Why Cardinals TE Zach Ertz is Primed for Breakout Role

Getty Images Zach Ertz reacts to a first-down reception against the Green Bay Packers on October 28, 2021.

After losing two of their last three games, the Arizona Cardinals need a spark plug. While the Cardinals lit up the San Francisco 49ers in Week 9, their next showing was beyond lackluster against the Panthers.

Veteran backup quarterback McCoy has played the last two games due to Kyler Murray’s ankle injury. Unlike the last two weeks, Murray has practiced earlier in the week heading into the Seattle Seahawks road matchup.

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NFL insider Ian Rapoport chimed in on the latest with Murray.

“The fact that he’s practicing all week is good,” said Rapoport. “We still haven’t seen a full practice from Murray. Usually, that is sort of the bat signal about when a guy will play.”

It’s going to be close for Murray to return in Week 11 according to coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Murray still has one more day on November 19 for full participation at practice. McCoy has also participated in two straight practices after the chest injury he suffered against the Panthers.

McCoy had a tough week against the Panthers with a 37.9 passer rating.

The offense will obviously get better when MVP candidate Murray returns. But no matter what, there’s evidence to suggest a certain offensive player to erupt.

Watch Out for Key Veteran

We’ve mentioned the QB injury situation, but the Cardinals still have to overcome other injuries on offense. Running back Chase Edmonds was placed on Injured Reserve with a high-ankle sprain. All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins has been absent since Week 8 due to a hamstring injury.

Multiple guys have had to step up. Christian Kirk leads the team in receptions and running back James Conner had himself a breakout game in Week 9 scoring three touchdowns.

But, the true key ingredient could be tight-end acquisition Zach Ertz.

After scoring a 47-yard touchdown in his debut, the 31-year-old hasn’t been overly impressive on the stat sheet. Ertz hasn’t eclipsed 50 yards in three straight games.

Luckily enough, there’s still plenty of season left. It can take time for a pass-catcher to get familiar with a new system. And without Hopkins, there’s a better chance of contributions from the Super Bowl champion.

There are promising signs. In the last two weeks, Ertz has exceeded 80% in route rates for the Cardinals.

Ertz also had a season-high snap rate of 84% versus the Panthers and was targeted six times. Compared to the rest of the league, Ertz was third in target share in Week 10.

If Murray can get back into the fold, you should expect better numbers. Remember, the offense all of a sudden made unknown tight end Maxx Williams involved before his season-ending injury.

But no matter who is at QB, Kingsbury should have Ertz as a middle-of-the-field demon against the Seahawks.

Etz is also given a favorable matchup in Week 11 against the Seahawks. Seattle has given up the fourth-most receptions (50) out of 20 teams who have nine games played. Ex-Cardinal Dan Arnold caught eight balls on 11 targets in a 31-7 Jaguars loss to the Seahawks.

Ertz Loves Arizona

After just four games in a Cardinals uniform, Ertz has spoken glowingly about the team’s culture.

“The team culture is very impressive,” said Ertz. “You got a lot of leadership guys on this team. It’s not just one or two guys, the standards are what they are for a reason because guys want to win football games. This thing has been built the right way.”

With just tight ends Darrell Daniels and Demetrius Harris vying for snaps, it’s easily possible to see Ertz’s production increase. Ertz also played more than receivers A.J. Green, Rondale Moore and Antoine Wesley.

Don’t expect Ertz to become the Pro Bowl tight end who led the Eagles in yards for four straight years.

The Cardinals acquired Ertz for a reason. With a week before the Cardinals’ bye, it’s time to see Ertz burst onto the scene.

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