Eagles

10 observations from Eagles minicamp: Carson Wentz on the money all day

10 observations from Eagles minicamp: Carson Wentz on the money all day

After Wednesday's practice, the Eagles have just one day left until their long break heading into training camp.

In that extended break, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said he will have some skill position players up in his home state of North Dakota for some working out and bonding time.

If nothing else, it will be a little relief from the heat.

Wednesday was another hot one in South Philly, but at least some relative cloud cover made it manageable.

Here are 10 observations from practice:

1. Speaking of Wentz, he had his best day (of the days reporters have been able to watch) this spring. At times over the last few weeks, he has been up and down, but he was on the money Wednesday. Extremely accurate.

Throughout the entire practice, there were just three bad plays: a jump ball to Torrey Smith that landed incomplete, a miscommunication with Smith that was picked of by Rodney McLeod and an overthrow on the sideline.

Aside from those plays, Wentz was money. He connected on two deep balls (probably about 50 yards apiece) to Nelson Agholor.

Head coach Doug Pederson said that Wentz has been showing him enough consistency throughout the spring, but Wentz simply hasn't been that consistent. Wednesday was a big day for him.

2. When the offense got on the field going against air, it was practicing play-action passes and passes where Wentz was rolling out of the pocket. It seemed to really get him into a rhythm early. It's something we saw at times from him during his rookie season. When he's able to throw on the run, the other passes start falling easier. His ability to throw on the run is what might end up separating him from quarterbacks around the league; he's really good at it.

3. Let's talk about Agholor. If an alien landed his spaceship at the NovaCare Complex and was explained the rules of football and allowed to watch all of the Eagles' practices this spring, he would be convinced Agholor is the team's best receiver.

Because for the past few weeks, he has been.

That certainly has Eagles fans rolling their eyes, and rightfully so. Agholor has been a disaster once he gets in games and has come nowhere near living up to his draft status. And it's hard to believe he's turned a corner. But it's undeniable that he's looked good this spring, which might speak to the unimportance of these workouts as a whole.

4. Jordan Matthews (knee) was still not on the field Wednesday. Last week, Doug Pederson was unsure if Matthews would practice at all this week; now it looks unlikely. The team will give him an extended period of time to heal before training camp.

Elsewhere, Fletcher Cox left practice early with a neck strain, and Dorial Green-Beckham missed practice with a foot injury. Neither injury seems serious. 

Newcomer and veteran Gabe Wright took his first-team reps next to Tim Jernigan.

5. Rookie Shelton Gibson has had a really tough spring. No other way to put it. But the West Virginia product finally made a couple really nice plays. He made two contested catches in traffic -- one in 11-on-11 and one in 7-on-7. For a rookie who has been down on himself because of the struggles, those two plays might help to bring back some confidence.

Second-year player C.J. Smith, from North Dakota State, also had a good day of practice and even got some first-team reps over Rasul Douglas in 7-on-7s. Perhaps the play that pushed him into action with the ones was in 11-on-11s, when he played perfect coverage on Gibson and stepped in front of him for a pick. Smith still has a shot at the roster.

6. Allen Barbre and Isaac Seumalo continue to split first-team reps at left guard and Lane Johnson continues to get first-team reps at left tackle full-team drills. Jason Peters isn't participating in full-team drills yet after returning to the team this week.

Overall, the offensive line had a good day after giving up a few sacks on Tuesday. It gave Wentz plenty of time to throw.

Seumalo took a few reps at first-team center. The team makes sure he gets reps at center here and there.

7. Peters seemed happy about his one-year extension and the chance to finish his career with the Eagles. One of the underrated things Peters brings to the table is his ability to help younger players. While he's a quiet guy in the media, Peters is always around to help rookies and anyone who needs it. After practice on Wednesday, he was giving 1-on-1 instruction to Chance Warmack in the locker room. And Halapoulivaati Vaitai said during these practices when Peters isn't doing everything, he's giving the other tackles tips between plays.

8. Najee Goode is still a fringe roster guy, but he's been playing well. He made one diving pass breakup against Zach Ertz on Wednesday.

9. We all know Donnel Pumphrey is a quick and shifty player, but I saw something from him on Wednesday I haven't seen much of before. He took a handoff and busted through the line, pulling off the smoothest spin move I have seen in a while. It was impressive enough to leave a linebacker with armfuls of air.

10. Over the last couple days, when the Eagles go into two-running back sets, Pumphrey and Darren Sproles are on the field. When they go single-back, LeGarrette Blount gets the first shot, followed by second-year player Wendell Smallwood.

We still don't have a clear idea of what the running back rotation will look like during the season. Maybe that will start to come into focus during training camp.

Stupid Observation of the Day: When the offense was going against air (no defense), the referee patrolling the sideline ran with the receivers on every play when they caught a ball. One one play, Torrey Smith ran the entire length of the field and the referee stayed with him (kind of). When Smith crossed the goal line, the ref was down there to signal touchdown.

Nelson Agholor focused simply on having fun in midst of turnaround season

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Nelson Agholor focused simply on having fun in midst of turnaround season

Don't talk to Nelson Agholor about his stats. Don't even try.

He doesn't want to hear about it.

Here we are in Week 7, and Agholor needs 45 yards Monday night against the Redskins for a career receiving high. For a full season.

His four touchdowns are already more than his combined career total of three from his first two years. His 16.1 yards per catch is 10th-best in the NFL and light years above his career high of 11.0 coming into the season.

Impressed?

“Not really," Agholor said. "I just look at how much fun I’m having and team success, and that’s the best part about this situation.

"If somebody came in and told me all my numbers and statistics, all that type of stuff? The best part of it is we’re winning a lot of football games right now and we’re having a whole lot of fun doing it."

Six games into the season, Agholor has 20 catches for 321 yards.

Compare that with the last seven weeks of last year, when a disappointing career turned into a disaster and he caught just 11 catches for just 108 yards.

Agholor just shrugs.

“That’s a great thing," he said. "I’m having so much more fun this year, so that’s the best part. I’m having more fun than my first two years in the league.

"They go hand in hand. The more fun you have, because winning is fun, making plays is fun, but there’s just a feeling about stepping on the field and enjoying the moment and enjoying the opportunity."

In his first two years, Agholor's best games went for 57, 62 and 64 yards. Already this year, he's had games with 55, 58, 86 and 93 yards.

So in just six weeks, he's produced four of his seven-best games as a pro.

We heard about it all spring, and we heard about it all summer, and Agholor has backed up all the talk about becoming a different guy with production.

He really has become a different guy.

Head coach Doug Pederson noticed it the first day of OTAs.

"Part of my message to him, specifically to Nelson, after the season, was just get away," Pederson said. "Get away, clear your mind, clear everything, and when he came back in the spring for OTAs, he was a changed football player. He was a changed person. His confidence level was higher. 

"I would say it wasn't like through the roof as it is now, but it was beginning to build at that point of the spring, and each day that he got a little more comfortable in his new role of playing in the slot helped that. And I think, too, the addition of Torrey (Smith) and Alshon (Jeffery) on the perimeter also took a little of the pressure off of him and diverted it to all three of them."

The move to the slot gave Agholor ownership of a specific position and created matchup problems for defenses that just don't have the speed to cover Jeffery and Smith outside and Agholor inside.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to just run different routes and give a different look," Agholor said. "I like playing outside, inside, wherever. I just like being a guy that you can get the football to, so I want to know as much as I can in terms of the route tree to help myself be a better football player, and Doug decided this was a great place for me to get those targets, and I’m very appreciative."

This time last year, Wentz wasn't even looking Agholor's way. Now, other than tight end Zach Ertz, he's become his favorite receiver.

"A guy like that, I’m just so happy for him," Carson Wentz said. "He’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever been around. And so to see him kind of take that step? And really the biggest thing I think we’ve all seen is just his confidence is just through the roof, and that’s really been exciting for him, exciting for this team, exciting for this whole city."

One of the biggest differences in Agholor this year is his ability to make plays after the catch.

With his new-found confidence, he actually looks faster. Through six games, Agholor has 143 yards after the catch, or 7.2 yards per reception. He had 113 YACs all last year, just 3.1 yards per catch.

“It’s a want-to thing," he said. "First is securing the catch and then just the want-to after that.

"I’ve just been in position. Been in position to catch the ball and then grass in front of me and making plays. I just hope to be in position or often."

Here we are six games into the season, and Agholor and not Jeffery or Smith leads all Eagles wide receivers in yards so far this year.

And Agholor and Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs are the only NFL receivers with more than one 50-yard touchdown catch. Agholor had a 58-yarder on opening day against the Redskins and a 72-yarder against the Cards.

None of this surprises Agholor.
 
"I expected to keep on trusting the process and keep on getting better each day and then letting opportunity meet preparation," Agholor said. "And for me, I think like I have a lot more to do and I want to keep on getting better as a football player."

5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Redskins again

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5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Redskins again

The Eagles finally snapped the five-game losing streak to Washington in the season opener on Sept. 10. 

Now they have a chance to start a streak of their own. 

Both teams have found success after that 30-17 Eagles win in the opener. The Eagles are 5-1 with the best record in the NFC, while Washington is 3-2 and second in the NFC East. 

With a win on Monday night at the Linc, the Eagles would be 6-1 and would put another game between them and their closest division opponent. So it could be a big boost (see story)

But remember, these division games aren't normally easy and until this season's opener, Washington had their number. 

Here are five matchups to watch on Monday night: 

Zach Ertz vs. Washington's safeties 
Washington hasn't been able to stop Ertz yet, so this is still a huge matchup problem. In the opener, he caught eight passes for 93 yards. That game kicked off what has already been an incredible season for the tight end. 

In nine career games against the division foe, Ertz has 54 catches for 531 yards. Ertz likes playing against Washington and it's not just his crazy numbers (see story)

And it's not just Ertz. Washington has struggled against tight ends all season. They lead the league in yards surrendered to opposing tight ends with 407 on 29 catches, with two touchdowns. 

Brandon Scherff vs. Fletcher Cox
Washington coach Jay Gruden admitted his team was beaten physically in the first meeting between these two. That started with Cox, who had a huge strip sack on Kirk Cousins in the first quarter. Because Scherff is a Pro Bowl guard, there's a good chance Cox will actually see plenty of 1-on-1 against him on Monday. He'll need to beat Scherff again. 

Scherff has been really good since Washington used the fifth overall pick on him in 2015, but this is his biggest test. And he'll get it twice per season in the next few years. 

"I think the Redskins have a fine offensive line," Eagles DC Jim Schwartz said. "It's going to be one of our biggest challenges." 

Morgan Moses vs. Brandon Graham 
For what it's worth, Moses is ProFootballFocus' 17th ranked offensive guard. That's not great but he's not usually a liability and he's not a bad right tackle. But Graham absolutely spanked him the first time these two teams met. 

In that game, Graham had two sacks, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. If he has that kind of impact again, it's going to be a long day for Moses. 

LeGarrette Blount vs. Redskins' run D
Blount had just 46 yards on 14 carries in the first meeting but since then, he's really come on and Doug Pederson has shown a devotion to finding balance in his offense. 

Washington has been pretty good against the run, giving up 88 yards per game (eighth in the league). But they'll be without first-round pick Jonathan Allen, one of their top defensive linemen. 

Eagles' WRs vs. Washington's banged up corners
If Blount isn't heavily involved in the game plan on Monday it might be because Pederson sees opportunity in the passing game. Washington's starting cornerback Josh Norman (rib fracture) has been ruled out and Bashaud Breeland (knee) is questionable. 

Even if Breeland plays, he won't be 100 percent and they'll definitely miss Norman. Even though the backups have played pretty well, Carson Wentz will probably test this banged up Washington secondary early and often. 

If Washington is without both of their starting corners — or even if Breeland plays — expect Pederson to attack their backups. It could be a big day for the Eagles' passing game.