sports 3 days ago

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz pines for more red zone production

The Patriot-News — Aaron Kasinitz The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa.

April 21--PHILADELPHIA -- Zach Ertz knows the numbers.

The Eagles star is aware his statistics, as far yards and receptions go, are impressive. He's hauled in more catches for more yards during his first four seasons than any other tight end in franchise history, and he's made steady strides during each year of his career.

But Ertz also understands that he's lagging behind some of his peers in one significant stat: touchdowns.

Ertz pointed out during Thursday's news conference that he's never found end zone more than four times in a single season. And that's something he's hoping will change as he strengths his rapport with quarterback Carson Wentz.

"I want to be more of a go-to guy in the red zone, but I got to earn that this spring and summer, earn that trust with the quarterback, as well as [coach] Doug [Pederson]," Ertz said. "When you look at the great tight ends in the league, the first thing that stands out are the touchdowns, and especially in this fantasy age as well, that's when a lot of guys get their respect is from the touchdowns."

Ertz wants to bolster his status in the NFL; he's said on several occasions that his goal is to reach the ranks of the league's top tight ends. He has to score to do it, though. The Patriots' Rob Gronkowski has piled up five seasons of double-digit touchdowns since entering the league in 2010, while the Chargers' Antonio Gates has scored at least seven times in 11 of his 14 season.

That makes Ertz's career total of 13 touchdowns appear measly. He believes the next step in his maturation is to cross the goal line with more regularity.

But it's not as if Ertz is the only Eagle who's struggled to score in recent seasons. In fact, the former Stanford standout led the Birds with four receiving touchdowns last season, while only running back Ryan Mathews (8 TDs) spent more time in the end zone among skill position players.

"We didn't have a lot of red zone touchdowns, and that falls on us as players to get it done when we get down there and make plays when the ball is in the air," Ertz said.

The development of Wentz, 24, might help the Eagles find more success near the goal line, and the addition of free agent wide receiver Alshon Jeffery gives Philly a proven red zone option. Jeffery scored a total of 17 touchdowns in 2013 and '14, the most recent seasons in which he played a full 16 games.

While Ertz said he wants his own touchdown numbers to ascend, he's also excited about the possibility of the offense as a whole shaking its issues in near the end zone.

"We got a lot of guys now on offense who can go up and high point the football, whether it's Alshon, Jordan [Matthews], myself or some of the other guys," Ertz said. "So, I think the red zone numbers are going to be very improved this year."

-- @AaronKazreports


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