When the Eagles hired head coach Doug Pederson, there was a big push to shore up the tight end position for years to come. Looking at the roster in Kansas City, where Pederson was the offensive coordinator for the past three seasons, there is no confusion as to why. Tight ends have been key to the Chiefs' success, especially Travis Kelce.
In 2015, Kelce had a career year, hauling in 72 receptions for 875 yards and five touchdowns. When all was said and done, Kelce was named to the Pro Bowl and finished sixth among tight ends in the league in receiving yards. Kelce is now labeled one of the best at the position.
With Pederson's offense beginning to take shape in Philadelphia, it's easy to make comparisons between tight end Zach Ertz and Kelce, anticipating Ertz's potential in 2016 based off of Kelce's previous seasons. What's not fair though, is to believe the two are on different playing levels as it stands now.
Ertz is every bit the ascending player Kelce is, a fact that has been overlooked by most.
Merely 22 yards separated Ertz's receiving total in 2015 from Kelce's output. The Eagles' tight end finished with more receptions (75) for 853 yards and two touchdowns. He also put up those numbers in fewer games after missing Week 12 and the majority of Week 11's matchup after sustaining a concussion. Not only that, but Ertz admitted it took him a few games into the season to begin feeling healthy after a core muscle injury sidelined him for the entirety of the preseason.
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Taking all those factors into account, Ertz's 2015 season was impressive in its own right and that's before looking at his dominant run down the stretch. The tight end recorded 30 receptions in the last three contests, setting a new team record for catches over a three-game span. He also tallied 450 receiving yards over the final four outings of the season. Only one other tight end accomplished that feat over any four-game stretch since 2013 - Jimmy Graham while with New Orleans.
Looking at those stats, it's no wonder the Eagles worked to get Ertz a new six-year contract. It's not a matter of waiting for him to live up to his potential. He's already doing just that in an under-the-radar way, something that's not lost on the team or on Pederson.
"I really like our tight ends," Pederson said back in March. "I like the athleticism there. It's a good group, great group ... Primary tight end Zach is athletic, young. He's like Brent (Celek) was when he first came in and a lot like Travis Kelce that way."
With contract concerns out of the way and a new offense in which he'll be very much utilized, the sky is truly the limit for Ertz in 2016. He has his health and is more than ready for the possibilities in a scheme that's very similar to the one he was part of in college at Stanford.
The comparisons between him and Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce's younger brother, however, are not lost on Ertz. He has the utmost respect for the Chief, but also wants people to know the two players are different. In this type of offense, though, the tight ends could have similar roles meaning Ertz could be poised for an even bigger year than some analysts may expect. Now with a system that is set to utilize his strengths, a more consistent and effective Ertz may be just around the corner.
"I'm not always going to be in three-point stance next to the tackle or two-point stance right next to the tackle," Ertz explained a little over a month ago. "They're going to move me around and I think that's going to be a little different from years past, but I'm really excited about it and to learn the offense. I'm going to have to learn a lot of different positions. I think that kind of plays to my strengths. I think I'm a smart football player, a high football IQ guy. I'm really excited about the opportunity this year."