Zach Ertz, the Eagles’ leading receiver each of the last four seasons, is due back Sunday against the Packers, ending the veteran’s five-game absence. For Ertz, it will be his first time seeing the field since suffering a high-ankle sprain in Philadelphia’s Week 6 loss to Baltimore.
The 30-year-old tight end had hoped to return for the Eagles’ showdown with Seattle in Week 12, but instead the team played it safe, giving Ertz another week of practice reps before throwing him back in the fire. With ground to make up in the NFC East, a division Philadelphia controlled as recently as last week, it’s put up or shut up time for the reeling Eagles, losers of three straight including a 23-17 defeat Monday night.
Ertz, who has speculated this could be his final season in Philadelphia (barring a substantial raise on his current five-year deal), has struggled mightily in his six games this year, contributing 24 catches for just 178 yards and a touchdown on 45 targets during that wholly unimpressive span. Still, he’s a proven commodity (he’ll never have to pay for another drink in Philadelphia as long as he lives after scoring the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl LII) and just the friendly face Carson Wentz needs right now in the midst of a career-worst season.
Despite his Pro Bowl resume, Ertz is unlikely to supplant Dallas Goedert, who has emerged as arguably the team’s most consistent offensive presence in recent weeks. If anything, the Eagles will employ more 12 personnel (two tight-end sets) going forward with Richard Rodgers reverting to his usual role as third wheel to Goedert and Ertz.
Ertz had been the subject of trade rumblings leading up to last month’s deadline, though those dissipated quickly after his ankle injury. The Stanford alum holds Philadelphia’s franchise mark for catches in a single-season—his 116 receptions in 2018 stand as the most ever by an NFL tight end. But his production has plummeted of late, owing to his lack of separation skills (hence the derisive nickname “No YAC Zach”) combined with the emergence of Goedert.
In addition to activating Ertz from injured reserve, the Eagles also reinstated JJ Arcega-Whiteside from the team’s COVID list. Lane Johnson (ankle) was placed on I.R. in the corresponding roster move. With Wentz on the cusp of losing his job (the same could be said of Doug Pederson, whose coaching seat gets hotter by the week) and a challenging December slate with matchups against presumptive playoff teams Green Bay, New Orleans and Arizona, Ertz is entering a world of chaos. Of course, if you’ve watched the circus known as the Philadelphia Eagles in recent years, that’s nothing new.