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.

Eagles Injury Update: Lane Johnson, Wendell Smallwood back at practice


Eagles Injury Update: Lane Johnson, Wendell Smallwood back at practice

Right tackle Lane Johnson and running back Wendell Smallwood were both back at Eagles practice Tuesday.
Johnson missed the Panthers game with a concussion he suffered against Cardinals, and Smallwood missed the last two games after hurting his knee against the Chargers.
Practice was closed Tuesday and the Eagles are not required to release an injury report until Thursday because of the long week, but a team official confirmed that Johnson practiced — which means he was cleared through the NFL's concussion protocol by an approved neurosurgeon.
Johnson was not in the locker room during the period it was open to the media, but Smallwood said he did practice without limitations and hopes to play against the Redskins Monday night.
"It's been coming along," Smallwood said. "Felt good these past couple days, since really after the Carolina game it started feeling good. I was full-go today, I practiced with the guys. ... I wasn't limited at all. It really didn't bother me much. I felt good today. Hopefully, later on in the week, I'll feel better as the week goes and I'll be playing Monday. I think I should be ready."
Smallwood rushed for 113 yards with a 3.9 average and caught seven passes for 56 yards in four games before getting hurt early in the Chargers game.
"Wendell obviously brings a lot to the table," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "He's that thrashing, downhill runner. He's got some explosiveness. He's a three-down back, he's good out of the backfield, he's really good in protection. It brings all those things."
Smallwood said he played "on adrenaline" with the injury but said his knee swelled up during the game.
Injuries have married Smallwood's career. He missed the last three games last year with a knee injury and missed time in training camp with a hamstring injury.
"I get frustrated a lot when I'm not in the game, not being out there to help and progress as the year goes on," he said. "So it frustrates me.
"But it happens. I've just got to suck it up and not pay attention to it. Just know I can bounce back and just try to get on the field as fast as I can."
Smallwood said he expects to be 100 percent Monday night in a huge divisional game against the Redskins at the Linc.
"I believe so," he said. "I'm not going to hold back any. I'm not going to think about it or get nervous. I have that confidence in myself. As the week's gone on, I just started feeling better about what I'm able to do."

Also, rookie cornerback Sidney Jones, who became eligible to practice Wednesday after spending the first six weeks on the reserve-non football injury list, said he did not practice. Jones has been out since suffering a torn Achilles at his pro day in March.

Judge set to rule on latest bid to stop Ezekiel Elliott's suspension

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Judge set to rule on latest bid to stop Ezekiel Elliott's suspension

NEW YORK — A federal judge said he will rule Tuesday on an emergency request from attorneys for Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott to stop the running back's six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty heard arguments from lawyers on both sides as the NFL Players Association scrambled to keep Elliott on the field after a federal appeals court last week overturned an injunction that had stopped the league's suspension.

Elliott, last year's NFL rushing leader as a rookie, is on the suspended list. The Cowboys play at San Francisco on Sunday.

Attorney Daniel Nash, arguing for the NFL, accused Elliott's legal team of seeking relief from courts in Texas to evade courts in New York and the effect of the April 2016 ruling that reinstated a four-game suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady in the "Deflategate" scandal.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the NFLPA, asked Crotty to prevent enforcement of the suspension for two weeks so that the Southern District of New York judge assigned to the case — Katherine Polk Failla — can return from a vacation and rule. Crotty concluded the hearing by saying he'd look at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Brady case before ruling by the end of the day on the union's request for a temporary restraining order.

Nash warned Crotty that allowing the union to continue to delay the suspension would invite "every player who's suspended" to go to court for relief.

"They know under the Brady decision they have no chance of success. None," Nash said.

Kessler said the harm to a player's short career was serious when a suspension is served.

"He can never get that back," Kessler said, arguing that the irreparable harm — among issues of law considered before a temporary restraining order is granted — faced by a player is much greater than harm claimed by the league when a suspension is delayed.

In their request for the temporary restraining order, Elliott's attorneys said NFL procedure required rosters to be set by 4 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said there is no such deadline from the league's perspective.

NFLPA attorneys, working on Elliott's behalf, also said the league had already informed Elliott that he couldn't practice or play this week. The Cowboys returned to work Tuesday after their bye week and will have their first full practice Wednesday.

Elliott was suspended in August by Commissioner Roger Goodell after the league concluded following a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations in the summer of 2016 with Tiffany Thompson, his girlfriend at the time. Prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, decided not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, citing conflicting evidence, but the NFL did its own investigation and announced the six-game punishment.

That led to weeks of court filings, with NFLPA lawyers contending that league investigators withheld key evidence from Commissioner Roger Goodell and that the appeal hearing was unfair because arbitrator Harold Henderson refused to call Goodell and Thompson as witnesses. Elliott has denied Thompson's allegations under oath.

The NFL placed Elliott on the suspended list a day after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned a Texas court's injunction that kept Elliott on the field.

The case is shifting to New York because the New Orleans court ordered the dismissal of Elliott's lawsuit in Texas. Depending on the outcome in New York, Elliott's attorneys could still seek a rehearing with a larger panel of the appeals court, which they have indicated they would do.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled 2-1 last week that Elliott's attorneys filed the Texas lawsuit prematurely because the arbitrator had yet to decide on the running back's appeal through the NFL. Elliott's attorneys have argued in subsequent filings that the dissenting judge in New Orleans agreed with the Texas judge's findings that the NFL appeal was unfair to Elliott.

Brady's suspension was served more than a year after it was imposed. A federal judge ruled against the NFL and overturned the suspension, but the league won an appeal.