Emotion of facing Eagles for 1st time hasn’t hit Cardinals’ Zach Ertz just yet
TEMPE — On Sunday, Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz will check a couple more boxes off his NFL to-do list.
When the Philadelphia Eagles come to town in Week 5, Ertz will take on the team that drafted him and where he spent the first eight-plus seasons of his career before a midseason trade sent him to the desert in 2021. During his time in Philadelphia, the tight end hoisted a Lombardi Trophy and racked up 6,267 yards and 38 touchdowns on 579 catches, leaving a lasting imprint on the Philly faithful in the process.
It’ll also mark the last team he has yet to face in the NFL.
The emotions will certainly be there when Ertz lines up against some of his former teammates still sporting the Kelly green.
Just not yet.
“I don’t know if that emotion (of playing my former team) has hit me,” Ertz said Thursday. “It’s been just a lot of viewing them as the next opponent. I got a lot of good relationships still back there — Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, (Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham) — played a lot of football together, eight-plus years together. When you’re with people that long, it becomes more than just a football thing. It becomes more of a relationship, care about them and their family.
“From that perspective, it’s going to be good to see those guys, but on the field, it’s going to be a me vs. their defense. It’s not going to be Zach vs. the Eagles. We just got to go out there and play a really good football game.”
While a lot of the talk surrounding the Eagles defense is on its NFL-leading 10 takeaways and 16 sacks, the unit has been especially tough when it comes to tight end production.
So far this season, the Eagles have limited opposing tight ends to just 16 combined catches for 149 yards and a touchdown.
Of the seven tight ends that recorded at least one catch against the Eagles, the Minnesota Vikings’ Irv Smith is the leader in the clubhouse with five receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown in Week 2. The Detroit Lions’ T.J. Hockenson is second on the list with four catches for 38 yards.
Something will have to give in Week 5, however, with Ertz slotted as one of Arizona’s top receiving threats in 2022. Through four games, Ertz is tied for first among Cardinals pass catchers in touchdowns (two), second in receptions (22) and third in receiving yards (181).
And even though the Eagles have been impressive against tight ends, that won’t stop quarterback Kyler Murray from looking Ertz’s way.
“Most of the time he’s always open,” Murray said Wednesday. “Even if he’s not open, he’s good at being friendly to the quarterback. He’s a savvy vet, a safety blanket — all those things. I’ve never had that.
“Playing with him is definitely showing me that the tight end is very important for a young quarterback and any quarterback really.”
But for now, Ertz is focused on preparing as best he can on the practice field and in the film room, albeit with a little Philadelphia flavor in the form of artist Meek Mill thrown in.
“I know ‘Dreams and Nightmares’ started off (practice on Thursday),” Ertz said with a smile. “I think I heard that song about 10,000 times, but that did not have any influence (on the practice playlist).”
As for any bad blood after the midseason trade? Ertz has none. He understands the business side of the NFL and the constant fluidity when it comes to personnel changes.
“I think everyone knows that (I loved playing in Philadelphia),” Ertz said. “But I was excited for the next challenge. When I came to grips that it wasn’t a real possibility (to stay with the Eagles), it was, ‘OK, let’s figure out which situations would be great for me’ and Arizona was at the top of the list.
“For me, I’m ecstatic I got traded here, my family’s ecstatic that we got traded here. I was fortunate that these guys believed in me. I’m not looking back at this game, like, ‘Philly didn’t believe in me anymore.’ It’s more, ‘The Cardinals believed in me a ton.'”