Zach Ertz talked Thursday about “earned confidence,” which he said is developed through hard work on the practice field.
“So when Sunday comes around, you’re not guessing, you’re not wavering, or [thinking] ‘Maybe I won’t get open on this play.’ You have to earn that confidence, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, so when the game comes on Sunday, you already have this play,” Ertz said.
" ‘Hey, we already completed it in practice, we already completed it in walk-through, so let’s go out there and execute again.’ The only thing that’s different is the person against us we haven’t gone against."
Ertz spoke before Thursday’s practice, and his words sounded like a solid approach, a good focus for an 0-2-1 team that in a few days must travel across the continent to face Super Bowl runner-up San Francisco, which is favored by a touchdown.
Then the Eagles practiced, and one wide receiver on the 53-man roster was able to take the field. DeSean Jackson (hamstring) did not practice. JJ Arcega-Whiteside (calf) did not practice. John Hightower (illness) did not practice. Alshon Jeffery (foot) was given the day off, having practiced the day before, as Jeffery attempts to return from Lis franc surgery. In all, nine Eagles were unable to practice, and three others were limited.
Ertz did not say anything about earning confidence in the training room.
Greg Ward was that lone roster wide receiver who practiced Thursday. Deontay Burnett played last week but is on the practice squad, technically, though he almost certainly will be active again this week. Sixth-round rookie Quez Watkins, whose 21-day practice window to return from injured reserve started this week, also was out there; we don’t know if Watkins can get back in the flow quickly enough to play this weekend.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was asked Wednesday about Ward, who was the team’s leading receiver (eight catches on 11 targets for 72 yards and a touchdown) in last Sunday’s 23-23 tie with the Bengals. Wentz said Ward is “a guy I have a lot of trust with, a lot of confidence in, and he gets it.”
Ward earned that trust and confidence down the stretch last season, when he and Wentz helped power the Eagles to a four-game win streak that got them to the playoffs. How can that process work right now, between Wentz and a group of receivers who can’t practice? Thursday, Wentz got some quality time with practice squadder Travis Fulgham.
That is definitely part of what is ailing the $128 million quarterback right now. There is more to it, he is making a lot of bad throws, including an interception last week intended for Ertz, his most trusted target and close friend. But familiarity and confidence play a role.
“Carson puts a ton of – he holds himself to a really high standard,” Ertz said.
Asked about timing problems between Ertz and Wentz, Ertz said they go off on their own to run through plays they didn’t connect on, in practice or in games. He hinted that the double-coverage Ertz draws makes timing tougher – in addition to the wideout injuries, the other dynamic tight end, Dallas Goedert, is on IR with a fracture in his ankle.
“Teams are going to account for me every week, that’s just the bottom line, we have to figure out ways to play on time, get open, and make plays,” said Ertz, who has 15 catches for 130 yards and one touchdown through three games. “There’s been times I’ve been at fault, there’s been times he’s been at fault, but at the end of the day, neither of us [is] pointing fingers, saying that the one person has to be better. We’re in this together … the one thing Carson and I do know is how to work and how to get better on the side field, or put in extra reps, so that when the game comes, we’re not going to make that mistake twice.”
Ertz, who said he doesn’t think the drafting of Jalen Hurts has distracted Wentz, also denied that he is distracted by his disagreement with management over the new contract Ertz feels he has earned, and felt was promised when he reworked his current deal last year to provide the team with cap relief.
Since the season started, Ertz said, “my sole focus has been on trying to find ways to win football games, get open on time for Carson and be a great teammate. Since the season started, I think I’ve done that. … [The contract isn’t] even in my thought process.”
There was an NFL Network report a while back about a confrontation between Ertz and general manager Howie Roseman, in which voices were said to be raised.
“Not gonna get into the exact words of the conversation, but at the end of the day, we’re all on the same page; we’re all on the page of trying to win football games,” Ertz said.
He said that if the Eagles start to win, “everything else will take care of itself when the timing is right.”