Eagles

Rob's Rants: Carson Wentz, Allen Iverson and Cowboys fans

Rob's Rants: Carson Wentz, Allen Iverson and Cowboys fans

Welcome to the first edition of Rob's Rants in which CSNPhilly's Rob Ellis does just that about the hottest topics in Philly sports.

Carson the consultant
Carson Wentz on Tuesday downplayed an NFL.com report that he asked Howie Roseman at the end of last season, “What are you going to do this offseason to improve this team?"

Wentz said they "kind of addressed some things" but "people made that more than it really was" and the front office "went out and got us some weapons, got us some new pieces, so I think they did a great job."

I’m not buying it. The proof is in the pudding. 

With little cap wiggle room, Roseman landed arguably the biggest free-agent wideout on the market and netted a burner on the outside for a very team-favorable deal. Not to mention bolstering the offensive line and signing a short-yardage back who can move the chains and cash inside the 5-yard line. 

Why wouldn’t Wentz speak up? He didn’t need to be a 10-year vet to know he was given a knife to do battle in a gun fight last year. And if you're Roseman, Wentz is your meal ticket. He should have been in full E.F. Hutton mode to whatever request the kid put forth.   
    
We’ll always have Instagram 
Allen Iverson’s no-show act for his BIG3 team in Dallas over the weekend can’t be viewed as any kind of surprise. This is who he is. You take the good with the bad. He was rightfully beloved for what he brought on the floor. His play was electric, and no one gave you more from tip to final buzzer. 

It was that pesky time before and after the game that proved tricky. It was that “real” factor that endeared him so to the city’s populace. He was flawed, he was unpredictable, and he was irresponsible. 

Like many of us. 

I always got a kick out of Allen's former eccentric coach, Larry Brown, when he would suggest that A.I. should be given a job in the Sixers' organization. Larry’s logic in part was that Allen would be great communicating with players. Other than telling them to play every game like it’s their last, what other wisdom is he imparting? He’s 42 years old now and still can’t manage to show up on time — or at all — to an event or a game. He and Ice Cube are the primary draws for this new endeavor, and he’s doing his best to sabotage it.    

But hey, at least he cared enough about his beloved Philadelphia fans to Instagram them a message 20 minutes before tipoff. After “consulting” with a doctor, he was advised not to play. What A.I. failed to mention was, those medical practitioners were doctors Dr. J and Dre.

Cockroach in camp
Tuesday marked the first day of tackling at Eagles training camp. In addition to the physicality, the aforementioned Wentz looked very sharp on his deep throws, and cornerback Patrick Robinson continued to get beaten (see more in Dave Zangaro's daily observations).

But we also had a Cowboy fan sighting. Yes, someone turned over a rock or flipped a light switch and one of them found their way to the NovaCare Complex. And he was everything you’d expect: an attention-starved jackass. When given the option of taking his Dallas jersey off or leaving, he opted to exit. If only we could employ this tactic to every one of these vermin in the Delaware Valley. Dare to dream.

Zach Ertz making significant strides after offseason work with Carson Wentz

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USA Today Images

Zach Ertz making significant strides after offseason work with Carson Wentz

The same Zach Ertz who's never had more than four touchdowns in a season now leads all NFL tight ends in touchdown catches. With four.

It's all part of the natural evolution between Ertz and Carson Wentz.

Ertz shares the NFL TD catch lead among tight ends with the Buccaneers' Cameron Brate and the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski.

And going back to last year, Ertz has six touchdown catches in his last seven games and eight in his last 13 games.

In his previous 40 games? He had five touchdown catches.

“I think it's just all the offseason work with Carson," Ertz said. "I think the coaches have a lot of confidence in me down there, and I think that stems from all the red-zone emphasis that we had all spring and summer.

"And then I’ve just made plays, the offensive line has held up, I think Carson is putting the ball in amazing spots, and I just go up and get the ball. I have the easy part."

Ertz had TD catches to give the Eagles 14-0 leads against the Giants and Cards and then caught two last Thursday that turned a 10-3 deficit into an 18-10 lead as the Eagles beat the Panthers in Charlotte.

He's the first Eagles tight end with four TD catches through six games since Pete Pihos in 1955.

“The biggest thing is A) He puts in the work and B) He’s a really intelligent football player," Wentz said. "He knows coverages, recognizes things, knows when he’s hot (on a blitz).

"He’s really kind of in my head. He knows when I’m about to change his route, those types of things. With a guy like that, that knows how to create separation and play on time and be on the same page as me, that makes it tough to stop."

The touchdowns are most notable, but Ertz is off to the best start of his career in every category. His 34 catches and 405 yards are both second-most among all NFL tight ends to Travis Kelce's 37 and 423 (in seven games).

The Eagles, 5-1, face the 3-2 Redskins Monday night at the Linc. Ertz already has 54 career receptions against the Redskins — third-most ever by a tight end.

“It’s just Year 2 in this system," he said. "I’m a lot more comfortable in my role this year as opposed to last year. I was hurt, missed two games, and I was slowly integrated back into the gameplan.

"I think this year I’m extremely confident in my role, I think they have the confidence in me to go out there and make plays when my number’s called, and it’s not going to be 10 targets every game. Last week it was two targets, 20 yards. It’s going to vary each and every week but I’m very happy with how they’re using me right now."

Ertz and Nelson Agholor are the first Eagles tandem with four touchdown catches each through six games since Fred Barnett and Calvin Williams each had four back in 1992.

The red zone was a point of emphasis this offseason, and Wentz's numbers in the red zone are off the charts — 62 percent completion percentage, nine touchdowns, no interceptions and a 112.8 passer rating, fourth-highest in the NFL.

Ertz is third in the NFL with five red-zone first-down catches and fourth in the NFL with both six red-zone receptions and 49 yards.

“It’s timing," Wentz said. "It’s a timing thing and being on the same page.

"Red zone’s all about making plays. Playmakers making plays and playing on time down there is so crucial and that’s something we’ve really focused on. I think we’ve gotten better at all our spots on playing on time but he’s a guy that we feel creates mismatches and we take advantage of them."

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Johnson returning after concussion

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AP Images

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Johnson returning after concussion

It turns out it wouldn't have mattered if the Eagles played the Panthers on Sunday instead of Thursday. Lane Johnson would still have missed the game. 

The veteran right tackle didn't clear the NFL's concussion protocol until Monday. But he'll be back in action on Monday night against Washington. 

For Johnson, the Panthers game was the 11th game he's missed since the start of the 2016 season after he missed 10 last year because of his PED suspension. Watching the game on Thursday night was an all-too-familiar feeling. 

"I didn't like it," Johnson said. "I didn't like it at all to be honest with you. As much time as I've been away from this building the last two seasons. I feel fresh, feel rejuvenated and ready to get back out there."

Johnson watched Thursday night's game at his house with his wife, but he didn't watch the whole thing. He watched some, took a break, and then watched the end. He said he knew the Eagles were going to win. 

Halapoulivaati Vaitai started the game in Johnson's place and did OK. After a horrendous start, Big V settled in and played fairly well. Johnson was impressed and thinks Vaitai is "becoming the player he's meant to be." Johnson remembered things didn't click for him until around his ninth NFL game. Thursday's was Big V's seventh career start. 

Vaitai played OK, but the Eagles are clearly much better with Johnson in the lineup and they'll need him this week as he'll see plenty of veteran pass-rusher Ryan Kerrigan. 

The concussion Johnson suffered in the first half against Arizona was the first of his career. The Eagles pointed out a couple of plays where it could have happened but Johnson didn't remember when it happened. He just knew he didn't feel right when he went into the locker room at halftime. Unless the concussion happened on the last play of the half — it didn't look like it — Johnson played concussed for at least some of that game. 

It took about a week for Johnson to feel normal again. 

"I'm fresh," he said. "I think I'll be a different animal. That's all I'll say." 

The great escape
Malcolm Jenkins is a busy man. Between all the work he does to fight against social injustice, running his foundation and owning a clothing store, he has a pretty hectic life. 

But when he gets to the NovaCare Complex all Jenkins has to worry about it football. 

"When I step into this building, this is my escape from everything else," he said this week. "Life is kind of hectic outside of these walls but here, this comes easy. It's one of those things that I put a lot of time in this building, watch a lot of film, work hard out there on the field and the weight room. This has become easy for me. This has become the peaceful part of my week." 

Jenkins is 29 now, but his play hasn't dropped off even a little bit. He's still one of the most important pieces of the Eagles' defense. 

In typical fashion, Jenkins has played all 384 defensive snaps this season. He's the only player on the Eagles' defense to be in for every play.  

"I feel like I'm having a solid season," he said. "Obviously, statistics aren't very alarming but I'm not missing any plays. I'm getting guys lined up. It's just one of those things where I think everybody is concerned about their role in the team. As long as we're winning, I'm happy." 

Let's get physical
During his conference call with Philly reporters this week, Washington head coach Jay Gruden made a somewhat surprising confession. He thinks the Eagles were more physical than his team in Week 1. He also said that's the only time it's happened to his team this season. 

"I think it's just always a physical hardcore matchup that's fun to watch," Gruden said. 

That's a pretty big compliment to the Eagles and their front office. Howie Roseman always talks about the importance of building a team in the trenches and that's been the hallmark of the team this year. They've been good on the line on both sides of the ball. 

Quote of the Week 1: “We’re made different this year. We have a different character makeup in that locker room, and nobody’s going to ever settle for anything less than greatness." — Carson Wentz (see story)

Quote of the Week 2: "I think a lot of people get caught up in these numbers. I think there's too many fantasy football players in the world." — Gruden on Alshon Jeffery's impact with the Eagles  

Quote of the Week 3: "I was there. Joe Jurevicius on a jerk route. Took it 80." — Gruden on the last game at the Vet. He was there. 

Random media guide note: Steven Means' favorite meal is cereal. He enjoys Frosted Flakes and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.