We’ve heard “this is going to be Zach Ertz’s breakout year” all too often by now. Every season follows the same script. The Philadelphia Eagles tight end starts out slow but then finishes strong. So when people say that this year, the 2017 season, is going to be the real year that Ertz breaks out ... it’s easy to be skeptical.
But for those still holding out hope, there’s some reason for optimism. This season marks the first time in his career that Ertz will have the same Week 1 opening day starting quarterback in place. Ertz believes the continuity that Carson Wentz provides is something that will benefit not only him but the entire team.
Ertz touched on this topic and more in a Thursday press conference. Just out the entire transcript below.
YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE BACK-TO-BACK YEARS WITH THE SAME QUARTERBACK. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE THAT CHEMISTRY?
It’s going to be huge. I think when Carson [Wentz] was drafted, from the receivers and the tight end [perspective], that was the one thing we were really excited about. We knew for the next five, 10, 20 years in Philadelphia hopefully, we knew who our quarterback was going to be. And the guy is an unbelievable player. I think we saw the situation he was presented and the way he was able to kind of just step in Game 1 after not really having a preseason. Kind of just OTAs. And the way he took off at the beginning of the year, I think that just allowed us to be really excited about the future.
And from my perspective, I’m just excited about finally having the same quarterback. Having the whole offseason, the summer, really getting into the fine details of the route-running with him. How he sees things, how I see things based on certain coverages. I think that’s really exciting for me and all the other guys as well.
HOW DID THAT IMPACT YOU HAVING A DIFFERENT QB EVERY YEAR?
I think the chemistry part of football is huge. Whether that’s a tackle playing next to a guard or a receiver playing with a quarterback, I think the chemistry is very important for any team to be successful. And it wasn’t the easiest of situations going from quarterback to quarterback, but I thought as a team we did as well as we could have given the circumstances. Like I said with Carson, we know who the quarterback is going to be and we’re going to be able to fine tune all those little minute details that we didn’t really have the time in the past to go with. I think that’s why we’re excited about it.
IS THAT WHY YOU’RE TRYING TO HANG OUT WITH CARSON A LOT? TO BUILD THAT CHEMISTRY?
Yeah, I think when you look at the great great tight end-quarterback relationships in this league, whether it be Tom [Brady] and [Rob Gronkowski], Jimmy [Graham] and Drew Brees when they were together in New Orleans, they were with each other for a long time. Even Cam [Newton] and [Greg] Olsen down in Carolina. Those guys have been together for a long time. I think just having that — when we’re on the same page regardless of the coverage or if they give you this coverage we know exactly what they’re gonna do if they give you that coverage. He knows exactly what I’m going to do. When to expect the ball versus certain coverages. It might be a little bit earlier, might be a little bit later. It’s just that constant camraderie, kind of, where we’re able to know what the other person is thinking without speaking about it.
YOU’VE ADDED A LOT MORE OFFENSIVE WEAPONS AROUND CARSON. IS THAT A RELIEF?
Yeah, I mean I think you look at those two guys, we’ve only been around Alshon [Jeffery] and Torrey [Smith] for the past couple weeks. I mean if you look at Alshon, the guy is 6-3, 220 pounds. And even watching him run routes, he’s smooth for how big he is. Torrey is extremely fast and explosive as well. So I think adding those two guys to our team as a whole is going to be very helpful for us. Anytime you can add talent to this team, whether it be in free agency or the draft, we’re going to be really excited about it.
IN YOUR FIRST TWO YEARS, THE TOP RECEIVER WAS IN THE SLOT. NOW THEY’RE ON THE OUTSIDE. HOW IS THAT DIFFERENT FOR THE TIGHT END?
It definitely, hopefully opens up the field a little bit. If you have someone who can stretch the field on the outside or wherever they can be, whether it’s a slot receiver or that can kind of run deep, by nature the safety has gotta back up a little bit. I think you see that a lot in Dallas with Dez [Bryant] and Jason [Witten]. Hopefully those guys will have the same kind of relationship that Alshon, Torrey, Jordan [Matthews] and myself will have.
HOW MUCH HAVE YOU THROWN WITH CARSON THIS OFFSEASON?
I know he took a while off. We both went our separate ways for a little bit. But since we’ve been back here — we’ve been back here for about two weeks now — we’ve thrown a lot. Probably four times maybe. And I know we’re going to stick around this weekend and throw. And we throw probably twice a week during the workouts. I know this is only Phase One, when Phase Two comes along in a couple weeks it’s going to be every day.
ANYTHING DIFFERENT ABOUT THE WAY CARSON IS THROWING?
I don’t think throwing wise, but when you’re around him, you can feel the confidence that he has. Telling people how he wants something run. The overall communication aspect … I think he’s really taken on that leadership role that the quarterback needs to do.
HE SAID THAT HE WANTED TO STEP FORWARD AS A LEADER. WHAT DOES HE NEED TO DO AND WHAT HAS HE DONE?
I just think this transition from Year 1 to Year 2, the vocal leadership, the demanding of others he’s done. Even the first week we’ve been back here, we’ve seen the way he’s approached this first week of the offseason. Kind of leading the whole offense, not only the position players, but the o-linemen as well. Being the vocal guy before the workouts, after the workouts. I think that vocal transition is already taking place and I think it’s going to continue.
IN THE SECOND HALF OF LAST SEASON, CARSON SHOWED HIS ABILITY TO EXTEND PLAYS. HOW IMPORTANT ARE SCRAMBLE DRILLS?
I think when you have an athletic quarterback like Carson, he has the ability to extend plays, it really obviously stands out. And when you’re able to have a whole offseason, spring and summer, with a guy like that, you’re able to talk about scramble rules as an entire offense. The last year I don’t think we were as detailed overall in our scramble rules just because the whole group had never really been together. But this whole offseason I think that’s something that we’re really going to emphasize. Whether it be early in the offseason or even in training camp. I’m sure with an athletic quarterback with Carson that’s something that we have to take advantage of. And you see huge plays often take place in those scramble drills because the DB’s aren’t used to covering for that extended period of time.
IN PAST YEARS YOU’VE EXPRESSED YOUR FRUSTRATIONS WITH NOT GETTING MORE LOOKS AT TIMES IN GAMES. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO BE A MORE VIABLE TARGET IN THE OFFENSE?
I think first of all I have to stay healthy, first and foremost. And just that consistency. Obviously having the same quarterback for an entire offseason, spring, summer, and obviously during the season is going to be huge for me in particular. I think that consistency is going to be here this season. I’ve worked extremely hard. We’re analyzing the film right now. Kind of fine tuning the little things that I could get better at. I think it’s going to be there this year.
DO YOU THINK YOU CAN IMPROVE AT SCORING TOUCHDOWNS?
I want to be the guy in the red zone, believe me. The first four years of my career, I think the most touchdowns I’ve had in a year was four. Last year, we honestly didn’t have a lot of red zone touchdowns, and that falls on us as players to get it done when we get down there. Make plays when the ball is in the air. But that’s something I do pride myself on, is making those tough and contested catches. Whether it be in the red zone or third down. I want to be more of a go-to guy in the red zone. But I’ve got to earn that throughout this spring and summer. Earn that trust with the quarterback as well as Doug [Pederson]. It’s going to be a process, but I think when you look at the great tight ends in the league, the first thing that stands out is the touchdowns. And especially in this fantasy [football] age as well. Where a lot of guys get their respect is from the touchdowns and a lot of the “fantasy points” that everyone points out. But I think at the end of the day I’m just trying to help this team win. We’ve got a lot of guys now on offense that can go up and high-point a football. Whether it’s Alshon, Jordan, myself, and some of the other guys. I think the red zone numbers are going to be very improved this year from last year just from some of the guys we’ve added.
YOU’RE EXPECTING MORE TOUCHDOWNS, BUT CAN YOU GET THEM AFTER THE EAGLES HAVE ADDED THESE NEW RECEIVERS?
Yeah, I mean we’ll see if we’re more efficient on third down. We’ll be able to stay on the field longer, and we’ll have more plays. I’m not really worried about the amount of targets or catches I get this year. I’ve had a lot of catches and targets in this league, but I’ve only been in one playoff game and we lost that one playoff game. No skill position player here is going to be vocal and disappointed if they don’t get X amount of catches or Y amount of targets. We’re focused on winning football games. It’s what this city deserves. When we don’t win games, we’re frustrated and the city is frustrated. Our most important goal this year is getting to the playoffs, winning the division. That’s the only goal we’re focused on right now.
DO YOU KNOW CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY AT ALL? WHAT’S YOUR EVALUATION OF HIM?
The guy is a stud. He came in the year that I left. I know talking to some of the other guys, the younger guys I still communicate with at the time when I was here, I was asking about how the team was going to be this year, and they said I think we’re going to be pretty good but there’s this freshman that you gotta keep your eye on. Even the coaches, I’d talk to them, they’d say there’s this freshman that you’ve got to keep your eyes on. And it turns out it was Christian. You go back there [to Stanford], and they say this guy is one of the hardest workers they’ve ever had in the program. His production is obviously off the charts. He should have won the Heisman two years ago. Wherever he’s going to get drafted in the NFL, I think he’s going to be successful just because he’s so versatile and his overall game. Whether it be in the return game, and on offense you can move him all over the place. We kind of joked around back in San Diego that he’s kind of Darren Sproles 2.0, just a little taller. He’s so explosive. He’s a great player and a great person as well.
HAVE YOU WATCHED ANY TIGHT ENDS IN THE DRAFT? LOTS OF DEPTH THERE. ANYONE STICK OUT TO YOU?
I haven’t watched too much film on that honestly. Whenever I watch the college games, I’ll notice them per se. But the only guy that’s consistently on TV is O.J. Howard. And obviously I’ve heard amazing things about him. I’ve heard this draft class is probably the best overall draft class from a tight end perspective since we came into the league [in 2013]. So I think it’s going to be a great class, I wish them all the best. All of them.
ALONG THOSE LINES, IT’S POSSIBLE THE EAGLES COULD DRAFT O.J. HOWARD. YOU GUYS ARE SET AT TIGHT END. COULD THAT POSSIBLY WORK?
I think Howie [Roseman] and Joe [Douglas] are going to do a great job of bringing in the best players for this team. And if they think that tight end is a position that they want to draft, that’s what we’re going to draft. Obviously we don’t really know about [the future] of [Brent] Celek and Trey [Burton]. I know Trey has just signed a [one-year] tender and Brent’s kind of getting to that age. But I mean whoever they bring in, we know he’s going to be a dynamic football player when you’re drafting that high in the draft. You’ve got to add impact players, and whether it be a defensive player or offensive player, we trust Howie and Joe.
Check out video of Zach Ertz’s press conference via the Bleeding Green Nation Facebook page.
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