Zach Ertz’s decline in production could actually lead to more wins this season
2 October 2019 Eagles News
We as Eagles fans should not expect Zach Ertz to break his own NFL single-season record for receptions by a tight end anymore,
Adding DeSean Jackson, Jordan Howard, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Miles Sanders this past off-season should have reminded us just how deep this offense can be when fully healthy.
Add on Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Darren Sproles, a healthy Mack Hollins and Dallas Goedert, and it’s pretty clear that the astoundingly high volume of targets and catches that Ertz collected a season ago are no longer necessary.
After four games last season, Ertz had 31 catches, 327 yards, and no touchdowns. After four games in 2019, he has 24 catches for 255 yards and again has yet to reach the end zone. Even in somewhat of a down year statistically, the Pro Bowl tight end is still on pace for 96 catches and 1,020 receiving yards.
Those numbers would place him third in the league in catches and yards by all tight ends’ production numbers from last season, behind only the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and the 49ers’ George Kittle, who were both All-Pro players.
But has this been a detriment to the success of the offense as a whole so far in 2019?
The answer, for all parties involved, is a resounding no. In fact, this slight dip in production has been favorable for the overall success of the Eagles’ offense in the first month of the season.
After the first four games of the 2018 season, the Eagles were tied for 25th in the league, averaging a modest 21.5 points per game. This season, on the second day of October, the Eagles rank 7th, averaging 27.5 points per game.
It should be noted that these numbers are a bit diluted, as Nick Foles started the first two games last season and was unable to duplicate his playoff brilliance from the year prior.
For some perspective of the resurgence of the offense, last season, their opponents scored 28 or more points in just three of their seven losses. Hindsight is always 20/20, as the saying goes, but had Foles and a hampered Wentz reached their full potential, they may have won the NFC East for a second straight season.
Having a plethora of offensive weapons directly led to the Eagles securing home-field advantage throughout the 2017 playoffs, which greatly impacted the team reaching and winning Super Bowl LII. Although Wentz was unable to finish that season, the Eagles were averaging more than 30 points per game before his season-ending injury.
There are two crucial offensive correlations to that magical season and this year, which, in 2017, were paramount to their eventual world championship.
Their ability to constantly convert on third down, coinciding with their strikingly high touchdown rate in the red zone, has invigorated the entire offense, reminding us all, at times, of 2017.
That season, the Eagles successfully converted 44.69 percent on the time on third down, which was second in the NFL.
This season, the Birds are converting at a staggering rate of 56.14 percent on third downs, which is almost four percent higher than the second place Cowboys, who are converting at 52.38 percent.
Eagles are BEST in NFL on 3rd down this season ??
56% compared to 41% last year. Eagles were #2 in 2017 at 44.69%
Eagles 4th in NFC in redzone
69% compared to 59% last year. Eagles were #2 in NFL in 2017 at 64%
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) October 1, 2019
Not coincidentally, with a semi-injured Carson Wentz and Nick Foles on clean-up duty, the 2018 Eagles were average at converting third downs, finishing 11th in the league at 40.89 percent.
In addition, the Eagles so far this season have been lethal in the red zone, scoring 69 percent of the time. Last season, the Eagles were 17th in red zone touchdown percentage, scoring only 59 percent of the time inside their opponents’ 20-yard line.
With DeSean Jackson set to return shortly, Goedert getting healthier and a much more balanced running attack, the production for many of the key offensive players should rack up rather nicely by the end of the season.
In turn, Ertz will not have to be the focal point of the offense as much as he was at times last season, and with so many viable options when completely healthy, this offense should match the numbers of 2017.
Let’s hope this lends itself to the club reaching the playoffs for the third straight year, which has not happened since the Andy Reid-led teams reached the postseason consecutively fromn the 2008-2010 seasons.
And amazingly, the 2019 Eagles may just be at their best without Ertz having to be anything other than steady and reliable.