In 2013, Chip Kelly’s first draft as head coach for the Eagles, Zach Ertz was taken in the second round out of Stanford. Expectations were high, fans and scouts alike recognized Ertz for his athleticism, soft hands and size. Much like the well-known Patriots tight end, Rob Gronkowski.
Ertz did not disappoint the Philadelphia faithful. His rookie season saw him collect 469 yards on 36 catches with four touchdowns. His sophomore year saw a climb in two of the categories with 58 receptions for 702 yards.
Now in his third year under Kelly’s system, Ertz is due to have a break out season.
The big 6-foot-5, 250 pounder doesn’t have to look far for advice on experience as an NFL tight end. Teammate Brent Celek, entering his ninth year for the Birds, has not yet missed a game in green and white.
Celek is the longest tenured offensive specialist and one of the last from the Andy Reid era. Along with Ertz, the Eagles have a catalyst of young receivers such as 2015 first round pick Nelson Algohor and second year players Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff.
“We have a lot of good young receivers and tight ends,” Ertz said at OTAs Thursday. “We also have old guys like Brent [Celek] who have been there, and I think it will be a good year.”
Celek and Ertz can feel a sense of excitement in the running back and tight end style offense Kelly has formed. Ertz doesn't need to look far for inspiration. He can take a page from his teammate and mentor.
Celek’s third year out of Cincinnati not only turned out to be his breakout year but his best with 76 receptions for 971 yards and eight touchdowns.
Ertz has a much higher ceiling than what Celek had. It only took Gronkowski two years to arrive in the NFL, but he had a quarterback named Tom Brady. There is also a similar tight end focused offense up in New England as well.
With a healthy Sam Bradford, Ertz can expect to be much of the focus this season in red zone or over the middle plays that will open up the other offensive weapons. Especially with the skillset Bradford is recognized with in decision-making and quick throws.
With questions, there is also sense of excitement and buzz in the greater Philadelphia area for this team, which some of which can be applied to Ertz himself.
“We expect each and every person in this building to come in and work hard for the team,” said Ertz, “We have a lot of guys who come in and work hard and that’s what makes it fun each and every day.