What Witten Says About Eagles’ Tight End Threatening His NFL Single-Season Record
Jason Witten holds the NFL single-season record for most catches by a tight end. In 2012, Witten recorded 110 receptions. But that record is threatened by Eagles’ superstar Tight End Zach Ertz who comes to town on Sunday to play the Cowboys. Ertz has 93 catches through 12 games and is on pace to reach 124 for the season. It would shatter Witten’s record of 110. How does Witten, the future Pro Football Hall of Famer, feel about that?
Photo via Philadelphia Eagles
Witten talked extensively about Ertz during ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast of this week’s Redskins-Eagles game.
“I love this kid, I hope he breaks every one of the records I have,” Witten said of Ertz. “He’s a special guy.”
Witten then joked with his broadcast partners, Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland: “I will say, though, you know it gets pretty cold up here (in Philly). People start to double cover you (laughing).”
Then Witten went on to heap more praise on Ertz.
“Listen, records are meant to be broken and that’s the case here. Zach Ertz, I’ve watched him a lot. The greatest compliment I can say is that in my last couple of years when I would study – and I’m very particular in who I study – he was one of the guys I looked at because of how he loves football. He’s a student of the game. He plays over 95% of the plays. He’s improved as a blocker.”
Witten analyzed how teams try to defend Ertz, including a play in the first half of Monday night’s broadcast when Redskins Safety D.J. Swearinger was unable to knock a pass away from Ertz who made the catch.
“They’re trying to play man-to-man,” noted Witten. “I think with Ertz, you have to get right up on the line of scrimmage. You have to be physical with him, disrupt him early because tight ends don’t have that speed. It forces the quarterback to get off of him (and move onto the next target in the progression of the pass play).
“He has a big catch radius that Carson (Wentz) can lean on. They do it a number of different ways. We’ve seen him do it on a run-pass option, we’ve seen him split out wide, we’ve seen him as the traditional tight end. He has a high football IQ.”
On a good catch by Ertz in which the tight end began the play as a blocker before releasing into the open as a route-runner, Witten talked about Ertz’s intangibles.
“Ertz has just got such good feel,” said Witten. “He’s going to block, then release on the play-action to get to the edge. He sells the block – 1,001 and 1,002 – then let’s (the defender) go. It’s a ‘feel’ thing. You can’t really teach how long you’ve got to hold those blocks on the bootlegs. The best tight ends understand it. Zach Ertz does it better than anyone.”
Later in the broadcast, the MNF producers showed a picture of Ertz posing with an autographed #82 Witten Cowboys jersey. Ertz posted the photo on social media back on May 5th following Witten’s retirement.
Ertz posted this message on his @ZERTZ_86 account: “Thank you Witt for being you and being someone a 17-year old kid from California could say, ‘That’s who I want to be like when I grow up!’ And like you always say THE SECRET’S IN THE DIRT!”
Witten then told the story of giving that particular jersey to Ertz following the Cowboys-Eagles regular season finale in Philly last December. It was Witten’s final NFL game.
“Well, he had been asking me for my jersey for quite some time and I didn’t know it was going to be my last game and I was going to be coming up here to join you in the (ESPN broadcast) booth,” Witten told broadcast partner Joe Tessitore. “That was my last game up here and it was a gut-wrenching game because we weren’t going to the postseason and they were. They were going on the playoff run. I just admire him and he’s communicated that over the years, how much he appreciates me and studied my tape. I wanted to give him that jersey.
“I never was one of those that went back-and-forth with a jersey swap. I got in the locker room after the game. That’s the only one I ever did. So Zach Ertz got my last jersey.”
And what did Ertz do with that jersey?
“He told us the jersey is in his closet,” Tessitore and Witten told the Monday Night audience.