Eagles

Carson Wentz on verge of breaking NFL's oldest team TD record

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Carson Wentz on verge of breaking NFL's oldest team TD record

When Sonny Jurgensen threw 32 touchdown passes for the Eagles in 1961, it was historic stuff. He tied the NFL record for TDs in a season — set two years earlier by the Colts’ Johnny Unitas — and broke the Eagles' record of 25, set in 1948 by Tommy Thompson during the Eagles' first championship season.

Nobody realized back then — 56 years ago — just how historic Jurgensen’s season was.

Because that franchise record for touchdown passes that Jurgensen set in 1961? It still stands.

Jurgensen, now 83 years old and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has over the last half-century taken on all challengers to his Eagles TD passing record.

Norm Snead, Ron Jaworski, Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb and Nick Foles all went after Jurgensen. 

All failed.  

As Carson Wentz becomes the latest to challenge Jurgensen’s mark, this a great chance to put into perspective just exactly what Christian Adolph "Sonny" Jurgensen III accomplished back in 1961 and marvel at just how long his record has stood.

Jurgensen, the Eagles' fourth-round draft pick out of Duke in 1957, barely played his first four years. He backed up Bobby Thomason as a rookie, although he did go 3-1 in four starts, and then he backed up Hall of Famer Norm Van Brocklin in 1958, 1959 and in the 1960 NFL Championship season.

Van Brocklin retired after the 1960 season, and Jurgensen had instant success in 1961, quarterbacking the Eagles to a 10-4 record, setting an NFL record with 3,723 passing yards (in just 14 games) and also leading the league with both 32 TDs and 24 interceptions.

Jurgensen is best-known for his 11 seasons with the Redskins, but 56 years after he threw 32 touchdown passes for the Eagles, that record still stands.

The Eagles and Oilers/Titans have the oldest TD pass records in the NFL. George Blanda threw 36 touchdown passes for the Oilers in 1961. They were in the AFL at the time, but when the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, all AFL stats became NFL stats.

Wentz is the latest Eagles quarterback to challenge Jurgensen but definitely not the first.

In 1967, Snead — who the Eagles acquired from the Redskins in 1964 in the ill-fated trade that sent Jurgensen to Washington — threw 29 TDs in 14 games. Snead had three games with four touchdowns and three more with three touchdowns, but in the Eagles' eight other games he had only eight TD passes and was never really in a position to make a run at Jurgensen's mark. Interestingly, that was the only season Snead had more than 19 TD passes as an Eagle.

In 1980, Jaworski was on pace for 33 touchdown passes after 11 games. He had 23 touchdowns with five games to go but threw only four in the Eagles' last five games and finished with 27. Jaws had only one other year in his career with more than 20 TDs — 23 in 1981.

In 1990, Cunningham became the first Eagle since Jurgensen with 30 touchdown passes in a season. He had 26 with three games to go but threw only four the last three games of the season and fell two short of Jurgensen. That was Randall's only season with more than 24 TD passes until he revived his career in Minnesota.

McNabb was on pace to break Jurgensen's mark in 2004. After throwing five TDs against the Packers in early December, he had 28 TD passes with four games to go. But he had only one each the next two games, then — with the Eagles already clinching the No. 1 seed — he threw only three passes (with one TD) the last two weeks of the season and finished with 31. He never came close again.

Foles threw 27 touchdowns in 2013, but he didn't start until Week 6. If he played the whole season? He may have thrown 40. But he didn't.

Which brings us to Wentz.

With four games left, the 24-year-old has 29 touchdown passes, most in the NFL and already the fourth-most in Eagles history behind Jurgensen, McNabb in 2004 and Randall in 1990.

Wentz has thrown at least one touchdown pass in all 12 games the Eagles have played. He's the only NFL QB to throw at least one TD in all 12 games this year.

With the Rams, Giants, Raiders and Cowboys left on the schedule, Wentz needs just three touchdowns to tie Jurgensen and four to pass him. Considering that Wentz is averaging 2.4 touchdown passes per game, the record should finally fall.

But it probably should have fallen a few other times.

More than half a century after he last played for the Eagles, Jurgensen keeps finding ways to cling to his record.

Wentz has had a remarkable year, maybe an MVP year, and it looks like the record will soon be his. But Jurgensen has been incredibly resilient. The Red Roach has protected his record for 55 years. Can he do it again?

Turns out, Alshon Jeffery was injured all season

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Turns out, Alshon Jeffery was injured all season

We all know about the myriad injuries the Eagles suffered on their way to the Super Bowl.

Nobody knew about this one.

Alshon Jeffery had surgery Wednesday morning to repair a torn rotator cuff that he played through all season, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Per Rapoport, Jeffery suffered the injury in training camp this past summer. We did know Jeffery suffered some sort of shoulder injury during the summer. Even after he returned, Doug Pederson remained very cautious with Jeffery. At the time, that seemed strange. Pederson just kept saying he held him out at his own discretion, even though it seemed like Jeffery and Carson Wentz needed time to build chemistry. All that seems to make more sense now.

Rotator cuff injuries can be especially difficult for wide receivers (over-the-head catches) and any skill player who gets tackled to the ground. In recent years, rotator cuff tears have either ended the season or caused multiweek absences for Eric Decker, Martellus Bennett and Plaxico Burress, among others. 

Jeffery's ability to play the whole season with a shoulder injury makes what he was able to do all the more impressive. He made a quick impact, catching two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in Weeks 1-4, then scored seven TDs from Weeks 8-14 before turning in a strong postseason.

Along the way, Jeffery earned a new contract that pays him $26.75 million guaranteed with a full value of $52 million. 

Safe to say that playing through pain worked out. How crazy is it to consider now that on Wentz's crucial Week 14 touchdown pass to Jeffery in L.A., the QB had a torn ACL and the receiver had a torn rotator cuff.

Jeffery confirmed the surgery via Instagram story on Wednesday afternoon.

Eagles Stay or Go — How about all the tight ends?

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Eagles Stay or Go — How about all the tight ends?

In the third part of our offseason series examining the future of the world champion Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro try to figure out who will be on the roster in 2018. 

We go alphabetically — Part 1 was Nelson Agholor to Derek Barnett, Part 2 was De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks. Today is Billy Brown to Vinny Curry.

Billy Brown
Roob: Don't be surprised if Brown makes the team next year. He's got good size at 6-4/255, and from what we've seen he has pretty good hands. We saw his catching ability at training camp last year, and he caught eight passes for 51 yards in the preseason. Brown spent the entire 2017 season on the practice squad, but with the future of both Trey Burton and Brent Celek up in the air, Brown may be able to secure a roster spot with a good training camp. I expect Burton to get an offer in the $7 million per year range if he hits the open market, which the Eagles most likely won't be able to match, and Celek could either retire or get released to save cap space. Brown could be the next guy up.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: After spending his entire rookie season on the Eagles' practice squad, Brown is going to have a pretty good shot to make the roster in 2017. Brown, who came from Shepherd University, was a training camp standout last summer. He's a converted wide receiver, so he has a good past as a receiving tight end. He has to prove himself, but the path to making the 53-man roster is there. 

Verdict: STAYS

Trey Burton
Roob:
Burton has gone from an undrafted free agent long shot to make the roster in 2015 to one of the most attractive tight ends set to hit free agency this spring. With his soft hands, versatility and tremendous athleticism, Burton should be in line for a multi-year deal in the ballpark of $7 to $7.5 million per year. Even the Super Bowl touchdown pass speaks volumes about Burton and his ability to stay cool and composed and make a play under extreme pressure and in a situation he'd never been in as a pro. You'd love to be able to keep Burton, but Zach Ertz is the Eagles' tight end and they just don't have the cap space for the luxury of a high-priced backup.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Burton is no longer a secret. The Eagles actually tried to extend Burton during the 2016 season, but the two sides were never really close. Burton wanted to bet on himself and now that seems wise. He played the 2017 season on a relatively cheap deal after being a restricted free agent last offseason. But now he's unrestricted this time around and other teams are going to be interested. Burton had his best season in 2016, when he caught 37 passes for 327 yards, but he did have a career-high five touchdown catches in 2017. He's going to get paid more for his potential, though, and it's going to price out the Eagles. 

Verdict: GOES

Brent Celek
Roob: We continue Tight End Day with the 11-year veteran, one of the most popular Eagles of the past generation. Celek will one day be enshrined in the Eagles Hall of Fame, but now he's just another veteran with a $5 million cap figure that is just too high. Maybe Celek will help the Eagles avoid a major decision by retiring. Celek has plenty of interests outside football and he's 33 years old now and has a ring, and retirement may be attractive to him. Go out on top. Or maybe he'll take a massive pay cut down to the veteran's minimum and stick around another year and get the two yards he needs for 5,000. But I think it's most likely Celek won't be here next year. Whatever happens, he'll always be remembered as a champion.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is a tough one just because it's Celek. He embodies the city of Philadelphia better than anyone else on the team. He's also the longest-tenured athlete in the city. It's important to him to be a career Eagle, to never play for another team. But he just can't be back in 2018 on his current salary. It doesn't make good football or business sense. His cap number in 2018 is $5 million, which is just way too high for a reserve blocking tight end. It would be tough for the Eagles to flat out cut him, but if he doesn't want to retire and doesn't want to restructure down to nearly the minimum, that's what's going to have to happen. 

Verdict: GOES

Corey Clement
Roob: 
To go from an undrafted rookie free agent running back with virtually no history as a pass catcher to a 100-yard receiver in the Super Bowl in 10 months is just insane. Clement showed me enough that I believe he can be a lead back on this team. I think the plan will be to take a good long look at Jay Ajayi this coming season, with Ajayi and Clement splitting time, then decide after 2018 whether or not to keep Ajayi, who is due to become a free agent in another year. But under any scenario, Clement will be a major part of this team's running back corps for at least the next few years.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I was wrong about Clement last summer. I thought he was a good running back but there was nothing special about him. I thought Wendell Smallwood deserved to be ahead of him on the depth chart. Oops. Clement had an incredible rookie season. The most incredible thing was that he became a legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield, something he had never been in college or even in high school. He did everything the Eagles asked him to do in his rookie season and excelled at everything. He hasn't just earned a spot on the roster; he's earned the right to be a part of the running back rotation going forward. 

Verdict: STAYS

Fletcher Cox
Roob:
I think Fletch might be around a while. Cox goes into his seventh season with the Eagles having made three straight Pro Bowls and is one of the most dominating interior linemen in the NFL. And he's under contract for the next five years. He stays. And will stay for the foreseeable future.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Sometimes we all sort of forget how good Cox really is. As an interior defensive lineman, Cox doesn't always make flashy plays. But just ask around the league about the Eagles' defense and everyone comes back with one guy on their mind: big No. 91. There's a reason he's become a perennial Pro Bowler and there's a reason he got a $100 million contract last offseason. He's the engine to the Eagles' defense and we saw him elevate his game even more in the run to the Super Bowl by barely leaving the field. This is stupid easy. 

Verdict: STAYS

Vinny Curry
Roob: Curry didn't really have the stat numbers to back it up, but he did play fairly well this year. He's got some massive cap numbers coming up — $11 million in 2018, $11.25 million in 2019 and $12.25 million in 2020. Those are astronomical figures for a guy who has nine sacks in his last 50 games. The Eagles could clear $5 million in cap space by releasing Curry, and that number goes up to $7.25 million next year and $10.25 million before the 2020 season. I think he stays this year, but those cap savings could be tempting for the cap-starved Eagles.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: After a down season in 2016, Curry became a starter and had the best year of his career in 2017. Some folks will argue against that because his sack numbers weren't shocking, but Curry was just tremendously solid as a rusher and against the run in 2017. He's a big reason why the Eagles' defensive line was their top unit and why their run defense was the best in the NFL. But his cap hit of $11 million is a killer this year and first-rounder Barnett is ready to start. I think if Curry is back, it'll be after reworking that deal. But for now ... 

Verdict: GOES