Eagles WRs Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith show glimpse of explosiveness

Eagles WRs Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith show glimpse of explosiveness


Thursday night was kind of like Christmas morning. 

Carson Wentz finally got to unwrap his new toys and take them for a spin. 

Wentz threw two touchdowns on Thursday night in the Eagles' 38-31 win over the Dolphins in the third preseason game (see Instant Replay). One went to Torrey Smith. The other went to Alshon Jeffery. 

As the regular season approaches, the Eagles' franchise quarterback looks to be on the same page as his two new weapons (see 10 observations).

"It was great to do it here, do it in front of the fans," Wentz said. "The fans get real excited about that. That's really cool. I've said it all along. I've felt really confident in our chemistry with [Smith and Jeffery], going back to even the spring. But to finally do it in a game-like situation, it's really good to see."

Wentz connected with Smith on a 50-yard deep ball in the first quarter to kick off the scoring in the game. On that play, safety Reshad Jones bluffed his coverage, but was left standing flat-footed. 

"And with a guy like Torrey, if they sit flat-footed, he's going to run right by them," Wentz said. "Just gave him a chance and he did the rest."

That was just the first catch for Smith this preseason. Heck, it was the first time he had been targeted. With the starters likely to sit out the entire fourth preseason game, Smith's preseason stat line will read: One target, one catch, 50 yards, one touchdown. 

But that touchdown might be a sign of things to come. 

The Eagles were second to last in the NFL last season in 30-yard passing plays with 11. They were second to last in the league in 40-yard passes with six. And they were third to last in 50-yard passes with three. 

The Eagles’ receivers had just two catches of 50-plus yards in 2016. Jordan Matthews and Bryce Treggs each had one. 

That might change this season.

"I think that can definitely be a big part of the offense," Wentz said of the deep balls. "I think a guy like Torrey that can run like that is going to open up some things. Whether we actually are completing deep balls or he's just stretching the defense for some underneath stuff to help out guys in the slot like (Zach) Ertz, (Darren) Sproles, you name it. I think that's just a big part of the offense we're going to see expanded out a little more."

From the moment Smith arrived this spring, he has been working with Wentz on those deep passes. It seemed like this summer, Wentz was dropping them in all over the field.  

Smith has a chance to change the dynamic of the offense. 

"I think you have to have balance," Smith said. "We have to be able to run the ball. We have to be able to execute in the quick game as well. But I think that we'll take our shots when we have the chance and Carson's definitely not afraid to take his chances when he sees them." 

After the Eagles' opening drive resulted in that long touchdown bomb, they sputtered on the next two drives. Punt. Tipped-ball interception. 

But then Wentz and the Birds got the ball back on their own 7-yard line and drove 93 yards on five plays with the help of a little hurry-up (see story). The touchdown came on a 15-yard pass from Wentz to the other receiver he found under his tree during free agency. 

On that play, Jeffery caught a 15-yard slant, ran into and out of the end zone before giving the ball to a fan in the first row. 

"It felt great, but at the same time, man, it's just a play," Jeffery said. "Score points, that's what you're supposed to do."

Thursday night was the last time Wentz and his two biggest targets will be in a game together until the opener in Washington on Sept. 10. Jeffery isn't concerned about the lack of time he's had with Wentz because the two will have more practice time and "practice carries over into the game." 

What does he want to see out of the offense heading into the regular season?  

"Whatever it takes for us to win the game, man," Jeffery said. "That's what I want to see because at the end of the day, I want to be holding up the trophy. So that's what I want to see."

That would make Smith and Jeffery gifts that keep on giving.

Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

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Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

While many folks are off for Presidents Day, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is hard at work trying to figure out how to replace Frank Reich. 

Pederson is spending his Monday interviewing running backs coach Duce Staley and wide receivers coach Mike Groh for the Eagles' vacant offensive coordinator position, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN's Tim McManus first reported the news Monday. 

It's possible one or both coaches could take over in some sort of offensive coordinator role. 

Reich left his post as offensive coordinator earlier this month when he accepted the head coaching job in Indianapolis. While it might not seem like an OC who doesn't call the plays has a big role, Reich was a good sounding board for Pederson and seemed to be very-well trusted by the head coach. He also helped put the weekly gameplan together. 

It makes sense that the Eagles don't want to go outside the organization to hire an offensive coordinator. Pederson trusts Staley and Groh and the chemistry inside the NovaCare Complex was tremendous during the Eagles' run to Super Bowl LII. 

Either way, Pederson is going to oversee the offense and call plays. Staley or Groh, if one or both are promoted, will handle some extra responsibility, but it'll still all be on Pederson. 

While Staley has been with the Eagles as a coach since 2011, working his way up from a quality control coach to running backs coach in 2013, Groh is a newcomer. He was added to the staff before the 2017 season to take over for Greg Lewis after the Eagles fired him. Groh did an impressive job last season, particularly with helping transform Nelson Agholor from a bust to one of the team's more explosive weapons. 

LeGarrette Blount makes his desire to stay in Philly clear

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LeGarrette Blount makes his desire to stay in Philly clear

LeGarrette Blount is fresh off of his third Super Bowl title and second in two years with two different teams. 

It sounds like he doesn't really want to go to a third team in three years. 

Blount, 31, played on a one-year deal worth around $1.25 million with the Eagles in 2017, but is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year starts on March 14. He made it pretty clear on Sunday that he wouldn't mind coming back to Philly for another run. 

"It's early so we'll see," Blount said on NFL Network. 

"Obviously I like it a lot there. They like me a lot there. It's a mutual respect and a mutual agreement thing about how we feel about each other. Obviously, you guys know how I feel about the team, the guys; I love those guys. 

"I can't say enough about Duce (Staley), just for the simple fact for how well I was coached there and how good he helped me understand things. I feel like Duce is one of the best running back coaches, one of the best coaches I've ever had in my entire life. I obviously want to be a part of that for a while, so we'll see how it goes."

Blount began the year as the Eagles' top running back, but lost some of his role once the team traded for former Pro Bowler Jay Ajayi. But Blount still played a significant role in the Eagles' run to winning Super Bowl LII. 

During the season, he was the team's top rusher with 173 carries for 766 yards and two touchdowns. But then in Super Bowl LII, he had 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown, helping the Eagles to a 41-33 win over his former team, the Patriots. 

The Eagles are going to bring back Ajayi and second-year player Corey Clement. After that, things get murky. Blount and Darren Sproles (coming off injury) are both set to become free agents. 

Blount wasn't shy about his love for the Eagles during his interview on Sunday. He cited trust and how they handled the Ajayi trade with him as big reasons why. 

"They talked to me throughout the process of it happening," Blount said. "They were like, 'we're trading for Jay Ajayi, we just want to let you know.' Like I said, that's obviously another big thing for me, the honesty in that building and how open they are and how they don't keep any kind of secrets for you. They just tell you how it is. It's a big respect thing. Duce was the first person to reach out to me and be like, 'hey, we traded for Jay Ajayi. I just want to let you know.' Again, man, that's why it's a place that I love and I hope to stay there." 

Late in the six-and-a-half minute video, the crew brought out Clement while Blount was answering a question about the rookie. Blount laughed during the middle of his answer, but then got back on track and praised Clement. The two became very close during the 2017 season. 

After Blount's answer, Clement got to chat with his teammate and said getting to work with Blount was a "tremendous opportunity" and would clearly like to keep the core group together in the running back room next season. 

Obviously, it's not up to Clement, but Blount will play a big role and we already know what he thinks of the Eagles.