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Eagles OC: Zach Ertz 'made the biggest improvement'

When Chip Kelly was asked during the offseason how Philadelphia would account for the absence of DeSean Jackson, the Eagles coach surprised some with his answer, saying: "I think Zach (Ertz) can have a huge role."

Alter tabbing the second-year tight end as one of our summertime "Making the Leap" candidates, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur confirmed that Ertz "made the biggest improvement" of anyone at his position, per Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"I'm so confident this year in my abilities," Ertz said this week. "Last year, I was a wide-eyed rookie. I wasn't even here for OTAs. It's a completely different situation. I have confidence in myself, and I think the coaches do, as well."

His arc last season suggests a bigger role right away come September. Ertz played in just 24 percent of Eagles snaps over his first three NFL appearances, but took the field for 47 percent of downs over his final 11 games.

Kelly -- who fell hard for Ertz after seeing him play at Stanford -- also began to use the young pass-catcher all over the formation. Still, last year's second-round pick was pulled off the field for long sequences when Philly leaned on the run and opted for its larger tight ends to occupy defenders -- something Ertz struggled with.

"Last year, he didn't really believe he could block anybody in the NFL," linebacker Connor Barwin said. "And I think this year, he's got some new muscles and at least he's really trying to block people."

General manager Howie Roseman confirmed that Ertz has packed on muscle, but his doorway to a bigger role will be the explosiveness he brings as a pass-catcher. Looking at all his snaps last season, Ertz regularly outran linebackers to find holes in coverage for quarterback Nick Foles.

As a more complete player heading into Year 2, Ertz has our attention as a fantasy star on the rise and a key part of Kelly's inventive attack:

The latest Around The League Podcast breaks down Marshawn Lynch's belated arrival at Seahawks camp and debates which active NFL players are first-ballot locks for the Hall of Fame.

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