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, 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."

Brian Dawkins chooses longtime teammate for Hall of Fame intro

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Brian Dawkins chooses longtime teammate for Hall of Fame intro

Brian Dawkins has chosen longtime teammate and close friend Troy Vincent to introduce him this summer at Dawk's Hall of Fame induction.

Dawkins was selected in February for enshrinement in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction class.

"The presenter that will actually be on the stage will be Troy Vincent," Dawkins said in a video posted on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's website.

"My teammate in Philadelphia. We came there the same year. Almost from Day 1 he kind of ... not kind of, he took me under his wing on becoming a professional. Not just a football player but a professional. The details. The details that he went through, the particulars of how he played the position of cornerback was the same way he lived his life (and ran) his businesses that he had off the field.

"He's a guy I can call anytime. Any time of night. And tell him 100 percent all what's going on with me, and I know he's not going to judge me, and it's not going to leave his lips (for) anybody else.

"And the most important thing for me, being a man of faith, is that I know he's going to pray with me. So all those things combined are the reasons why Troy was the perfect guy to introduce me to the Hall of Fame."

Vincent, a native of Trenton and graduate of Pennsbury High in Fairless Hills, Bucks County, spent his first four seasons with the Dolphins before signing an offer sheet with the Eagles before the 1996 season that the Dolphins didn't match.

The Eagles drafted Dawkins in the second round a month after signing Vincent, and the two spent eight years together in the secondary, reaching the playoffs five times and the NFC Championship Game three times.

During those eight seasons, Vincent reached Pro Bowls and Dawkins made the first three of his nine Pro Bowls.

Vincent retired after the 2006 season and Dawkins after the 2011 season.

Dawkins, Vincent and Eric Allen are the only Eagles defensive backs picked to five or more Pro Bowls.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame 2018 enshrinement ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 4 in Canton, Ohio.

Dawkins' former Eagles teammate, Terrell Owens, will also be inducted. He hasn't yet announced who will present him.

Dawkins will be the 21st former Eagle inducted into the Hall of Fame but only the ninth who spent the majority of his career with the Eagles.

Was Carson Wentz sending Nick Foles a message with Instagram video?

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Was Carson Wentz sending Nick Foles a message with Instagram video?

Offseason quarterback controversies are a rite of passage in the NFL. A time-honored tradition, really. 

We’ve certainly had our share in Philadelphia over the years. There were calls for Ron Jaworski to sit in favor of a young Randall Cunningham. Then cries for Jim McMahon to take Randall’s place. When Andy Reid drafted Kevin Kolb in 2007, that began a groundswell that he was the better choice than Donovan McNabb. Of course, most recently we had the Michael Vick/Nick Foles back and forth. To look back now, it seems silly these were even debates.

Most of the time, when you have these “controversies,” it generally means you have no quarterback on your roster. Not always. The 49ers in the late-80’s and early-90’s had Joe Montana and Steve Young, both Hall of Famers and all-time great quarterbacks. Both also won Super Bowls for San Francisco. But that is the exception. So is the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles’ situation.

I use the word “situation” and not “controversy.” Because there is no controversy. If Wentz is cleared by the Eagles’ medical staff, he starts Week 1. Period. What Foles did was incredible and will go down as one of the great — if not the greatest — stretch we have seen in Philadelphia sports history. He came up as big as you can. But Wentz he is not. That’s no disrespect to Foles. There are a handful of people on the planet who are in Wentz’s class.

Just a refresher course on what Wentz did in 13 games last season (his second in the NFL, by the way). He threw for 33 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 3,296 passing yards and had a 101.9 passer rating. The 33 TDs were the second-most in the NFL despite his missing the final three games. He also led his team to an 11-2 record before succumbing to that knee injury late into that Rams game that clinched the NFC East. He would have been the league MVP had he not gotten hurt.

There is a great luxury having Foles on this team. Wentz does not have to come back before he is able. If he’s not ready, you have the best backup in the league to start the season. But that’s the only scenario in which Foles plays Week 1. Simply put: Wentz is the better quarterback. And he has earned the right to start the opener if cleared. 

Some people read into Wentz's Instagram video of himself throwing earlier in the week as him somehow sending a message to Foles. I don’t buy it. I think Wentz’s message was to the fans and himself that I’ll be back, better than ever.

Wentz and Foles are both good teammates who put the team above themselves. Sure, Foles is a competitor and would likely prefer to start. But there won’t be any behind-the-scenes maneuvering to undercut Wentz. And Wentz is secure enough to be able to handle a Super Bowl MVP backing him up and all that goes along with that. Not to mention a coaching staff and organization that won’t allow outside noise to become a distraction.

Wentz over Foles. There’s no quarterback controversy.