Eagles

Carson Wentz-Zach Ertz connection continues to grow on and off field for Eagles

Carson Wentz-Zach Ertz connection continues to grow on and off field for Eagles

As they were running off the field following Carson Wentz's 50-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith Thursday night against the Dolphins, Zach Ertz yelled something over to Wentz.

"He’s like, 'I love that, I love that!’" Wentz said with a laugh.

They know. They know that the more the Eagles can establish a deep game — something absent from the offense last year — the more the middle of the field will be open for Ertz.

Ertz and Wentz had a pretty good connection last year. Ertz ranked fourth among all NFL tight ends last season with 58 receiving yards per game, and his 5.6 catches per game led all tight ends.

But judging from the last month of practice and from the starting offense's brief preseason appearances, they look to be on another level this year.

“I think we’ve definitely taken a big step," Ertz said. "We’re seeing the game very similar. We’re both very high football IQ guys, so it’s easy to translate from the practice field or the meeting room to the game field.

"And just having the same quarterback for a second year, it’s huge for chemistry, especially when it’s someone as talented as him. I'm excited about it."

Ertz played with Nick Foles and Michael Vick as a rookie, Foles and Mark Sanchez in 2014, Sam Bradford in 2015 and Wentz last year.

This year, Wentz will become the Eagles' first quarterback to start consecutive openers since Vick in 2012 and 2013, and Ertz could be one of the greatest benefactors.

Wentz's comfort zone last year was Jordan Matthews and Ertz. With Matthews now in Buffalo, Ertz becomes Wentz's No. 1 target, and if the deep game blossoms the way it should, it's going to be difficult for defenses to account for both the Eagles' outside receivers and Ertz underneath.

We saw in the preseason game against the Dolphins on Thursday night just how effortlessly Wentz and Ertz are connecting on the field. Wentz found Ertz for completions of 12, 14 and 18 yards in just one quarter of action.

“It kind of speaks to the length of time and amount of hours we’ve put into this thing together," Ertz said.

"Not only talking but the reps that we’ve put on the field at each and every practice. When we get five minutes off, we’re over there on a separate field trying to perfect things. Hopefully, it shows up this year."

Ertz and Wentz are very close friends, and both believe that closeness off the field will lead to some big-time production on the field.

Ertz has the ninth-most catches by a tight end after four years — one catch out of sixth place — and if he stays healthy this year and just matches last year's production you're looking at about 90 receptions and over 900 yards.

But if that connection between Wentz and Ertz has grown as much as both say it has, it could be a historic season for Ertz. For both of them.

“I think the biggest thing is just the more reps on the field, but off the field, we’re so close too," Wentz said. "There’s a natural connection there that people don’t always see.

"When you’re on the same page, you kind of build that. When we’re hanging out, sometimes we’ll sit there and talk about certain plays against certain coverages and different things.

"The more we’re friends off the field, the more it helps us on the field. Does it make or break it? No, but I think it definitely impacts the relationship we have on the field."

And then there's the Eagles' new-found outside speed, with Smith and Alshon Jeffery and possibly an expanded role for Nelson Agholor.

That's why Ertz was so excited after Smith's 50-yard catch Thursday night. The Eagles didn't have a single TD catch over 40 yards by a wide receiver last year, and without the threat of the deep ball, defenses were able to cheat low instead of playing the outside receivers honestly.

In fact, in the three years since DeSean Jackson was released, the Eagles have six total TD pass plays of 50 yards to wide receivers — three by Jeremy Maclin in 2014 and one each by Matthews, Agholor and Riley Cooper in 2015

All of which makes the area of the field that Ertz roams more clogged.

Now?

“Now, they’ve got to back up," Ertz said. "You saw what happened when the safety played low (Thursday night). They kind of keyed on me on the corner route, and we were able to throw it over the top.

"Just having a guy like Torrey Smith, obviously an established speed guy in this league, they’re going to have to back up. So I’m excited about it. Our offense is going to be extremely versatile this year. We’ve got a lot of guys, so it’s going to be a good year."

And Wentz, who throws a sweet deep ball, now has a couple guys who can catch it.

“That will help tremendously," Wentz said. "It's just going to help everybody else.

"If they do want to sit, OK, we have speed out there. If not? the middle of the field is going to be open. I think it’ll definitely help open things up for Zach."

Roob Stats: A salute to Carson Wentz's incredible season

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Roob Stats: A salute to Carson Wentz's incredible season

OK, this is really sad. It's also really incredible.

With Carson Wentz's season officially over, we can look back at just how insanely great he was these past 13 games.

He went 11-2, completed 60 percent of his passes, threw a franchise-record 33 touchdowns to just seven interceptions and finished with a 101.9 passer rating, fifth highest in NFL history by QBs 24 or younger (behind only Robert Griffin III, Dan Marino, Dak Prescott and Nick Foles).

Let's take a look at some of Wentz's remarkable achievements this past season:

• Wentz's 33 touchdowns on 440 pass attempts are sixth most in NFL history by a quarterback throwing 450 or fewer passes in a season. His seven interceptions match the fourth fewest in NFL history by a quarterback throwing 33 or more touchdowns. Only Tom Brady (2010, 2015) and Aaron Rodgers (2011, 2014) have thrown fewer INTs in a season with at least 33 TDs.

• Wentz will go into 2018 with a streak of 15 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass and one or fewer interceptions. That's the sixth-longest such streak in NFL history and six shy of the record of 21 games, set by Matt Ryan over the 2015 through 2017 seasons.

• Wentz threw 27 touchdowns in his last nine games. Only six quarterbacks in NFL history have ever thrown more touchdown passes in any nine-game stretch — Brady, Peyton Manning, George Blanda, Rodgers, Drew Brees and Marino. All either are or will be Hall of Famers.

• Wentz's four career games with four TDs (all this year) equals the third most by any quarterback in his first 29 career games. Marino and Matthew Stafford each had six. Mark Rypien and Fran Tarkentown also had four. Only seven QBs in NFL history have had more four-TD games in a season (Manning, Marino, Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb).

• Wentz had a passer rating of 83 or higher in all 13 games he played. He's only the fourth QB in NFL history to record a passer rating of at least 83 in the first 13 games of a season. Manning, Philip Rivers and Rodgers have also done it.

• Overall, Wentz has had a passer rating of 83 or higher in 14 straight games, the eighth-longest streak in NFL history. Only five QBs — Manning, Rivers, Brady, Steve Young and Rodgers — have had longer streaks.

Eagles bring back Bryce Treggs on practice squad

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Eagles bring back Bryce Treggs on practice squad

Bryce Treggs is back.

The swift second-year wide receiver was signed to the Eagles' practice squad on Thursday. To make room for Treggs, the Eagles released wide receiver Rashard Davis from the practice squad.

Treggs, 23, played nine games for the Eagles last season, recording three catches for 80 yards. The undrafted California product was in training camp this year but cut in September. Treggs was then scooped up in October by the Browns, who released him in on Wednesday.

Treggs (6-0/185) played six games for Cleveland, compiling five catches for 79 yards while returning five punts for 24 yards.

Davis (5-9/175), a 22-year-old rookie out of James Madison, did not appear in a game for the Eagles.