If the Eagles are looking for DeSean Jackson's "replacement," they need to look no further than to their own roster and tight end Zach Ertz.

The Eagles, of course, have added two pieces - Jeremy Maclin and Darren Sproles - to supplement the 2013 production that left with Jackson. But of their current players, Ertz has perhaps the best chance to dramatically increase his numbers now that Jackson is in Washington, especially if the second-year tight end delivers upon Eagles expectations.

"I think Zach can have a huge role," coach Chip Kelly said last week.

An Ertz jump probably would have come in his sophomore season even if Jackson had stayed. He has the look of a "future Pro Bowler" - the first-round grade the Eagles gave him last year - and over the last decade that caliber of tight end has seen his production spike from Year 1 to Year 2.
In the previous 10 seasons, 19 tight ends were selected to the Pro Bowl. The 19 players, as a whole, averaged 30 catches for 334 yards and three touchdowns in their rookie years. A year later, they averaged 56 catches for 649 yards and five touchdowns.

The rookie-to-second-season jump was even greater for two future Hall of Fame tight ends and two younger tight ends with Hall of Fame talent.

The Chargers' Antonio Gates went from 24 catches for 389 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie to 81 catches for 964 yards and 13 touchdowns. Jason Witten of the Cowboys jumped from 35-347-1 to 87-980-6.

The Patriots' Rob Gronkowski and the Saints' Jimmy Graham soared from 42-546-10 and 31-356-5, respectively, in 2010 to 90-1,327-17 and 99-1,310-11 in 2011.

Ertz, 23, obviously has a way to go before he can be mentioned in that company. But he caught 36 passes for 469 yards and four scores despite playing only 41 percent of the Eagles' offensive snaps last season - numbers as good as any rookie tight end in 2013.

If Ertz can improve his blocking, he'll see more time than even the loss of Jackson and his own natural progression would warrant.

"As for comparing myself to other tight ends - I want to be one of the best in the game, and I've got to be on the field more, obviously, to do that," Ertz said recently. "And that's what I'm really working towards this offseason."

The Eagles expect as much.

Ertz has become the team's poster boy for its best-available-player draft philosophy. The Eagles didn't exactly need a tight end with Brent Celek and James Casey already on the roster last year. But when Ertz was available with the third pick of the second round, Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman pounced.

The Eagles considered Ertz essentially another first-round pick after tackle Lane Johnson, but it took a while for the Stanford product to see extended time. He played only 24 percent of the snaps in the first three games, but 47 percent over the next 11.

Ertz pulled in 28 passes for 325 yards and four scores during that 11-game span. His blocking improved, as well, but not enough to be on the field late in the season whenever the Eagles went with two tight ends in run sets.

Celek and Casey got the nod, and Ertz's snaps decreased in the final two regular-season games.

"I've tried to get stronger this offseason," Ertz said. "Obviously, the No. 1 goal is to be the complete tight end."

Ertz missed a large number of practices last spring because of Stanford's late graduation. He's had this entire offseason to focus on the coming season and has apparently been diligent in his preparation.

He said he still weighs 250 pounds at 6-foot-5, but his body fat has dropped considerably.

"The encouraging thing for Zach is when you see him in the building you can see how much broader he's gotten, how much he's worked on his body," Roseman said. "We talk about it all the time, missing that month based on his school schedule, and that's hard."

Ertz actually went back to school after the season. He worked out in Palo Alto, Calif., with other Stanford alumni, including Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, from whom Ertz caught many passes.