By JD PELEGRINO
In 2018, Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz established himself early on in the season as one of the league’s top talents, especially at the TE position. Ertz entered his sixth NFL season in 2018 out of Stanford. At the conclusion of the 2017 season, Ertz was known as one of the most dominant TE’s in the league, he tallied: 74 receptions, 110 targets, 824 yards, eight touchdowns, and a career-high at the time 46 catches for first downs. Ertz set out on a journey during OTA’s and the pre-season to set a new mark for himself, but more importantly to bring his team to another Super Bowl and win.
The Eagles fell just short of that mark, but Ertz’s journey along the way won: his ticket to the Pro Bowl, an Eagles playoff win, the attention of players and fans all around the NFL, and a new NFL record for the most receptions by a tight end in a single season (beating Jason Witten’s mark of 110 in 2010). What Ertz’s helped Philly accomplish this season and his marks as an individual were nothing short of one of the greatest seasons a tight end has ever had. Below find some of Ertz’s most impressive stats from the 2018 season:
1. 116 receptions (2nd in NFL)
- Only Pro Bowl receivers: J. Jones, D. Adams, A. Brown, J. Smith-Schuster, D. Hopkins had more
With a young, mobile quarterback in Carson Wentz who can also put a ball right on the money, Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh lead heavily on the pass game this season. The running game was not the Eagles strength this season, especially with the injury to Jay Ajayi. With Ertz’s 6-foot-5-inch frame, crisp route-running, quickness, and hands it only makes sense that No. 86 would earn a position in the top-three for receptions in the entire NFL.
2. 156 targets (6th in NFL)
- 56 targets his rookie year in 2013
Ertz hauled in 74 percent of the passes that went his way this season. Compared to his rookie year, he was looked to for his elite services through the air 100 more times. Even last year, Ertz was targeted a healthy 110 times, this season was something even Zach couldn’t have predicted.
3. 1,163 receiving yards (16th in NFL)
Zach maximized his 116 receptions converting them into big-time yards. He accumulated 1,163 receiving yards in Groh’s offense earning his first 1,000-yard season. No. 86 shattered the 1,000-yard mark comfortably earning himself 16th in the NFL in receiving yards.
4. 8 TDs (T-13th in NFL)
- 21 TDs in first five seasons (2013: 4, 2014: 3, 2015: 2, 2016: 4, 2017: 8)
For the second straight season, No. 86 caught eight touchdown passes. He scored 13 TDs in his first two seasons, but in the last two has scored 16. Zach’s relationship on and off the field has improved with quarterback Carson Wentz and is paying dividends on the field.
5. 10.0 yards-per-catch this season
Zach’s average yards-per-reception in 2018 was the lowest of his career thus far, but did not stop him from topping his previous records in almost every other category. Last year, Ertz averaged 11.1 yards-per-catch, but when they ball is coming your way every few plays, what are you going to do?
6. 732.8 yards-per-season in previous 5 seasons
- 1,163 this season
The value of the Philly tight end continues to rise year after year. In Zach’s first five seasons, he earned 732.8 yards-per-season. After this season, his new average will be 804.5. Ertz’s production in the Eagles’ offense became more of a focal point this season and Doug Pederson and Mike Groh will be looking to use him big time next season.
7. 42 more catches this season than last
With an increase of targets comes an increase of catches. There are many tight ends and receivers who only managed 42 catches all season long. Ertz had himself a season inside of a season. In 2017, he caught 74 passes.
8. 46 more targets this year than last (110 targets)
No. 86 caught almost all of his additional targets. He has mentioned time and time again that he wants to be out on the field all the time doing whatever can help his team win. Through the passing game, Ertz played the biggest role. He was targeted more than any other receiver, accumulated more yards and more receptions than any other Eagle.
9. 66 catches for first downs
- 46 last season (2017)
Ertz was the safety blanket of the Eagles’ offense this year. It only makes sense that he fits that role because during Jason Witten’s tenure with the Dallas Cowboys, he was Tony Romo’s safety blanket. Witten was no Ertz though; Ertz broke Witten’s single-season receptions record by a tight end this season. Zach’s productivity stretched especially in converting late downs into first downs.
10. T-3rd in NFL in receptions inside opponents’ 20-yard line with 16 (Kelce & James White)
With Zach’s big frame, this poses a mismatch to defenders. No. 86 has always been bigger and stronger than his opponents, mix in his other attributes and he is very hard to cover. He ranks at the top of the chart of receptions inside opponents’ 20-yard line. He caught eight of those many passes for touchdowns and only trailed the Saints’ Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara on the list.
1. T-14th in NFL with 17 third down catches for first downs
The Stanford product is one of the most threatening third down players in the league. The Eagles often looked to pass on third down, and Ertz was their man. Wentz placed a good amount of faith in Ertz all season on later downs and brought him to No. 14 on the list of third down catches for first downs. Zach’s sharp route running and speed allowed him to run routes to the sidelines that separated himself from defenders, often rewarding the Eagles with a first down.