Believe it or not, the beginning of the Eagles 2014 season is rapidly approaching. Players will report back to the NovaCare Complex on April 21 for the start of the Eagles offseason program. Join us as we count down until the Eagles are back in town …
Zach Ertz might be listed as a tight end, but he was drafted partly for his ability to line up at wide receiver positions, where he creates mismatch problems for defenses because he is too big for defensive backs and too fast for linebackers. After somewhat of a slow start as he got used to the offense and became comfortable with his role and assignment, particularly as a blocker, Ertz took off in the second half of the season and showed the potential that has teammates, coaches and fans believing he can be one the best in the NFL at his position. His versatility showed in his stats from the slot in 2013: 104 routes (42.8 percent of his total routes), 15 receptions (75 percent catch rate) for 178 yards (11.9 yards per) and two touchdowns.
Ertz's final numbers as a rookie – 36 receptions, 469 yards, four touchdowns – compare quite favorably to those of other tight ends who have gone on to become prolific NFL players, such as Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. Expect Ertz to continue his development and take that next step in 2014.
First Eagle To Wear 15: RB Laf Russell (1933)
Last Eagle To Wear 15: HB Steve Van Buren (1944-51)
Steve Van Buren
Selected with the fifth overall pick in the 1944 NFL Draft out of Louisiana State, Steve Van Buren was the first in a long line of dynamic running backs in Eagles history. Known for his speed and agility, he was a lynchpin of the franchise's initial rise to prominence. Van Buren led the Eagles to their first two NFL Championships in 1948 and 1949, leading the league in rushing both seasons with 945 yards (10 touchdowns) and 1146 yards (11 touchdowns), respectively. He was the first NFL running back ever to record 1,000-plus yards rushing in a season more than once and, overall, he led the NFL in rushing four times and was a five-team All-Pro in his eight-year career. Van Buren retired in 1951 as the Eagles' all-time leading rusher, having racked up 5,860 rushing yards (4.4 yards per carry average) and 69 touchdowns. He currently ranks third on the list, with LeSean McCoy nipping at his heels, though his 69 rushing touchdowns still far and away rank atop the list.
Van Buren was selected to the NFL 1940s All-Decade Team, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1965) and the Eagles Hall of Fame (1987). He is one of the all-time great Eagles and his number 15 jersey is retired by the franchise.