Entering training camp, Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly expressed optimism that tight end Zach Ertz would have a "huge role" in the aerial attack to help account for the absence of DeSean Jackson.
After joint practices this week, Patriots defenders concede that Ertz is a candidate to "make the leap" this season.
"He's a good player. He's a great player," defensive end Chandler Jones said, via CSN Philly. "He's very athletic. He's faster than I thought. I feel like he's more of a skill player than anything. He runs his routes very well. I've had the opportunity to cover him for these two days of practice, and he's been a handful."
Safety Devin McCourty also complimented Ertz as an athletic field-stretcher who understands how to get open against high-quality defenses.
"I pride myself on being able to create mismatches," Ertz said. "That's what I've done my whole life. My opinion is I can get open against anybody. ... I have to have that mentality that I can get open. At the end of last year I started to build my confidence back in myself, where like it was in college that I can beat anybody."
At this time last year, Ertz wasn't ready to play. He recalls getting his "clock cleaned" in joint sessions with the Pats last August. That's why he didn't earn a role in the Eagles' offense until well into October of his rookie season.
The 2013 second-round draft pick ended up playing just 41 percent of the snaps, compared to Brent Celek's 77 percent.
The signs out of Eagles camp suggest Ertz will force Kelly to run more two-tight end sets, pushing his playing time closer to Celek's. It's a recipe for success in the NFL's best big-play offense.
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