Back in early October, Eagles QB Michael Vick made a bold prediction regarding rookie tight end Zach Ertz.
“There are three players that I told that they would be great players in this league: I always told Alge Crumpler that he was going to be great, I always told Shady McCoy that he was going to be a great player in this league, and I always told Roddy White. And now I’m saying Zach Ertz. And I think in time, he will be one of the best tight ends in this game.”
Ertz had all of five NFL catches at that point. Still working through a learning curve — steepened by his inability to participate in the offseason program because of graduation rules — the Stanford product played a limited role initially. He was featured more as the year went on and ended with 36 catches for 469 yards with four touchdowns. While we still have a ways to go before determining whether Vick’s intuition is correct, it’s fair to say that there are encouraging signs.
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. Brent Celek is signed through 2016 and he's a far better run blocker than Ertz. James Casey is signed through 2015, and he ate into Ertz's snaps when the Eagles tried to run more. Ertz has top 5 fantasy TE potential, but his run blocking is holding him back.
Part of what made Randy Moss so important to the offense was his vertical presence and ability to clear things out for players like Wes Welker. No other player on the roster has that type of skill set, so expect the Patriots to reinvent themselves a bit on offense. One of the trademarks of Bill Belichick's coaching approach is that he doesn't force a system on players, but instead adapts to the players' strengths and weaknesses.
So if the Patriots call on a three-receiver set with Brandon Tate, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, and pair that trio with tight end Aaron Hernandez, the plan figures to look different than it would if Moss was on the field. Minus a Moss-like vertical threat, this could be a return to the early 2000s New England offense that featured more of a quick-rhythm West Coast style.
While that is a significant alteration, it also remains just a slice of the Patriots' overall pie because they are no longer a three-receiver offense, which was the package in which the majority of their plays from 2007 to 2009 were run.
This year's offense has only been in a pure three- or four-receiver package 36 percent of their snaps. Compare that to the 56 percent clip from the 2009 season and it shows how the offense has changed to feature more multiple tight end packages with veteran Alge Crumpler and rookies Rob Gronkowski and Hernandez.
TE Alge Crumpler's camp has informed the Tennessee Titans that they've come to an agreement with the New England Patriots, according to a source.
Crumpler likely comes to New England to primarily fill the in-line blocking role, with a receiving threat still needed at the position. That could be filled in the draft, or with a pass-catching threat like Chicago's Greg Olsen via trade.
The Pittsburgh Steelers might not have to wonder any longer how much better they would be if they had star safety Troy Polamalu.
Polamalu is expected to practice on a limited basis Wednesday for the first time since tearing the medial collateral ligament in his left knee Sept. 10 against Tennessee -- an injury that potentially could have sidelined him until midseason.
Polamalu, a five-time Pro Bowl player, will wear a brace on the knee. He must show the Steelers' medical staff that he can stop and start and change directions before he plays again, but he has not been ruled out of Sunday's game at Detroit.
So far, Polamalu has missed three games, or the minimum amount expected after Titans tight end Alge Crumpler fell on his knee during a blocked field goal attempt.
"Troy's been doing well and progressing well," coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday.