Negative Perception of Zach Ertz Ancient History

If you still think of Zach Ertz as the guy who avoided contact against Vontaze Burfict last year in Cincinnati, if you still of Ertz as a guy who lacks toughness, if you still think of Ertz as a tight end who doesn't fight for every yard, you might want to think again. 

He isn't that guy anymore. 

That guy - or at least the perception of that guy - seems to still haunt the 27-year-old. But ever since that game against the Bengals last year and the negative attention that followed, Ertz has been on a mission to never put himself in a position to get his effort called out again. 

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Against the Falcons last Saturday, Ertz was able to beat the cornerback in coverage and pick up a huge third-down conversion in the fourth quarter that helped the Eagles move down the field and make it a five-point game. 

"Third down, I want to be the guy, third down in the divisional round, I want to be the guy that gets the number called," Ertz said. "I still hear that stuff from the Cincinnati game last year. Two years ago, it would have ate me up. Living in the city, you're going to develop some extremely tough skin, what I've learned. And I've rallied around the guys in the locker room, and they have definitely changed the way I look at life over the past year or so.

"So obviously that week was not easy for me. But it's something that I've embraced, something that definitely changed my outlook of the game and I'm definitely a better player because of it."

On Thursday, head coach Doug Pederson said he always sees growth in players after they deal with any kind of adversity. 

That missed block on Burfict and the negative attention that followed certainly counts. 

"He's obviously bounced back," Pederson said. "I know he got a lot of scrutiny from that game and he's been able to block that out and he's really done an excellent job, honestly, since." 

Ertz didn't have a monster game against the Falcons. He caught three passes for 32 yards. But the folks who questioned whether Ertz would ever have that "breakout season" have been silenced. This season, Ertz caught 74 passes for 824 yards and eight touchdowns. That comes after a season with 78 catches for 816 yards and four touchdowns. 

In the last two seasons, Ertz has 152 catches for 1,640 yards and 12 touchdowns. He's one of just nine players in the NFL to put up those numbers or better and one of two tight ends, along with Kansas City's Travis Kelce. 

Ertz made his first Pro Bowl this season and it's time to face the facts: he's really good. 

So forget about Cincinnati. That's ancient history at this point. 

"I think I want to be the guy, red zone, third down, I want to be the guy that gets the number called," Ertz said. "I put a lot of pride in what I do as a receiver in those situations, kind of using my body when we need to make a play and if the ball comes to me, great, I'm going to make the play and if not, I'm all for throwing the ball to Alshon [Jeffery], Nelson [Agholor] or Trey Burton. That's why we have those amazing players on our team so no one is able to focus on one guy."

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