Eagles

Chemistry between Carson Wentz and DeSean Jackson is forming quickly

Chemistry between Carson Wentz and DeSean Jackson is forming quickly

It’s a shame the Eagles’ Monday training camp practice wasn’t at Lehigh because Carson Wentz and DeSean Jackson put on a show that every Eagles fan would have loved to see.

Wentz and Jackson, in their fourth training camp day together, connected on several highlight-reel plays, including a screen pass that Jackson took to the house and a couple deep balls.

Their timing and chemistry — this quickly — is dazzling.

Today was an awesome day,” Jackson said. “We connected a few times down the field, covered intermediate routes, covered quick screens. We’re just trying to keep adding to what we’re already doing, just keep building, that’s the biggest thing you can do right now with training camp is just keep building and get them reps. The reps we can get now, it doesn’t get any better than that because once the season comes it’s like [in] the back of the head — he knows what I’m doing, I know what he’s doing.

Jackson, who’s scored more touchdowns of at least 60 yards than anybody in NFL history, is with his third team in four years and back with the Eagles for the first time since 2013, when Chip Kelly released him after his third Pro Bowl season.

He’s back where it all began, and he looks like he hasn’t lost a step.

His ability to build such remarkable timing this fast with Wentz is the most auspicious aspect of camp so far. 

Every day [the chemistry] has grown, and whether it’s on the field where you see it with live reps or after practice or off to the side between team drills and we’re talking and we watch film together,” Wentz said. “Chemistry grows in a billion different ways and it’s exciting, for sure.

Wentz said the time he and Jackson spend off the field is just as important as the time they spend on the field, which is limited.

You see them together all the time. Before practice. Between drills. After practice.

There’s a lot that can be discussed, honestly,” Wentz said. “Just reviewing certain routes, different plays, different things, what you’re expecting against different coverages. The defender’s playing a certain technique, what are you expecting, what are you thinking? Just to get on the same page. Every receiver is different. Every receiver has preferences on things and to build that chemistry without getting the physical reps I think is a huge part of it.

If you think back to 2017, it took Wentz and Alshon Jeffery some time to build that connection when Jeffery joined the Eagles as a veteran receiver.

If you remember, Jeffery had 26 catches for 354 yards and two touchdowns in his first seven games with Wentz before things really clicked between them.

We'll see what happens when the season begins, but so far the Eagles' 2008 second-round pick and 2016 first-round pick have clicked in a hurry.

Wentz said building chemistry with Jackson is tricky just because of Jackson’s world-class speed.

It’s different playing with a guy like him and it’s definitely exciting at the same time and that’s why it just takes a lot of communication,” Wentz said. “But I feel really good. I feel in a really good spot with him and I think we’re just going to keep building.

This is going to be fun.

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How the NFL’s perception of Carson Wentz has changed

How the NFL’s perception of Carson Wentz has changed

Two years ago, Carson Wentz came in at No. 3 on NFL Network’s list of the top 100 players in the league.

All he’s done since then is throw 48 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, complete 66 percent of his passes and fashion a 96.7 passer rating.

And drop out of the top 100.

It’s stupid, of course. We all understand Wentz should be in the top 100. He’s a really good player. But instead of complaining about it, let’s consider what it means.

Because it didn’t just happen. Nobody was out to get Carson. His fall out of the top-100 may be ridiculous, but it happened for a very real reason and represents a very real national perspective.

When he got hurt in L.A. late in the 2017 season, Wentz was 24 years old and the best young quarterback in football. Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were rookies and Lamar Jackson was still at Louisville. 

Now Wentz is 27 and going into Year 5, and he’s just as talented as ever. His numbers considering his lack of receivers are crazy. That 96.7 passer rating throwing to Nelly, Mack Hollins and Alshon is 9th-highest in the NFL over the last two years. Yet he’s dropped from No. 3 entirely off the list.

It's all about perception.

Carson is no longer seen as this hot young quarterback taking the league by storm. He’s now perceived as injury prone and incapable of carrying a football team from opening day through a deep playoff run.

It’s amazing how perception can change so quickly, but that’s what happens. This year’s Next Biggest Thing is next year’s Washed-Up Has-Been.

The reality for Wentz is somewhere in between. When he’s been healthy, he’s been really good. But he’s going into Year 5 and the sum total of his postseason career is a 3-yard completion to Boston Scott.

So it’s really hard to fairly rank Wentz because he’s 27 and hasn’t won a playoff game. Hasn’t even finished one.

And this is a fickle business. 

Kyler Murray had a nice rookie year and I think he’s going to be really good, but he has no business being ranked ahead of Wentz. Josh Allen did some exciting things last year, but he has no business being ranked ahead of Wentz.

But people look at those guys now the same way they looked at Wentz two years ago. Young, exciting, improving, full of potential. Part of a new wave of NFL quarterbacks.

And when you look at the big picture, there’s a sense that young QBs are leaving Wentz by the wayside.

Mahomes and Watson are three years younger than Wentz. Jackson is four years younger. 

They’re now the hot young QBs. Now they're the future.  

That’s just natural.  Maybe it’s not fair that while you’re out there throwing 48 TDs and 14 INTs your reputation takes a hit, but that’s life.

I liked Carson’s answer when I asked him last week about not being in the top 100

“You can always use anything and everything as just a little bit of extra motivation,” he said. “I'm not going to let that cause me to lose any sleep or anything, but I do look forward to going out this year and showing what I can do.”

I’m glad he’s pissed. Or as close to pissed as Carson gets. I want angry Carson. 

Because you can hang your head and feel bad about being snubbed by somebody’s list or you can shrug it off and go do something about it and win some games and get to the playoffs and prove you really are one of the 100 best players in the league or maybe one of the 10 best.

In the end, only Carson truly controls how he's perceived. In the end, Carson's vote is the only one that counts. 

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Fletcher Cox spills details from Eagles D-line getaway at his ranch

Fletcher Cox spills details from Eagles D-line getaway at his ranch

Eagles defensive tackle Bruce Hector grew up in Tampa, Florida, and went to college at South Florida. Bruce Hector is 6-foot-2, 296 pounds. 

Bruce Hector had never ridden a horse. Of course he hadn’t. 

That changed in May when Fletcher Cox hosted most of his defensive line teammates at his ranch in Texas. 

Hector and Derek Barnett rode horses for the first time. The guy shot skeet — “everybody sucked at first until about 20 minutes into it,” Cox said — and Malik Jackson, whom Cox affectionately referred to as a “Cali Kid” got to spend some quality time with mosquitos and flies. 

It was one of those things, it was very important to me that I did that, to let those guys know ‘hey, I’m here for you, let’s all get together and get it done,’” Cox said. “Once the guys got there, we had everything laid out, food, places to stay. And guys enjoyed it.

In addition to all the activities Cox’s ranch has to offer, the Eagles’ defensive linemen also worked out together while trying to stay safe during COVID-19. 

Aside from the horses who had to support 300-pound linemen, the real MVPs of the getaway were Stephanie and Sue, two women who work on Cox’s ranch and were in charge of making sure everything was clean for the Eagles as they got together during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Eagles’ Pro Bowl defensive lineman said Stephanie and Sue “really stayed on top of it.” 

“I asked them, ‘hey when guys wake up go in their room, make sure you’re spraying everything down, make sure you’re washing the bedspread, making sure that everything is getting sprayed every day,’” Cox said. 

And they did. 

Aside from that, the only people working out on the fields were Cox and his teammates. In an offseason where the Eagles lost all of OTAs and minicamps, Cox felt like he had to step up and get the group together. Without those workouts, the Eagles’ defensive line wouldn’t have been together until training camp this month.  

“I knew I had the place to get all the guys down to my place in Texas,” Cox said. “I reached out to all the guys. I told the guys, ‘hey if you feel safe coming down, let’s all get together as a group, as a D-line unit and try to knock some things out.’ Let’s get a couple days where we can get some work in and just kind of hang out and be around each other.”

Cox, 29, has really grown into his role as a leader on the team, similarly to Carson Wentz, who got a group of receivers together this offseason in Houston. 

On Wednesday, Cox said the defensive line will need to lead the Eagles in 2020 and he’s probably right. That makes his role even more important. He’s the leader of the group that has to lead the team. 

Give him a lot of credit for getting his teammates together during a difficult and unusual offseason. Give that horse a ton of credit too. 

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