Carson Wentz's sneaky skill is quite a weapon for Eagles

Carson Wentz's sneaky skill is quite a weapon for Eagles

There’s something Carson Wentz does better than almost anybody else in the NFL.

And it has nothing to do with throwing a football.

And it’s something he could barely even do last year.

Wentz is one of the best in the NFL on keepers.

He’s now 21-for-23 in his career on 3rd and 4th and 1, including three big conversions on Sunday.

Those three conversions matched his ENTIRE TOTAL from last year.

Which tells you how much those injuries really were affecting him.

Wentz was 2-for-3 on keepers as a rookie, then a perfect 13-for-13 in his injury-shortened Pro Bowl season in 2017, then last year – still dealing with lingering knee issues and a worsening back injury -- attempted just four keepers, converting three.

Now Wentz is healthy and this is a weapon that is back in the playbook for Pederson.

With (Jason) Kelce and (Brook) Brooks and Isaac (Seumalo) – and obviously over the years those have been different guys – but those three and then the surge from really everybody, that makes my job easy,” Wentz said. “I’ve just got to fall forward.

With Pederson reluctant to use Wentz on keepers last year, the Eagles ranked 18th in the NFL on 3rd- or 4th-and-1 at 57 percent.

Compare that to the Super Bowl season, when Wentz was 13-for-13 and the Eagles converted 85 percent of the time – 6th-best in the NFL.

It might just look like he’s falling forward, but this is a very effective play that Pederson can dial up in crucial situations – like 4th-and-1 on the Eagles’ own 34-yard-line Sunday.

It’s not a very complex play,” Kelce said. “I guess in the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty simple. Everybody just dives forward, but there’s some nuance to it. As long as everybody’s going in the right direction, it can be very difficult to stop. In general if we can stay low and all work together on that play, it’s going to be very difficult to stop.

Wentz was 3-for-3 on keepers Sunday, and every other quarterback in the NFL was 4-for-4.

Pederson does this with his quarterback more than any coach in the NFL other than Ron Rivera with Cam Newton.

Coach trusts me with that, coach trusts the O-line to get a surge no matter what the front is, and we’ve been able to stay on the field in a lot of those,” Wentz said. “I like staying on the field. I don’t really care how we do it, as long as we convert, I love it. We believe our guys are going to win this surge.

The only concern of course is getting Carson hurt.

With three attempts Sunday in his first game back after dealing with lingering knee issues and a broken bone in his back, it’s clearly not a concern of Pederson.

We have a lot of confidence in it and hopefully he can get up from the pile each and every time,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “We have a lot of confidence in that play and trying not to put him in any undue risk.

We have stats, of course!

The league average on 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1 running plays since 2016 is 72 percent. Carson’s at 91 percent.

Here are the top five quarterbacks on keepers since 2016, with information culled from Pro Football Reference:

100% … Drew Brees [19-for-19]

94.1% … Marcus Mariota [16-for-17]

93.6% … Cam Newton [29-for-31]

91.3% … Carson Wentz [21-for-23]

87.5% … Kirk Cousins [14-for-16]

Only one running back during that span is even over 82 percent – Jonathan Stewart, who retired after last season, is 94.4 percent on 17-for-18.

And here are numbers for all Eagles with 10 or more attempts on short-yardage runs since 1994 (as far back as the PFR play stats go):

91.3% … Carson Wentz [21-for-23]

84.6% … Nick Foles [11-for-13]

84.4% … Donovan McNabb [38-for-45]

83.3% … Charlie Garner [15-for-18]

76.1% … LeSean McCoy [54-for-71]

72.5% … Duce Staley [29-for-40]

63.4% … Brian Westbrook [26-for-41]

78.1% … Ricky Watters [43-55]

66.7% … Michael Vick [12-for-18]

75.0% … Darren Sproles [9-for-12]

42.3% … Correll Buckhalter [11-for-26]

87.5% … Rodney Peete [14-16]

Just another thing Carson does as well as anybody.

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Redskins sign Eagles Super Bowl starter Ronald Darby

Redskins sign Eagles Super Bowl starter Ronald Darby

The Eagles will now see Ronald Darby twice a year. Which is about how often they’ve seen him the last few years.

OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but Darby, who missed 22 games in his three years with the Eagles, agreed to terms of a one-year, $4 million deal with the Redskins Sunday, according to ESPN.

The Eagles acquired Darby from the Bills just before the 2017 season for Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick in 2018. Darby missed nine games with an ankle injury before returning to the starting lineup and playing at a high level down the stretch as the Eagles went on their Super Bowl run.

He suffered a torn ACL that cost him the last seven regular-season games and the postseason in 2018 and missed five games last year with hamstring and hip injuries.

Darby, who won a bronze medal in the 200-meter dash at the 2011 IAAF World Championships, had six interceptions as an Eagle, the most by any Eagles cornerback during the Doug Pederson Era.

At his best, he was a speedy, aggressive playmaking corner, but the Eagles just did not see that player very often, especially the last two years.

The Eagles went into the offseason committed to revamping the secondary, and they never had any intention of re-signing Darby, who made $5.625 million last year.

In Washington, Darby will be playing for new head coach Ron Rivera. The Redskins signed Kendall Fuller as a free agent but traded Quinton Dunbar, who started 11 games at corner for the Skins last year, to the Seahawks last week.

Darby is the seventh Eagles’ unrestricted free agent to sign elsewhere, following Halapoulivaati Vaitai [Lions], Jordan Howard [Dolphins], Kamu Grugier-Hill [Dolphins], Malcolm Jenkins [Saints], Nelson Agholor [Raiders] and Richard Rodgers [Redskins]. All but Howard were members of the 2017 Super Bowl team.

The Eagles made no effort to re-sign any of them.

Of the Eagles’ 15 free agents, only Jason Peters, Nigel Bradham, Vinny Curry and Josh McCown remain unsigned. The Eagles brought back Jalen Mills, Rodney McLeod, Nate Sudfeld and Hassan Ridgeway.

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Ever wonder how many Philly natives played for the Eagles?

Ever wonder how many Philly natives played for the Eagles?

When the Eagles signed Will Parks, who grew up at 2nd and Allegheny and attended since-shuttered Germantown High School, it got me wondering how many Philadelphia natives have played for the Eagles.

The answer is not many. Especially recently.

Going back to 1940, we found 14 Philly natives who played in at least one regular-season game for the Eagles.

We’re not including players from the suburbs [Vince Papale, Josh Adams, Matt Bahr] or Philly natives the Eagles drafted who never got into a game [Raheem Brock, Steve Ebbeke].

Anybody missing?

SHAREEF MILLER [2019]: You don’t have to go very far back to find the last Philly native to play for the Eagles. Miller, their 4th-round pick last year, graduated from George Washington High up in Somerton, and he did play for the Eagles last year – two special teams snaps against the Bills.

BRUCE PERRY [2005-06]: Perry, also a George Washington graduate, was the Eagles’ 7th-round pick in 2004. He played five games with the Eagles and had 16 career carries. On the last day of the 2005 season, he ran 15 times for 70 yards against the Redskins, a 4.7 average. He never had another NFL carry.

UHURU HAMITER [2001-02]: Hamiter was a defensive end who played at Mastbaum High in Kensington, leading the Panthers to the 1996 Public League championship. After playing at Delaware State, he went undrafted in 1998, but he signed with the London Monarchs of the World League and had seven sacks. The Eagles brought him into training camp that summer, and although he didn’t make the roster, he did resurface in 1999 with the Saints and played five games. He returned to Philly and played in eight games.

CHUCK WEBER [1959-61]: Weber went to Abington High, but he grew up in Philly, so we’ll keep him in the Philly section. Weber was actually the Eagles’ middle linebacker in 1960, when Chuck Bednarik played outside. Weber had six INTs in 1960, most by an Eagles linebacker until William Thomas had seven in 1995. In a 1960 game against the Cowboys at the Cotton Bowl he became the first linebacker in NFL history with three INTs in a game. He remains one of only six Eagles with three interceptions in a game and the only linebacker. Kurt Coleman is the last to do it.

EDDIE BELL [1955-58]: Bell went to West Philadelphia High and played at Penn. The Eagles drafted him in the 5th-round in 1953, and Bell, one of the first African-Americans to play in the NFL, had nine INTs in four seasons with the Eagles before spending time in the CFL and then the AFL with the New York Titans, who eventually became the Jets.

JOHN MICHELS [1953]: Not to be confused with the John Michels who was once traded for Jon Harris, this John Michels was a guard who went to West Catholic and then played at Tennessee. He was a 25th-round draft pick in 1953 and played 11 games for the Eagles.

JESS RICHARDSON [1953-61]: Richardson was from East Falls and went to Roxborough High. He was the Eagles’ 8th-round pick in 1953 as a defensive tackle out of Alabama. Ray Didinger tells me Richardson grew up blocks away from the Kelly family and was friends with Grace Kelly, who became Princess of Monaco. He played nine of his 12 NFL seasons with the Eagles, made a Pro Bowl in 1959 and started on the 1960 NFL Championship team.

WALT STICKEL [1950-51]: Stickel went to Northeast High and played at both Tulsa and Penn before the Bears drafted him in the 21st round in 1945. He finished his career with the Eagles, playing in 11 games.

MIKE JARMOLUK [1949-55]: Jarmoluk, an interior lineman, attended Frankford High and Temple and was drafted by the Lions in 1945 before finishing his 10-year NFL career with the Eagles.

BILL MACKRIDES [1947-51]: Mackrides played at West Philly and Nevada and was the Eagles’ 3rd-round pick as a QB in 1947. He spent all but three games of his six-year career with the Eagles and was a backup on two NFL Championship teams. He threw 15 touchdown passes.

BERT KUCZYNSKI [1946]: Kuczynski went to Northeast High and Penn and played in one game for the Eagles.

MIKE MANDARINO [1944-45]: A West Catholic and La Salle grad, Mandarino played in 13 games for the Eagles in the 1940s.

BUCKO KILROY [1943-55]: Kilroy grew up in Port Richmond and attended Northeast Catholic and played college ball at both Notre Dame and Temple and also served in the Merchant Marines before spending his entire 13-year NFL career as an interior lineman with the Eagles, often playing both ways. He started 103 games for the Eagles, playing on both the 1948 and 1949 NFL Championship teams and was named to the NFL’s Team of the Decade for the 1940s. After his playing career, Kilroy spent nearly 50 years as an NFL executive, including 37 years with the Patriots.

JACK FERRANTE [1941, 1944-50]: Great story. Ferrante grew up in South Philly and then West Philly and briefly attended high school somewhere in the city, although nobody seems to remember exactly where. He left school to work during his sophomore year and was only 18 when he starting playing semi-pro football. After earning a local reputation, he got a tryout with the Eagles in 1941. He played three games and caught two passes, then got another tryout in 1944, and this time he stuck. Ferrante wound up spending the next seven years with the Eagles, catching 169 passes for 2,884 yards, 31 TDs (tied with Brent Celek for 12th-most in Eagles history) and a 17.71 average (7th-best in Eagles history) while starting for the 1948 and 1949 NFL Championship teams.

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