Gronk? Kelce? Right now, NFL's top tight end may be Zach Ertz

Ertz says Eagles needed win vs. Giants (1:18)

Zach Ertz explains why the Eagles' win over the Giants on Thursday night is important after a shaky first 5 games of the season. (1:18)

PHILADELPHIA -- It was Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz versus New York Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins, and it was no contest.

With the Eagles facing a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line late in the second quarter of Thursday's game, Ertz sold an inside route to get Jenkins' body turned and then broke for the corner in one fluid, defender-shedding motion.

Suddenly wide open, Ertz easily secured the touchdown pass from quarterback Carson Wentz and then celebrated by pointing to the back of his own jersey once, and then again, with authority.

The name on that jersey doesn't get as much attention as others at the position: Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce. But Ertz is making a case for why he deserves top billing.

Through six weeks, he leads all tight ends in targets (66) and receiving yards (480) and is second in the NFL in receptions (48) behind only Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen. His 48 receptions are the most by a tight end through six games since 1999. He’s on pace for 128 catches, which would shatter Witten’s record of 110 for most catches in a single season by a tight end.

During Weeks 4 and 5, he became the first tight end to post 10-plus receptions and 100-plus yards in consecutive games since Tony Gonzalez turned the trick in 2005.

While on pace for a career year, Ertz isn't exactly coming out of nowhere. He owns the most receptions (369) by a tight end since entering the league in 2013 as a second-round pick out of Stanford. If there was any anonymity left, it was erased when he scored the game-winning touchdown against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII in February.

But he doesn't get the same pub as some of his peers. Perhaps that has to do with style. Gronk jumps off the screen with his freakish ability and 1,000-watt personality, and Kelce is a big play waiting to happen -- he led all players at his position in yards after the catch (441) and plays of 20-plus yards (19) last season. Ertz is more surgical in his approach, using refined route running and a deep knowledge of the game to spring open with regularity a la his idol, Jason Witten.

"He really does understand defenses, and he can kind of diagnose a defense right away," Eagles tight end coach Justin Peelle said, "and then he's got the ability to process where he can see something and then be able to make the subtle route adjustment."

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Ertz's average separation gained is 3.6 yards, compared to 2.9 for Gronkowski and 2.6 for Kelce. In other words, what happened between he and Jenkins Thursday was rather routine.

Ertz, 27, is starting to become a bigger factor in the red zone. He doubled his previous single-season high by scoring eight touchdowns in 2017, helping the Eagles to the No. 2 red zone ranking in the NFL. Now back in a flow with Wentz, who returned from ACL/LCL surgery in Week 3, Ertz has found the end zone in each of the past two games.

"We're a team when myself, Nelson [Agholor] and Alshon [Jeffery] are all playing well, we're a team that defenses really have to pick who they're going to try and stop," he said.

Often, the focus is on Ertz. As offensive coordinator Mike Groh said: "If you're preparing for the Eagles, you're aware of where Zach is."