Zach Ertz is poised to be a key contributor for the Philadelphia Eagles offense in 2014. As a rookie in 2013, Ertz started off slowly as he was still learning the ins and outs of the system.
According to Pro Football Focus, he played a total of 54 snaps through the first three games, an average of 18 snaps per game. Over the next 14 games of the season (which includes the playoff game against the New Orleans Saints), Ertz played a total of 428 snaps, roughly 31 snaps per game.
As the season went on and Ertz was becoming a featured part of the offense, he began to display the skills that had lead the Eagles to select him with the 35th pick of the 2013 draft. He flashed great route running ability, body control, agility, and soft hands on his way to racking up 25 catches, 268 yards, and five touchdowns over the second half of the season.
— Max Weinstein (@MaxJWeinstein) August 18, 2014
While his overall numbers for the season may not have stood out compared to the other tight ends in the NFL (26th in receptions, 22nd in yards, and 17th in touchdowns), they have to be taken in the context that he was a rookie and splitting time with Brent Celek. Ertz ended up running a route on 243 passing plays in 2014. With his 469 reception yards, this comes out to 1.93 yards per route run, good for 6th in the NFL among tight ends.
Watching game film of Ertz, it is no surprise that he ended up being as efficient as he was during his rookie year. What stands out the most when watching him is his route running ability. He did a great job of getting separation and showed that he already has a great understanding of the finer points of the game when it comes to running routes. Small adjustments in a player’s route pattern that may seem like minutia can be the difference between getting a step of separation on the defender, and not getting open. Here are some examples of that.
In this first clip against the Giants, Ertz gets open on a corner route for a 20+ yard gain. He does a great job of selling this route, taking a small step to the inside before breaking to the outside and instantly creating a couple steps of separation. He then shows great hands hauling in the diving catch.