By Mary Cunningham
Any Eagles fan who doubts how important Zach Ertz is to the team’s fortunes needs only to watch the Lions game this Sunday.
Ertz will be back from injury, and so will starting cornerback Leodis McKelvin.
Ertz, the fourth-year tight end, has been cleared by doctors after a displaced rib kept him out the last two games, and is expected to play on Sunday. His return comes at an ideal time as the Lions defense has struggled mightily to cover tight ends.
The Lions gave up 12 touchdowns to tight ends last season, which was more than a quarter of the scores allowed by the defense. That mark put them last in the NFL.
Amazingly enough, the Lions are on pace to double that in 2016. They’ve already given up six touchdowns to tight ends in just four games, including three to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1.
For the first time this season, the Eagles will have all three tight ends healthy. This should create a matchup nightmare for the Lions’ underachieving linebackers, as Ertz, Brent Celek, and the athletic Trey Burton are all more than capable pass catchers. It will be interesting to see how head coach Doug Pederson deploys them.