PHILADELPHIA – Three months into his rookie year, Zach Ertz is starting to look like the player Chip Kelly and the Eagles organization saw when they made him a high draft choice back in April.
"For such a big target, he's kind of deceptive," Kelly said. "He's deceptively fast. He doesn't look like he's moving as fast, but all of a sudden he's right on top of you. He can change direction very quickly. I think what you're seeing now is that things are starting to slow down for Zach. It's really fun to see him all of a sudden, plays that he missed earlier in the year, he's starting to make now."
Ertz is coming off his best game of the season, with five catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns, in Philadelphia's 24-21 win over Arizona last Sunday that kept the Eagles in a first-place tie with Dallas in the NFC East. For the season he now has 26 receptions for 342 yards and three touchdowns.
"Overall, I would say it was my most complete game for sure," Ertz said after practice Thursday. "I thought my run blocking was the best it's been all season."
Ertz wasn't asked to run block much at Stanford and still isn't asked to play in-line much for the Eagles. His strength is the fact that he can line up in the slot, or even out wide and create mismatches for the defense.
"That's what I'm used to," Ertz said. "But I have to improve the areas that need it, and one of those things was becoming a better blocker."
At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, Ertz has good size to be a capable blocker. But that's not why the Eagles made him the 35th pick of the draft. Kelly knew Ertz well from coaching against him in the Pac 12, and losing to him in 2012. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was also impressed with Ertz and had him rated a first-round pick.
"That catch he had on the post route from Nick (Foles) that Nick threw and the DB did a great job of undercutting it," Kelly said. "Nick threw a perfect ball, but Zach came up with it. We had dropped that same pass earlier in the year. So it's a positive to see him getting better and better. He's starting to develop confidence and he's really starting to grow. We hope this continues, because he can be a tough matchup, and that's what we were hoping when we drafted him is that you're going to put linebackers or smaller safeties on him. Hopefully, that's a situation we can exploit."
Ertz hopes so, too.
"Fortunately I had my number called a few times last week," Ertz said. "Hopefully, I'll get it called a few more times this week."
Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur thinks that might be the case.
"I think he's getting better every day and I think production comes in bunches," Shurmur said this week. "He had some opportunities last Sunday and made the best of them. He had opportunities to catch the football, some of them in tight coverage and he made good plays."