Eagles

Alshon Jeffery flies right through Broncos' hyped secondary

Alshon Jeffery flies right through Broncos' hyped secondary

Wide receivers aren’t supposed to stray into the “No Fly Zone,” but apparently Alshon Jeffery and the Eagles didn’t get that memo.

The Denver Broncos' secondary is usually akin to the Bermuda Triangle for receivers. They tend to disappear against the likes of Pro Bowl cornerbacks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib.

Not Jeffery, who enjoyed one his most productive games yet as a member of the Eagles on Sunday. Afterward, he didn’t sound surprised by the outcome of venturing into a restricted area, either.

“We’re in the NFL,” Jeffery said postgame. “Everyone is a pro, and I’ll show them a Pro Bowl wide receiver, too.

“It doesn’t matter who’s out there. It’s football. You’re going to get beat and make plays."

Jeffery finished with six receptions for 84 yards and a season-high two touchdowns. It’s the most yards and touchdowns by a wide receiver against the Denver defense in 2017.

Jeffery’s 32-yard touchdown is also the fourth-longest scoring play by a receiver against the Broncos this season, and it was a beauty. Carson Wentz faked the handoff to running back Jay Ajayi, and while Talib was peeking in the backfield, Jeffery took off.

The play was actually a run-pass option, and Wentz wound up making a perfect read and throw.

“That’s something that we practiced all week,” Jeffery said. “As (Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby) would say, ‘We practiced it to hell.’

“It was working in practice. They did a great job of scheming and game-planning, and Carson with a great read. We practiced it – if he pulls it, just take off and run, and that’s how it worked out.”

The Eagles dialed it up for one of the most dangerous ball hawks in NFL history. Talib ranks fourth all-time with 10 interception returns for touchdowns.

Talib is thinking six on every snap, so in a sense, he guessed right this time.

“It was just a zone-read play with that little tag to Alshon there,” Wentz said. “We knew Talib is an aggressive corner, so with that action I just knew I had to get enough time to let Alshon win, and he did the rest.”

The touchdown was just the latest evidence of the growing rapport between quarterback and star receiver. As Eagles coach Doug Pederson revealed, it was a play the duo had been working on since May.

“It's a Day-1-training-camp, Day-1-OTA play,” Pederson said. “It's just a one-step hitch-and-go, and we got (Talib) to bite on the play. Did a great job throwing the ball on the run and Alshon getting in the end zone.

“It's actually in our tempo package and we pulled it out this week. Just kind of dusted it off and worked on it all week and executed it to the perfection.”

Jeffery now has at least one touchdown in consecutive games, along with 146 yards receiving over the last two. He has quietly amassed 34 receptions for 500 yards and five touchdowns in nine contests – not quite a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown pace, but closing in on such milestones.

Concerns over Jeffery’s chemistry with Wentz are beginning to fade, if the pair left any doubt at all against the Broncos.

“I think it’s always been there,” Jeffery said. “We’re on the same page in practice, working each and every day. Just work on it all the time in practice, then in a game, it’ll be easy.

“It surprised you guys, not us.”

Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

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Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

Carson Wentz doesn't care about accolades. 

He just better get used to them. 

The NFL announced Wednesday afternoon the Eagles' quarterback is leading all players in Pro Bowl fan voting. 

"I honestly didn't even know that," Wentz said to NBC Sports Philadelphia while sitting at his locker after Wednesday's practice. "I guess that's cool and all but you know how I am about that stuff. At the end of the day, we're 9-1 and that's what we like. You know me, I don't get caught up in that stuff."

Wentz has 273,367 votes, well ahead of the second-place player, Tom Brady (239,989). He has over 30,000 more votes than perhaps the best quarterback of all time. 

Fan voting is open until Dec. 14 and the Pro Bowl teams will be announced on Dec. 19.  

This season, Wentz has thrown for 2,430 yards and leads the NFL in touchdown passes with 25. He has just five interceptions. Wentz, in his second pro season, is a big reason why the Eagles have the best record in the NFL at 9-1. 

If Wentz makes the Pro Bowl this season, it would be the first of his career. He admitted it would mean something to be named to the team. 

"I mean, obviously, that's recognition and that's something cool," he said. "But that's for down the road. We still have six games here to take care of business. We'll see what happens." 

In addition to Wentz, his favorite target Zach Ertz is closing in on his first Pro Bowl appearance. Ertz leads all NFC tight ends with 156,183 votes. In nine games this season, Ertz has 536 yards receiving and a career-high six touchdown catches. 

The Eagles are hoping neither of these two will be able to play in this year's Pro Bowl even if they make it. They're hoping both will be preparing for the Super Bowl that week. 

Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

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Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

Carson Wentz's declining production probably isn't a sign of trouble on the horizon for the Eagles. Quite the contrary, the quarterback's down numbers may be at least in part a reflection of the scheme and how well the team is playing.

With 2,430 yards passing and 25 touchdowns, Wentz might be the front-runner to be named the NFL's Most Valuable Player at season's end. He's among the top two or three candidates, anyway. But the second-year player's once eye-popping statistics have notably dropped off in recent weeks, begging some question as to whether the magic is wearing off.

Over the Eagles' last three games, Wentz has completed 47 of 86 pass attempts (54.7 percent) for 192.7 yards per game (6.7 average) with eight touchdowns — far from MVP-caliber.

Perhaps the most concerning of those numbers is Wentz's completion percentage. At 59.7 percent for the season, he's fallen well below his mark of 62.4 as a rookie.

Wentz concedes he could be more accurate. The 24-year-old signal caller also believes some of the dropoff in his completion percentage is due to the offense pushing the ball vertically with more frequency in 2017.

That, and stats are meaningless as long as the Eagles are winning.

"That's definitely a number that I'd like to get higher again," Wentz said before Wednesday's practice. "I'm not crazy about stats. What really matters is wins and losses, but I'd like that to get higher.

“I do think it's a product of taking more chances down the field, taking more shots, being aggressive. I'm not going to get too hung up on that.”

There is certainly something to what Wentz is saying. While his completion rate is sub-optimal, his yards per attempt are over a yard higher compared to last season — 7.6 to 6.2. That's good for ninth in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks.

More incompletions or not, Wentz has still managed to play more efficient.

The Eagles are also 3-0 during Wentz's ongoing funk, so to speak, and he's only turned the football over once. He's obviously doing something right.

In fact, Wentz and the Eagles have been so successful in the last three games, that's actually had a negative impact on his individual numbers as well. The team jumped out to big second-half leads in contests against the 49ers, Broncos and Cowboys, reducing the need to put the ball in the air. Wentz even sat out portions of the fourth quarter twice.

Those types of game scripts will obviously put a damper on volume totals such as yards and touchdowns, and possibly Wentz's MVP chances along with them. From the team's vantage point, they're overwhelmingly positive.

With the Eagles chugging right along at 9-1, there doesn't seem much need to perform an autopsy on Wentz's season at this point. But if critics are searching for holes in the ship, the quarterback doesn't appear to be the place where this squad is going to spring a leak.