Eagles

Eagles taking full advantage of new TD celebration rules

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Eagles taking full advantage of new TD celebration rules

The Eagles routed the 49ers on Sunday but the game was not without controversy. Zach Ertz had to answer for throwing at Alshon Jeffery, and whether the beanball was intentional.

"I was trying to dust him off," Ertz said. "From my perspective, it kind of looked like he was crowding the plate, so I wanted to brush him back a little bit. Unfortunately, I slipped and it just hit him."

Ertz and Jeffery were the latest players involved in the Eagles' elaborate baseball-themed touchdown celebrations. Only this time, Jeffery's 53-yard home-run touchdown wasn't followed by an imaginary home run in the end zone.

Instead, Ertz plunked Jeffery, and the wide receiver did not take kindly to the hit by pitch. Jeffery charged the mound, and Ertz ran away — all part of the choreographed madness after the Eagles took a 20-point third-quarter lead.

"He's a big and intimidating guy, so I just wanted to get out of there," Ertz said. "Hopefully, all of my teammates would stand up for me, but unfortunately, they didn't. They were on his side."

Nobody bothered to hold Jeffery back as he rushed the pitcher, but that's OK. He planned the whole thing.

"I'll take credit," Jeffery said of the unique take on baseball celebrations.

The NFL changed the rules in the offseason to allow for group celebrations, and the Eagles are one of the teams taking full advantage and having a blast with it. In other words, you can count on the offense to keep coming up with new ways to celebrate together as a team, regardless of who crosses the goal line.

"No matter who scores, we're going to keep having fun," Jeffery said.

"We're just trying to get the timing — who's going to do this, who's going to do that. Whoever scores the touchdown has to be the main character, but other than that, we're just trying to figure out who's going to do the rest of the stuff."

It's a great sign because it means the Eagles are crossing the goal line with enough frequency to not only coordinate celebrations but also keep coming up with new acts.

The celebrations serve as a commentary on this team as well. This group continues to bond and have fun together, and that's never more apparent than when they get six.

"It's a blast right now," Ertz said. "We're having a lot of fun. We're playing extremely loose. We have a lot of confidence each and every week when we go out there. It's a fun group.

"We have a lot of unselfish guys that all they care about is winning, so it's a really fun environment right now."

The Eagles improved their record to 7-1, which remains the best mark in the NFL. With home-field advantage and a bye in the postseason on the table, and Super Bowl conversation all around town, the team would have every excuse to stiffen up and start getting tight.

But it doesn't look or sound like that's going to happen, and the celebrations are just one reason why.

"We're just living in the moment, staying in the moment," Jeffery said. "Just keep going."

Carson Wentz's durability is his biggest strength

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Carson Wentz's durability is his biggest strength

Forget for a moment all the record-setting touchdown passes, all the dazzling third-down conversions and the highlight-reel red-zone heroics.

One of Carson Wentz's greatest accomplishments these last two years has just been playing football every Sunday. Being out there for his team without fail every week.

That alone puts him in an elite group.

Look around the league. Tyrod Taylor just got benched in Buffalo with the Bills in the playoff hunt. Trevor Siemian was benched just before the Broncos came to Philly. The 49ers benched Brian Hoyer a few weeks before facing the Eagles. 

Last we checked, the Browns have already benched DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan this fall.

Heck, even one-time Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco was benched by Ravens head coach John Harbaugh during a loss to the Jaguars.

We've been through all of that. That quarterback carousel. It never leads anywhere.

Wentz on Sunday night will start his 26th consecutive game. Every game the Eagles have played since opening day last year. He's one of only 12 quarterbacks who's started all his team's games over the last two years.

Elite quarterback play is huge for any football team, but quarterback stability is just as important. And Wentz is finally giving this franchise something it's lacked for much of the last quarter century.

Think about it.

From 1991 through 2015, a 25-year span, the only years an Eagles quarterback started 16 games were Donovan McNabb in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2008. And McNabb got benched in 2008.

From 2010 through 2015, the six years between McNabb and Wentz, the Eagles used seven different quarterbacks. Not only did the Eagles not win anything during that span, there didn't seem to be much of a future either. 

The Eagles were stuck trying to build a championship team without an elite quarterback. Which is almost impossible to do.

All of which led Howie Roseman to make the franchise-altering decision that the Eagles had to do anything possible, no matter how drastic, no matter how extreme, to get that guy and turn the franchise over to him.

That realization, that organizational decision and the series of trades that landed Wentz in Philadelphia guaranteed that the Eagles would have quarterback stability and a chance for sustained success for the foreseeable future.

Just by starting 25 games in a row, Wentz has done something no Eagles QB had done since McNabb started 31 straight from opening day 2003 through Week 15 of 2004. With the No. 1 seed locked up, he didn't play the last week of the season.

McNabb started 51 straight games from midway through 1999, when he replaced Doug Pederson, through Week 10 of 2002, when he broke his ankle against the Cards (but threw four touchdowns anyway).

And along with those two McNabb streaks and streaks by Jaws and Randall, Wentz's run of 25 starts is already the Eagles' fifth-longest since Norm Van Brocklin started 36 straight from 1958 through 1960.

You've probably already picked up on the fact that the Eagles' greatest periods of success in the NFL's modern era — the 1960 Championship and the 1980 and 2004 Super Bowl appearances — just happen to coincide with periods of tremendous quarterback stability.

And maybe very soon we can add another era to that list.

Just by being out there every Sunday, Wentz has separated himself from most quarterbacks in the NFL.

Of the 12 QBs who've started every game since opening day last year, only six have a career winning record. And of those six, only Wentz and Dak Prescott -—both 24 — are under 28.

They'll meet for the third time Sunday night in Dallas, and whatever happens, both franchises are in good hands for the foreseeable future.

For the Eagles, these are heady days. Wentz is having an MVP season and Roseman and Joe Douglas have surrounded him with a deep and talented roster.

An entire generation of quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer — will be retiring in the next few years. And most of the young QBs lining up to replace them are unproven. Even guys like Kirk Cousins, Matt Stafford, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson will be in their mid-30s in five years.

How many NFL teams know who their quarterback will be in, let's say, 2023? The Texans with Deshaun Watson, the Rams with Jared Goff, Marcus Mariota in Tennessee and probably Jameis Winston in Tampa. And the Eagles and Cowboys. Anybody else?

Most NFL teams are in a constant search for that elite quarterback. Not around here. Not anymore.

The most important question facing almost every NFL team is one the Eagles won't have to even think about for a decade.

Alshon Jeffery listed as questionable vs. Cowboys

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Alshon Jeffery listed as questionable vs. Cowboys

Alshon Jeffery will be listed as questionable for Sunday night's game in Dallas. 

The Eagles' receiver popped up on the injury report with an ankle injury on Thursday, when he was limited. 

Head coach Doug Pederson said he expects Jeffery to play and he's optimistic he'll be able to go. On Thursday, Jeffery said he will "most definitely" play against the Cowboys. 

"It's been kind of lingering a little while," Pederson said. "There's no really one particular game or instance. It's hard for me to even put a finger on when it happened or how it happened. 

"It's something too in his case with all the cutting and stopping and starting in practice and games and where we are at that time of the year, you're going to start seeing more and more guys get added to the list or taken some reps off at practice, just so we can keep them healthy for Sunday."

Zach Ertz (hamstring), Ronald Darby (ankle) and Jaylen Watkins (hamstring) were full participants on Wednesday and Thursday, the two most important practice days of the week. Every player -- including Jeffery -- was a full participant in Friday's indoor practice. Barring setbacks, Ertz and Darby should make their returns on Sunday. 

Ertz missed the Denver game and Darby hasn't played since Week 1, when he dislocated his right ankle. 

The Cowboys are reportedly going to be without left tackle Tyron Smith and linebacker Sean Lee. They're also missing Ezekiel Elliott, who will serve the second game of his six-game suspension.