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Zach Ertz Relishing First OTAs

Posted Jun 7, 2014

A year ago, tight end Zach Ertz wasn't able to take part in the Organized Team Activities with his teammates at the NovaCare Complex.

The rookie second-round pick was back at Stanford due to the NCAA's graduation rule which limits how much players can work with their new teams until their school finishes classes for the semester. Ertz wrapped up his bachelor's degree in management science and engineering and embarked on his new job with the Eagles. However, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end was playing catch up in Training Camp and preseason which limited his on-field impact early in the season.

Ertz finished with 36 catches for 469 yards and five touchdowns. He added another three receptions, including one for a touchdown, in the playoffs against the Saints. He finished in the top five of all NFL rookie tight ends in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. His numbers were more impressive when you consider that a vast majority of the production came in the second half of the season starting with his five-catch outing in Oakland, which is where he also recorded his first touchdown.

"The game truly started to slow down towards the second half of the year. It was such a whirlwind at the beginning that I didn't really know what was going on. The playbook wasn't too hard to grasp, but just the play speed was the biggest thing to get used to," Ertz said. "Last year, I didn't know what to expect from the offense and just being out here in Philadelphia as a whole. Obviously, this year it's going to be a lot better."

After notching 22 catches and all four of his touchdowns in the final eight regular season games, Ertz wanted to continue the momentum through the offseason. He returned to California and has returned to Philadelphia feeling "a lot stronger, faster" than last year. He's put a huge emphasis on getting better as a run blocker. Ertz recognizes that he's more of a move tight end while Brent Celek is the traditional, in-line variety, but in Chip Kelly's offense you have to be able to do it all.

"If you want to play fast, you can't be subbing guys in and out," Ertz said. "With the tight ends we have, we're able to do that whether it's in-line or out wide as a receiver. That's the biggest thing with the tight end group that we have."

In fact, Ertz sees a "sense of urgency" in the offense saying that it's "light years ahead" of where it was last season.

"I think the offense is going to be a lot faster than it was last year," he said.

Ertz played a total of 450 offensive snaps, 41 percent of the team's total, in 2013. As for his role in 2014, Ertz thinks the latter half of his rookie year offered a preview.

"I think you saw it in the second half of the season, what kind of went on as I was used all over the field," Ertz said. "Hopefully some more of that."

This year, there is another Eagles draft pick at Stanford who is unable to take part in the OTAs due to the graduation rule. The Eagles selected safety Ed Reynolds in the sixth round. Ertz offered what advice he could.

"I told him to keep his body in very good shape which I know he will because that's the type of person and player he is," Ertz said. "At the end of the day, you really can't replicate what we're doing out here so it is kind of tough."

Football players are creatures of habit and that is evident by what Ertz is enjoying about these OTAs which he was unable to take advantage of last year.

"Just the familiarity of the routine, coming out here every day with that singular focus of getting better," he said.

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