Zach Ertz last season caught 116 passes, the most ever by an NFL tight end. He cracked 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career and had eight touchdown catches for the second year in a row.
The one and only statistic that sullied his incredibly productive season was his average of 3.2 yards after the catch. It ranked 32nd in the league among tight ends targeted at least 30 times.
While he knows catching 116 passes again this season probably is a long shot, he is determined to improve that yards-after-the-catch number.
For the last couple of weeks, Ertz has been working with Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley after practice, trying to improve his post-catch production.
“It’s not something that comes super natural to me,’’ Ertz said. “So I’ve been working with Duce a little bit because that [running with the football] is what running backs do for a living.’’
Ertz also thinks the arrival of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, whose speed tends to put safeties on their heels, will create space underneath for Ertz and the rest of the team’s receivers to run after the catch.
“In the past, the guy that was covering me might not be close to me, but another guy would come up right away" and limit his yards after the catch, Ertz said. "Having a guy like DeSean, that other guy is going to have to account for him.