Eagles

Carson Wentz forced to accelerate growth process with young WRs

Carson Wentz forced to accelerate growth process with young WRs

They didn’t get any reps during the week, and it showed.

When the Eagles lost starting wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery early in the first quarter Sunday night in Atlanta, they were forced to use J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who had played five offensive reps in his brief NFL career, and Mack Hollins, who hadn’t caught a pass since before the Super Bowl.

It showed.

Before halftime, Arcega-Whiteside was targetted four times and caught one four-yard pass and Hollins was targetted twice without a catch.

With two receivers who hadn’t gotten first-team reps during the week and with No. 2 tight end Dallas Goedert also out, the Eagles’ offense sputtered most of the half, and the Eagles managed only 95 yards and six points before halftime.

That’s always tough,” Carson Wentz said. “I’ve never seen anything quite like that, where three of your top five weapons go down early in the game like that.

Hollins in particular settled down to catch five passes for 50 yards in the second half, when the Eagles netted 191 yards and 14 points.

This week, with Jackson and Jeffery unlikely to play, Hollins and Arcega-Whiteside have become focal points of the offense, and the Eagles expect the results to be much different.

The Eagles face the Lions at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Linc, and the Eagles need a win to avoid a 1-2 start.

If that’s going to happen, the Eagles need more consistency from Nelson Agholor, their only receiver in the usual rotation who’s healthy, and from the rookie Arcega-Whiteside and the rarely used Hollins.

We’re not going to ask Mack to go be DeSean and we’re not going to ask J.J. to go be Alshon,” Wentz said. “They’re going to be themselves. I think they’re both explosive and dynamic in their own right (and) we do things that they do well. We find what they do well and cater to that and put them in the best position to succeed and they’re both great players in their own right. We have a lot of confidence in what they do well and what they bring to the team and I think having a full week to prepare with those guys will really help us.

Arcega-Whiteside, a rookie second-round pick, and Hollins, who missed all last year, both have great size and decent wheels. 

But Hollins has 21 career catches since he was a fourth-round pick in 2017 and JJAW has one career catch. 

They don’t have a lot of time to morph from a special teamer and a No. 4 receiver into key components of the offense.

Wentz said he can accelerate that process with communication in the meeting room, throwing against air after practice and just talking football every chance they get.

That commuication, talking through certain plays, certain looks, certain coverages, what we’re seeing,” he said. “The same thing really I always do with all the guys. Obviously, this week they’re thrust into that role some. … I feel really confident in those guys and the chemistry we have.

Doug Pederson said Jeffery, Jackson and Goedert are all day-to-day, but it would be a surprise if any of them play either Sunday or a week from today against the Packers in Green Bay.

So if the Eagles are going to find some consistency on offense it’s going to be with a 22-year-old rookie with four career receiving yards and a 26-year-old third-year player who missed all of last year and much of training camp.

They both do quite a bit well,” Wentz said. “J.J. has a really good catch radius and able to create some separation using his body and Mack kind of similar. You go back a couple years and he made some big plays down the field (a 64-yarder against the Redskins in 2017) and people forget he’s still a deep threat in that regard. I’m really confident in both those guys to make some plays this Sunday. Now it’s not just that backup role filling a void here and there, they’re going to get their chance.

They have to make the most of that chance or the Eagles could be in big trouble.



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What has Miles Sanders done to turn his season around?

What has Miles Sanders done to turn his season around?

Remember how overmatched Miles Sanders looked after gaining just 25 yards on 11 carries in the opener against the Redskins? Remember how lost he looked a week later when he was just 10-for-28 in Atlanta?

Three weeks into his rookie season, Sanders was averaging 3.1 yards per carry and ranked 28th out of 33 qualifying running backs.

Six from the bottom.

Since then?

Sanders has blossomed.

In the Eagles’ last nine games, Sanders is averaging 5.1 yards per carry, 7th-best in the league of 53 backs during that span.

Six from the top.

In a season with very few positives, Sanders’ development has been fun to watch.

What’s been the difference?

Sanders is just seeing things better, he’s running more decisively and he's moving the chains forward.

Nothing demonstrates that better than his percentage of carries that have gone for one or fewer yards.

In his first game, more than half his carries went for one or fewer yards (6 of 10). Through five games he was still at 35 percent, with 19 of 53 runs that went less than two yards.

In the last seven games, that number has dropped precipitously. Of his 62 carries since the Vikings game, only nine — nine of 62 — have been one or fewer yards. 

“I feel like I’ve been getting better and better each week,” the second-round pick from Penn State said. “Everybody’s been telling me that, but most importantly, I’ve been noticing it myself, just trying to get better and do it each week. I feel more confident just as far as reading where I’m supposed to be, getting my eyes in the right place and just playing ball out there.”

Sanders has 520 rushing yards and needs 118 to break LeSean McCoy’s franchise rookie rushing record of 637, set in 2009.

He has 879 scrimmage yards and needs 130 to break DeSean Jackson’s franchise rookie scrimmage yards record of 1,008, set in 2008.

Going into this weekend, he was second to Raiders 1st-round pick Josh Jacobs among rookies with 879 scrimmage yards and fourth in rushing (behind Jacobs, David Montgomery and Devin Singletary).

Is Doug Pederson using Sanders enough?

That’s a different question. 

Sanders is averaging 4.5 yards per carry overall but still has only the 30th-most carries in the league and the 25th-most touches among running backs. 

“I think you're seeing the patience in the running game,” Doug Pederson said. “His vision is better, it's improved from Week 1 to Week 13. The more he gets time, the more he gets snaps, the better he'll get.”

Sanders has taken care of the production. Now it’s up to Pederson to take care of getting him more snaps.

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Eagles vs. Giants live: Highlights and analysis from NFL Week 14 game

Eagles vs. Giants live: Highlights and analysis from NFL Week 14 game

9:57 a.m.: Good morning, everyone! 

We have waited a long time for tonight, but the Eagles will host Eli Manning and the Giants tonight at the Linc. Here are five matchups to watch.

If you’re heading to the game, bring your rain gear. 

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