Friday, June 9, 2023

Zach Ertz discusses transition to Cardinals, playing with Kyler Murray and how Arizona has been built right

The Arizona Cardinals made what was maybe one of the most underrated additions this season when they sent rookie cornerback Tay Gowan and a fifth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for veteran tight end Zach Ertz. The Eagles legend has made an immediate impact for this NFC contender, as he has caught 23 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns in six games played.

Now that the dust has settled a bit and Ertz has had his bye week to refocus, the Pro Bowl tight end had a chance to catch up with CBS Sports. Ertz joked with us that there was more that went into a mid-season trade than he anticipated. 

“Yeah it’s been a whirlwind,” Ertz said about the trade. “I played on a Thursday night in Philly and then I was on a plane to Cleveland with Arizona on Saturday. The bye week last week, I was able to kind of take a deep breath and reevaluate where I was. You know, call some family members that maybe I wasn’t a great son or brother to in the meantime because I was so focused on learning the playbook, I was so focused on the transition. There’s so many little things you take for granted like where do you live, where do you get a massage, where do you get acupuncture from?”

Ertz said that he had several new teammates such as Jordan Hicks and Justin Pugh that have helped him get acclimated to his new NFL home. He even stayed in Pugh’s guesthouse for about two weeks. After a bit of a transition period, however, Ertz says he feels good now. 


Zach Ertz celebrates after catching a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 11. USATSI

The former second-round pick out of Stanford has looked good at times this season as well. Against the Seattle Seahawks a couple of weeks ago, backup quarterback Colt McCoy hit Ertz eight times for 88 yards and two touchdowns in the 23-13 win. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury knows exactly how he wants to use a playmaker like Ertz, which the tight end appreciates. 

“He’s a stud,” Ertz said of Kingsbury. “He’s a great play caller, he’s going to put us in situations to be successful, and as a player on offense that’s all you can ask for. He’s going to be aggressive, he’s constantly going to be on the attack, we’re not just going to repeat plays just for the sake of repeating plays, we’re always going to be on the attack and want to present new pictures to the defense. And with the talent we have on this offense, if we’re able to play at a high level, we should be able to score a lot of points. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know him, getting to know the type of play caller he is and I still feel like I have room to improve in this offense, which is exciting.”

While Kingsbury is certainly looking like a stud play caller, Ertz is playing with another stud in quarterback Kyler Murray. The former No. 1 overall pick is having an MVP campaign, and Ertz gushed about the kind of player he’s becoming. 

“I’ve been saying this over the past week or so, this dude is one of the most talented people I’ve ever played with,” said Ertz. “I don’t know if there’s anything on the football field that he can’t do. I knew he was a good football player obviously coming out here he was one of the main reasons I wanted to be out here, but I didn’t realize how good of a passer he is. He wants to play football from the quarterback, he doesn’t want to rely on making plays with his feet, he wants to use those as a luxury. So I’ve been extremely impressed with him. I still feel like we’re just scratching the surface of where we can be with our chemistry. It’s been fun, it’s been great to kind of learn how he sees the game and kind of communicate with how I see it and how I’ve seen it over the years, and it’s been refreshing.”

While the Cardinals have the best record in the NFL at 10-2, a total of four teams have the same or better Super Bowl LVI odds. The amount of respect given or not given to the Cardinals has been a subject of debate all season. They look like one of the best teams in the NFL, but after all, this will be the first time Kingsbury and Murray make the playoffs. We asked Ertz why his Cardinals are one of the best teams in the NFL, and why they are a legitimate Super Bowl candidate. 

“I think they’ve been built the right way,” said Ertz. “It hasn’t been shortcuts taken. You have to build your team in the trenches and with the quarterback position. Obviously they hit on Kyler, which is awesome, I mean if you get a quarterback like that you’re going to have a chance. But with the skill position players we have, if we’re able to put up points like we should and let our defensive line rush the quarterback — I mean, we got so many good pass-rushers on that defensive line — we got a chance. But the key is, the team that we are right now, the 10-2 Arizona Cardinals, can’t be the team that we are going into the playoffs with. We have to improve as a football team right now otherwise we have no chance. So between now and when we play the Rams on Monday night and the following weeks, we just continually have to get better as a football team.

“The culture that is here, how hard people practice, how it’s been built the right way, you can tell that this group of men is special, and I’m just fortunate to be here.”

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