Eagles

Carson Wentz thinks Eagles have talent to win NFC East

Carson Wentz thinks Eagles have talent to win NFC East

Carson Wentz thinks the Eagles have enough talent to go from worst to first in the division. 

After going 7-9 and finishing in the basement of the resurgent NFC East in Wentz's rookie season last year, the 24-year-old quarterback thinks that the 2017 Eagles have enough talent to supplant the Cowboys as the top team in the division. 

"We have high expectations around here," Wentz said in a radio interview on WIP Thursday morning while in Fargo, North Dakota. "We hope and we expect to be playing into January and then to see what happens. I think that's the biggest thing. 

"Our goal is to win the NFC East and we believe we have the guys to do it. 

"We just have to now go put the work in and go make things happen. We have high expectations ... 7-9 is never good enough. I never want to be done after the regular season again. That doesn't sit well with me and it never will. We definitely have high expectations to be playing into January and then hopefully get hot and see what happens."

It's worth noting that the Eagles went 7-9 after a tremendous start in 2016 that saw them win the first three games on the schedule, including a 34-3 walloping of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the Eagles went on to lose nine of their next 11, including a five-game losing streak that lasted a month from November into December. 

On paper, Wentz should have more to work with in 2016. If Lane Johnson can stay on the field, Wentz's offensive line should be much better, and the Eagles added plenty of new weapons in free agency in the draft. 

"We went out and have a couple new additions and everything," Wentz said. "It's been fun. Honestly, it's been fun just to get to work with them. Last year, obviously this time of year, I was working with a lot of the third-team guys. It's just been fun to have a whole offseason under my belt now as we're, I think, 10 days away from camp. Just getting the opportunity to get the team reps. 

"You can throw routes on air and do all those things you want, but the spring, getting those team reps, those valuable reps with a lot of the guys, the new rookie guys, the free agents that we signed and everything in-between. I'm really liking where we're at and it's still a process, it's still a process, but training camp is right around the corner and honestly, I can't wait to get back there."

Eagles Milestones: Carson Wentz chasing all kinds of feats

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Eagles Milestones: Carson Wentz chasing all kinds of feats

As we move into Week 11, the Eagles continue to chase several notable milestones, both individually and as a team.

We take a look at Carson Wentz's ongoing streaks, record-setting run defense and Jake Elliott's scoring pace in this week's edition of Eagles Milestone Watch:

• Wentz leads the NFL with 23 touchdown passes on top of the 16 he threw last year. Wentz’s 39 TD passes so far are 19th most in NFL history by a quarterback in his first two seasons but only three out of 11th place. At his current pace, he’ll have 55 career TDs by the end of the year, which would be second most in NFL history after two years behind Dan Marino’s 68.

• The Eagles Sunday night will be seeking their eighth straight game with 100 or more rushing yards gained and fewer than 100 rushing yards allowed. That would be the fourth-longest streak in NFL history and the second-longest in the last 50 years, behind only the Steelers’ 10-game streak in 2001. 

• Elliott has scored 75 points in eight games and is on pace for 140 points in just 15 games this year. The NFL rookie scoring record is 150 points, set in 2014 by Eagles kicker Cody Parkey, who's now with the Dolphins.

• The Eagles have scored 26 or more points in seven straight games. If they score 26 against the Cowboys, they would set a franchise record with eighth consecutive games with at least 26 points and share the 14th-longest streak in NFL history.

• If Wentz throws a touchdown against the Cowboys, this would be his 12th straight game with a TD pass. That would be the third-longest streak in Eagles history, behind two Randall Cunningham streaks — 18 games over the 1987 and 1988 seasons and 13 games in 1990. If Wentz throws at least one TD and one or fewer interceptions, he would have 12 straight games with at least one TD and one or no INTs, which would be the 13th-longest streak in NFL history.

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Zach Ertz's blocking much improved

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Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Zach Ertz's blocking much improved

Zach Ertz's statistical growth is pretty easy to measure. 

In eight games this season, Ertz has 43 catches for 528 yards and six touchdowns. He leads the Eagles in every category and that's even after missing the Denver game with a hamstring injury before the bye. (He'll likely be back this week.)

It's a little harder to measure Ertz's growth as a blocker. But there has been a ton of growth since his arrival in Philadelphia in 2013. He has gone from being a liability as a blocker as a rookie to a decent blocker in a few years. 

How rare are truly complete tight ends? 

"Those guys are hard to find," Eagles tight ends coach Justin Peelle said last week. "Really, you gotta understand that tight ends, in general, are always going to give up size and strength, just because most of them are 250, 260, where most of the defensive ends they're blocking are upwards of 300 pounds. Then it comes down to technique and your strength and things like that. Those guys are really hard to find." 

Coming into the NFL, it was pretty clear Ertz had a ton of natural ability as a pass-catcher and that ability has shown itself. But as a blocker, things didn't come naturally.

It has taken years of work and emphasis from coaches and veteran Brent Celek, who is regarded as a really good blocking tight end. 

"That's always been something that's not his strength," Peele said. "He takes pride in it, he wants to be better. He doesn't want it to be a weakness but it was not a natural thing for him. We worked a lot on his technique, his hands, his understanding of the game. You have to consistently work on it and to his credit, he's embraced it and hasn't shied away from." 

Protect yourself 
The Eagles have allowed 54 quarterback hits this season, which places them 12th in the NFL. On all but one of them, Carson Wentz was the recipient. And Wentz takes some more hits out of the pocket. 

Wentz has been hit more than the Eagles have probably been comfortable with and he's been sacked 23 times. Sure, the offensive line gave up some of them, but Wentz deserves some blame too. There's a fine line between trying to gain extra yards and taking an unnecessary hit. 

Where's that line? 

"No. 1 is protect yourself, whether it's sliding, going down, getting out of bounds. That's the first thing," head coach Doug Pederson said. "I've said this before that unless it's the game-winner in the Super Bowl, protect yourself. That's the line." 

For the most part, Wentz has gotten better at protecting himself this season. There are still times, though, where he'll avoid pressure and leave his coaches and fans holding their breath. 

The conversation isn't going anywhere. 

"It's part of it. It's always a process," Wentz said. "We talk about it, shoot, it seems like every week. Just about where you can improve in every facet of the game and that comes up as well." 

North of the border 
Every once in a while, I take a look through CFL rosters just to see if there are some names I recognize. I'm aware this is unusual. 

But during my perusing, I happened to see plenty of former Eagles on CFL rosters. Some of these names you probably haven't heard for a while. 

Eskimos: Edmonton features two notable former Eagles. Yes, Aaron Grymes and Phillip Hunt are teammates. Grymes was a defensive back who was with the Eagles for the last two preseasons and came pretty close to making the team. After getting cut this year, he went back to the CFL, where he has been an All-Star. And remember Hunt? He was with the Eagles from 2011-13. He played 22 of his 24 career NFL games with the Eagles 

Blue Bombers: Chris Givens has landed with Winnipeg this season. He was Howie Roseman's cheap speed option before the 2016 season but was cut in August. He didn't have much of a role with the Blue Bombers this season, returning nine kicks for 184 yards. 

Tiger Cats: QB Everett Golson was never actually on the Eagles' roster but he did come in for a tryout with the Birds in 2016. The Notre Dame QB is a backup for Hamilton. He completed all four of his passes in 2017 for 25 yards. 

Alouettes: Montreal has a couple former Eagles receivers in T.J. Graham and B.J. Cunningham. Graham was with the Eagles in the 2016 offseason and Cunningham bounced around with the Eagles from 2012-14, playing in two games in 2013. Cunningham has actually become a really good CFL receiver. This season, he had 69 catches for 1,128 yards (8th in the CFL) and four touchdowns. 

Argonauts: Toronto is officially the old Eagles landing spot. Mitchell White, who was with the Eagles this offseason, is back in the CFL. He's there with former Eagles quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and linebacker Akeem Jordan. Remember Jordan? He spent 2007-12 with the Eagles and played 82 games with 34 starts. Not bad for an undrafted rookie. Bethel-Thompson was actually the first QB Pederson brought in as head coach; he would later bring in one a little better. 

There are just four teams left in the CFL playoffs — the Roughriders play the Argonauts, while the Eskimos play the Stampeders. Winners go to the Grey Cup. 

Quote of the Week I: "If you want to live to see 75, you better shut your a** up." — Lane Johnson to his grandma, a Cowboys fan

Quote of the Week II: "Hey, Santander Bank? I need to make a deposit! A big deposit!" —Chris Long during Tim Jernigan's meeting with the media

Quote of the Week III: "Wentz be here early as hell. Every time I came scooting in on my scooter, Wentz ass be sittin' there in the locker. I'll be like 'damn, what time you get here?' Him and Nelson (Agholor). Nelson be here sweating, Nelson be doing JUGS and things like that." — Ronald Darby on getting to the facility at 5 a.m. to rehab

Random media guide note: Elijah Qualls was a drama major and after his football career is over, he is interested in acting or directing.