There’s been a ton of buzz around Carson Wentz’s upcoming season. Plenty of national talking heads have even picked him as an MVP candidate.
All-Pro safety Earl Thomas III understands the hype.
After admitting it was tough to get a truly great read on Wentz after just two Eagles-Ravens joint practices this week, the 30-year-old six-time Pro Bowl safety offered this:
I would tell you, in this league there’s a small pool of guys that you would classify at an elite level,” Thomas said to NBC Sports Philadelphia. “And I think he’s definitely in that pool.
Thomas is a no-nonsense, speak-the-truth kind of guy. So if he’s saying this about Wentz, you can probably take him for his word. And in a controlled practice like this, Wentz wasn’t even making the off-schedule plays that have largely defined his success in the NFL.
Still, for two days, Wentz and the Eagles’ offense had a spirited clash against a Ravens’ defense that was No. 1 in the league last season and boasted a very strong secondary before adding Thomas. Over those two practices, Wentz won some battles and the Ravens won some battles.
But a few Ravens defensive backs got on the bus Tuesday wholly impressed by the offense they faced at the NovaCare Complex.
“That’s a potent offense that has some big-time playmakers,” nine-year vet Jimmy Smith said. “It was good to get out there and practice against them.”
The Eagles have no shortage of offensive weapons this season and Dallas Goedert wasn’t even on the field for these two practices as he recovers from a calf injury.
But having Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor on the field is enough of a handful. And after hearing all those names, Thomas quickly interjected that Darren Sproles (even at 36 years old) is still a matchup problem too.
Trying to cover everyone is pretty difficult.
“Yeah, it kind of makes it tough to game plan,” fellow starting corner Marlon Humphrey said. “Every team just about has a guy you want to double, but when you kinda got two or three guys you could double, it makes things a little bit tougher.”
What also makes this group of Eagles’ receivers so difficult is that they’re all so complementary.
• Jeffery is the big-bodied veteran who uses that body to catch 50-50 balls
• Agholor is the shiftiest of the bunch but has lightning speed too
• Jackson is the deep-threat who takes the top off the defense
And Pederson lines them up everywhere. Each of those three receivers lines up inside and outside at times. Imagine facing Alshon on one play and DeSean on the next; that’s tough.
“I don’t think I’ve really seen a guy like DeSean Jackson,” said Humphrey, a former first-round pick entering Year 3. “I noticed it yesterday and then I watched it on film. He kind of just glides over the ground. I knew he was fast, but I didn’t know he was that quick at the line. To be [entering his 12th season], he’s pretty fast. Some good work.
“The best thing for me was I got a chance to go against a big guy like Alshon Jeffery, who if he gets any sort of separation it’s usually a catch and really good speed too. And against an MVP-caliber quarterback. Really good opportunity to work for us.”
It was also a good opportunity for us to find out what we already suspected. This Eagles’ offense could be pretty good.
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