have to be able to box out and create space with their bodies in a short area to catch quick-hitting passes. And they have to be blockers in the run game, do the nasty work in the trenches and move bodies with physical force.

It’s not all pretty-boy football.

Ertz has it down and is on his way to becoming the most prolific pass catcher in Eagles history (former wide receiver Harold Carmichael’s 589 receptions are most in franchise history) and, potentially, one of the greatest tight ends in the game. Ever. His 400-plus career receptions make Ertz one of only three tight ends in the history of the NFL to have 400 or more catches in the first six seasons of a career.

Remarkable stuff.

“He’s worked really hard and he’s responded to the challenge of raising his game,” coach Doug Pederson said of Ertz. “He and Carson (quarterback Wentz) are on the same page. They’ve spent so much time on and off the field building timing and chemistry and you see how it’s paid off. I think it’s a tribute to Zach and what he wants to become as a player. He wants to be great and he’s putting in the work to be great.”

The season still has a tantalizing month to go, and we’re waiting for the Eagles to get into their groove and find some rhythm. In other words, the offense is trying to catch up to Ertz and play consistent, productive football. A playoff spot is still out there to be had as the Eagles ride behind Ertz, a top-shelf, new-age tight end, to get back to the postseason one season after winning the Super Bowl. ••

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