The guy who is going to make you forget about Jackson isn't even a wide receiver. He's a tight end. He's Zach Ertz.
And while you might think I'm jumping the gun mentioning somebody who has played only 459 NFL snaps in the same breath with three of the most dangerous pass-catching tight ends in the NFL, Ertz has that kind of ability, that kind of upside.
"You knew when you watched him in college that he had the chance to be something special," Eagles tight ends coach Ted Williams said. "He's one of the best route-runners I've ever seen. He takes a lot of pride in that. He has a lot of confidence. He's hard to defeat, because he doesn't take defeat very well. He feels, 'You can't cover me.' "
Ertz was eased into the offense as a rookie last season by coach Chip Kelly. He played 36 percent of the offensive snaps in the Eagles' first eight games and 45 percent in the final eight. Finished with 36 catches - 25 for first downs - for 469 yards and four touchdowns. All four of those scoring catches came in the second half of the season. He also had a touchdown reception in the Eagles' playoff loss to New Orleans.
Domowitch is one of the Eagles better beat writers, so there's something to what he's saying. He points out that without Jackson the Eagles' passing game is expected to undergo a slight transformation this season. In preseason Week 3, the Birds had four TDs of nine plays or more - five fewer than they had all season. Domo said to look for fewer deep balls and more bubble screens and slants by the wide receivers and more screens and wheel routes by running backs LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles. The only thing holding back Ertz this season is teammate Brent Celek possibly taking away some targets, but Ertz still figures to be a low-end TE1 and should be drafted ahead of Celek. The writer believes both Celek and Ertz are in for increased workloads.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014, 12:05pm
Both could both land on the practice squad if they don’t last past final cuts, but there could be other teams willing to snatch them for their 53-man rosters. Josey has rushed 12 times for 104 yards in the preseason. He had a 70-yard, one-shoe TD jaunt brought back by a penalty. He’s swift and can also catch the ball out of the backfield (three catches for 39 yards and a TD). Both Tucker and Josey have looked willing and capable as blockers.
Both have LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Chris Polk and Kenjon Berner making the team. The biggest question right now is whether they are accurate about Polk, who has missed much of camp with a hamstring injury.
"That's coach's call," Gash said, referring to how Mike McCarthy intends to use Lacy. "But I have trained him as a three-down back. He will be ready to go."
Great news for potential and current Lacy owners. He looks to be a real steal the later he slips after the top-three of Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy come off the board. If you really want to take a RB in the middle of the first round, Lacy could be your guy...
Monday, August 25, 2014, 11:09am
With Josh Huff, Barner’s former college teammate, also banged up, there’s a chance Barner could work into the mix in the return game as well.
Barner returned punts and kicks in college but hasn’t done it regularly since his freshman year in Eugene. He did have a 22-yard kick return against the Steelers and a fair catch on a punt.
Polk's status is very much in question at this point. He looked to be a sure handcuff to McCoy and the team's RB3, but that continues to be up in the air heading into preseason Week 4.
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy was sporting a wrap around his injured right thumb at Sunday's training session, but said afterwards that it will be fine for the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
There probably wasn't a lot of doubt but it's good to know he gave the 'thumbs up,' especially after saying he was in some pain after injuring it in preseason Week 3.
Eagles RB Chris Polk is being pulled in two different directions as his third season in the NFL sits just two weeks away. On the one hand, Polk wants to be healthy for the start of the regular season – a season in which, at least a month ago, the expectation was that he would be the Eagles’ No. 3 running back. On the other hand, after missing about a month with a hamstring injury, Polk now needs to prove that he can be counted on when the season does begin.
“I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason,” Polk said Saturday after returning to practice for the first time since suffering the injury. “You know, I can’t control (injuries), so I’m very optimistic. It could be a blessing in disguise. Maybe (the injury) gave me time to work on my shoulder and gave me time to work on other areas, whether it’s studying, getting stronger, faster, whatever. I’m definitely just taking positives out of everything. It just really slowed down and really put everything in perspective for me. Even though I’m not playing, I still watch every carry that every single running back we had (took during the preseason), and I try to envision myself what I would have done, so I wouldn’t fall behind. I’m here now.”
But after hearing head coach Chip Kelly say that the team is still trying to “find out who the third running back is going to be” following the Eagles’ third preseason game, Polk knows he has to do something.
Whoever is the third RB for the Eagles would likely see a big bump in touches if something were to happen to LeSean McCoy, since Darren Sproles isn't built for 15-20 touches per game.
"It definitely hurts," McCoy said after the game. “But there have been times I’ve been banged up and it turns out fine. We’ll see what happens.”
McCoy said he injured the thumb a few plays prior to his 22-yard touchdown reception against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In some ways that is an encouraging sign for Eagles fans, as McCoy seemed to show no signs of injury as he carried the ball in his right hand during the scoring play.
"I was talking to him on the sideline and he seemed to be in good spirits, so I don’t think it’s a big deal," said head coach Chip Kelly after the game.
We're not concerned about the thumb, though it's something to monitor over the next few days. McCoy is primed for another top 3 season.
Eagles RB Matthew Tucker was impressive against the first team Steelers D, scoring two TDs and bringing his total on the preseason to four, best in the NFL. Meanwhile, Henry Josey broke off a long run that was called back on a bogus penalty, and Kenjon Barner showed some promise after quickly assimilating into the Eagles offense. If the Eagles are worried that Chris Polk will always be an injury risk, it appears they may have other options.
Polk is nursing a torn hamstring, and may find himself out of a job if he doesn't heal quickly. The Eagles' RB3 job is important because the winner would likely see the biggest jump in touches if LeSean McCoy were to miss any time. Darren Sproles is not built for a heavy workload.
Against Pittsburgh, Eagles RB LeSean McCoy scored the game's first touchdown in the first quarter, but exited the game to have X-rays performed on his right thumb. They were negative. McCoy returned to the sideline, but his night was complete.
This is probably nothing to worry about, though it may take some time for the thumb to fully heal. At this point, Darren Sproles is the primary backup. Chris Polk is nursing a torn hamstring, but should be back soon.
Eagles RB Chris Polk hasn’t practiced in more than three weeks. He missed the first two preseason games and won’t play Thursday night in the third. He’s still not fully recovered from his hamstring injury.
It wasn’t a routine pull. He said he suffered a Grade 2 partial tear, the kind that keep guys -- running backs, especially -- sidelined for long periods of time. Polk hasn’t since been able to practice in any capacity. Last Thursday, hours before kickoff in New England, he jogged around the field in sweats and caught some balls to test his progress. He felt good, but not great.
He’s still not fully recovered and probably won’t be in the next few days, but Polk insisted that he’ll practice next week, whatever it takes. It’s risky, but he knows the NFL motto. Guys don’t make the club from the tub.
A Grade 2 tear typically takes four to six weeks, so Polk may return in one to three weeks depending on how quickly his muscle is healing. We believe that he would be the primary ballcarrier if LeSean McCoy were to miss time, but he has to get healthy and make the team first.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 2:12pm
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, head coach Chip Kelly made it sound like that may have changed due to the running back missing over two weeks of practice with a hamstring injury.
"It's a big factor," Kelly said of Polk missing time. "You gotta be able to play. It's tough for us to say, we know what you can do, but you also have to go out on the field and show it."
Polk was expected to be LeSean McCoy's backup with Darren Sproles remaining as more of a receiver if McCoy would go down at any point this season. With Polk absent, backup running backs Matthew Tucker and Henry Josey have gained ground on him for the final spot. Tucker had two touchdowns against the Chicago Bears in the team's first preseason game, and Henry had an impressive touchdown catch against the New England Patriots last week.
On Monday, however, all fears were put to rest as McCoy returned to the practice field.
"It (wasn't) anything serious," Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said as to why McCoy was out on Sunday.
The injury turned out to be with his toe, however X-rays came back negative according to other outlets. Looks like McCoy is back at practice and ready to go.
Sunday, August 17, 2014, 4:58pm
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy did not practice on Sunday, two days after gaining 19 yards on six carries in three series against New England on Friday night.
Coach Chip Kelly did not mention McCoy in his pre-practice session with the media, during which he discussed other injured players. McCoy declined to talk with the media as he walked off the practice field and later to the locker room.
The Eagles resume practice tomorrow in preparation for their third preseason game Thursday night against Pittsburgh.
Eagles TE Zach Ertz had a very good day, as the Patriots defense struggled sticking with him. Want to cover Ertz with a linebacker? Good luck. Want to go nickel when Ertz is in there? Prepare to get pounded with the run. The Eagles have three players who can be mismatch nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators: LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, and Ertz.
Ertz averaged 2.8-32-.56 over the final nine games of the season (including the Eagles' sole playoff game) and that included two goose eggs in Week 10 and Week 14. That equates to 6.6 fantasy points per game, which is what Martellus Bennett averaged as the #10 TE in fantasy football. With Jason Avant and DeSean Jackson gone, Ertz could play a lot in the slot, though the arrival of WR Jordan Matthews may limit Ertz’s snaps there. For Ertz to break out in 2014, he needs to play more snaps.
When the Saints put the word out in March that they were looking to shed RB Darren Sproles' contract, the Eagles couldn't get to the phone fast enough to make an offer for him. Giving up a fifth-round pick for a guy with 232 receptions the last 3 years who also happens to be one of the league's better return men was a no-brainer.
What Sproles gives HC Chip Kelly is a lethal space player who will force opposing defenses to play a lot less man coverage against the Eagles this season than they did last season. Kelly has said the Eagles saw man coverage 60 to 70 percent of the time last season.
"God bless them [if teams try to play man against Sproles]," said Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis, who had the unenviable task of trying to defend Sproles in the playoffs last season. "He is hard to cover out of the backfield. And you are very aware, as a defensive signal-caller, who is matched up in your man coverage on him. And Shady [LeSean McCoy], too, for that matter."
Sproles won't be on the field a lot. For one thing, he's 31, which is dangerously close to nursing-home age for a running back, even one who appears to be in phenomenal shape.
Sproles has played more than 500 snaps in a season only once in his career (501 in 2011). Last year, he played only 364 snaps and had 165 touches. McCoy played 890 snaps and had a league-high 366 touches. Sproles had only 53 rushing attempts last season, but had 71 receptions. He's never had more than 93 carries in a season. And while there's every reason to believe he could thrive as a runner in the Eagles' offense, he is expected to earn his keep primarily as a receiver and a punt returner. If Sproles can stay healthy, he can be a guy that draws eyes on defense, much like DeSean Jackson and his speed did last year. But, a fantasy wait-and-see approach to Sproles is probably best. The later you can add him in deeper PPR leagues, the better. He could end up being a huge bargain at that price.
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