McMullen: Ertz Brushes Aside Envy on a Historic Night
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Every NFL city has at least one thing in common: When you are "underachieving" plenty of people believe they have the answers.
The critiques always come from outside the walls of an organization, something which should never be much of a concern, at least until the narrative overtakes the vision of what any coaching staff is trying to accomplish and starts steering things.
When it comes from inside the locker room, however, dissent could be a real problem.
For that reason, Zach Ertz's historic night where he became the Eagles single-season reception leader in a 28-13 win over Washington was overshadowed a bit when the Pro Bowl tight end was asked about an ESPN report that the Philadelphia offense has become a bit too predictable with Carson Wentz defaulting to Ertz on too many occasions.
Josina Anderson lobbed the grenade on the "NFL Sunday Countdown Show:"
"The source that I spoke to last night said 'Absolutely, it's not a Super Bowl haze. Guys work their asses off. They came physically ready to compete,'" Anderson began when discussing the Eagles' troubles.
The critique continued from there:
"What I thought was interesting is that the source said we don't have the same chemistry as last year. 'I really thought when we came out of camp, we didn't have the same identity. That same rhythm, the camaraderie that you build on and off the field.' So he said that is off."
Then came the Monday-morning quarterbacking which followed what has become the cliched themes this year, the targets to Ertz and lamenting about the running game:
"The other thing he pointed to is that 'I feel like we're over targeting Zach Ertz', which is the tight end. Right now, leads the Eagles in targets with 111 and even though he catches 76 percent of those, he said he feels it's disrupting the rhythm with everyone else getting into a groove on offense. Zach Ertz is on pace to have the most receptions for a tight end in NFL history," Anderson said.
"Lastly he said we're still not running the ball enough. Last year they had a 16th percentage in run percentage, which dropped down to 24 this season. He said 'Look at the difference in the second half against the Giants, where Josh Adams had 80 rush yards which is all the difference in a tale of two halves against the Giants and overall Josh Adams has 291 rush yards. That's still not enough."
Anderson has typically had a go-to guy in the Eagles locker room so too many believe they absolutely know who is talking out of turn but that's a little unfair as is using the anonymous route to essentially complain about an offense where just about everybody not named Ertz hasn't played up to expectations, something which sure sounds like sour grapes.
“I did hear of it, obviously," Ertz said of the report after yet another big game with nine receptions for 83 yards, giving 93 in 12 games, shattering Brian Westbrook's old mark of 90 with four games to play. "Obviously there are things that come out, playing in the NFL for six years, there are things that come out, sources all the time. I don’t feel like, I hope I’m not the problem, I don’t think I’m the problem. I’m just trying to be the best tight end I can be. I’ve said all along, it’s all about efficiency when it comes to targets and catches. I feel like we are efficient in that regard. I am just focusing on trying to put wins on the table, that’s the only thing I try and do."
Typically when Ertz does put up the really monster numbers the Eagles do lose but that's a chicken-and-the-egg issue. He generally compiles those numbers as the guy generating separation the most when Philadelphia is behind and throwing the football.
Ertz would be the first in line to admit that the Eagles, like all NFL offenses, are at their best when the ball is getting spread to multiple playmakers both through the air and on the ground.
"I don’t really focus on whether I get the ball or not," he said. "I’ve said it all along whether I get two catches or 10 catches, most important thing to me is winning football games. And I thoroughly believe each and every guy in that locker room feels the same way. There has never been a doubt of selfishness from anyone in that locker room. I don’t want to give it too much merit, just is what it is."
If it was what Anderson described, however, there was at least a bit of selfishness from someone or perhaps better described, envy. But, it certainly isn't coming from the guy getting all the targets.
"I mean, it was an anonymous source, so if it was one of my teammates, I feel like, I mean I don’t have a motive by any means. I feel like I have a great relationship with all of my teammates," Ertz said. "I can’t give too much credit to an anonymous source because I don’t know who it was.”
The guy in charge of the offense, meanwhile, has only one goal and targets aren't a part of it.
"As long as we win the game. As long as we win the game," coach Doug Pederson said. "Listen, he's a tremendous tight end and he's doing some great things. We know that he and Carson are on the same page right now. ... he's playing at an extremely high level right now. Bottom line -- and I know everybody in that locker room, bottom line is everybody wants to win the game and however it gets done, we get it done."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen