The Big Questions
1. Will 2014 be a breakout season for Zach Ertz?
Zach Ertz finished his rookie season with 36 receptions for 469 yards and four touchdowns. The second-round pick played his best football in the second half of the season when he scored all of his touchdowns and had three games with five or more catches.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Ertz is a unique weapon for Chip Kelly because he can line up tight to the formation or split out wide as a receiver. His athleticism makes it tough for linebackers or safeties to defend while his body control allows him to box out speedy, smaller cornerbacks.
In light of wide receiver DeSean Jackson's release, Ertz is one of the players who will be looked at to replace some of the lost production. General manager Howie Roseman likes how Ertz has handled himself this offseason.
"The encouraging thing for Zach is, when you see him in the building, you can see how much broader he’s gotten and how much he’s worked on his body," Roseman said. "We talk about all the time (him) missing that month (of team activities last year) based on his school schedule, and that’s hard. I think you saw him continue to grow throughout the season."
Ertz admitted that it took some time for him to adjust to the pro game. As productive as Ertz was, he was also efficient. He only played 41 percent of the team's snaps (450) which averages a shade over 28 per game.
Coaches and personnel execs say that NFL players make the biggest jump from the first season to the second. After a very productive and encouraging rookie season, Ertz is poised to improve on his numbers in 2014.
2. Will the Eagles emphasize the tight end position more overall this season?
Before Chip Kelly unveiled his offense for the world to see, there was plenty of speculation regarding the role of the tight end. The Eagles fortified the position which was already strong at the top with stalwart Brent Celek by signing James Casey in free agency and using a second-round pick on Zach Ertz. Even practice squad tight end Emil Igwenagu has playing experience from the 2012 season.
However, the Eagles didn't utilize a lot of two tight-end sets in 2013.
Celek led the way with 845 snaps (77 percent), while Ertz had 450 (41 percent) and Casey carved out a niche late in the season as a blocking specialist. Casey played 154 snaps all season, but 58 of them came in the final two games (vs. Chicago and at Dallas).
The Eagles had one tight end on the field 584 times which ranked sixth in the league. There were two tight ends for only 170 snaps, per Stats Inc., which was good for 22nd in the NFL.
Celek, Ertz and Casey combined for 71 receptions, for 1,002 yards and 10 touchdowns. The 71 receptions accounted for 22.9 percent of the team's catches. The 1,002 yards were almost identical with 22.7 percent of the Eagles' production, while the 10 touchdowns comprised 31.2 percent of the team's total.
With the versatility that the Eagles tight ends provide, from the ability to block to line up as receivers, Kelly will certainly have the potential to create mismatches in 2014.