Heading into this season, Zach Ertz was prepared to have his best year yet. He trained day in and day out to be a difference-maker for the Eagles in 2015, but what he wasn't expecting was to undergo surgery during Training Camp.
A core muscle injury meant Ertz would not have a preseason. His first time in a game setting with quarterback Sam Bradford and the other new faces on offense would come in Week 1 against Atlanta.
It's been a process of learning and recovery for the third-year Eagle, but his numbers are back on the rise as he finds himself connecting with his teammates and once again fully healthy.
"I think blocking is something that I've improved on. The rolling the hips is kind of something that's come along since the injury," Ertz said. "I feel better running, that's for sure. Breaking into my routes, I feel more comfortable and more confident in that regard. I think I'm 100 percent healthy now and I think that's the big difference."
Earlier in the year, the tight end struggled to recover, noting the Cowboys and Jets games were particularly difficult for him to play in. Slowly but surely, he's begun to feel like his normal self and understand what he can and cannot do post-surgery.
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In Weeks 5-7, Ertz had a combined 166 receiving yards on 14 receptions, accounting for over 60 percent of his total production this season. He feels he and Bradford are building a strong rapport on the field, something he thinks will continue to improve as the season progresses.
Now healthy, Ertz feels strongly that he's a player the team can count on in all situations.
"I want to be a focal point of this offense. I worked so hard over the offseason to be a focal point in this offense and someone that the coaches can trust to put in the forefront of this offense," Ertz said. "I know we have a lot of weapons with the running backs, receivers and the tight ends, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to go out there and make the plays. I expect that of myself."
With seven games down and nine left to play, Ertz and the Eagles know they are in control of what is to come in the remainder of the season. The NFC East continues to be up for grabs, especially after both the Cowboys and Giants lost this past weekend.
The tight end and his teammates know they need to play a strong brand of football come Sunday and need to be vastly improved from the last time they went head-to-head with the Cowboys. Execution will be key.
Ertz, however, is looking to get more than just a win this weekend. He wants to continue to show his skill and improvement, allowing him to be a force for this Eagles offense and dominate player for years to come.
"At the end of the day, my job is to go out there, get open and catch the ball," Ertz said. "There's no other thing that's on my mind when the ball is in the air other than to catch it and make a play for this team.
"I think I'm improving. I'm by no means satisfied where I am now, and where I am now is not where I'm going to be at the end of the season. I think I'm improving every day. I'm working very hard with Justin Peelle, the tight ends coach, every day. It's going to be a long process for me. I want to be in this league for a very long time."