Eagles

Most important Eagles for 2020: Zach Ertz is still a beast

Most important Eagles for 2020: Zach Ertz is still a beast

Over the next four weeks, we’ll be counting down the 20 most important Eagles for the 2020 season. 

20: Nate Sudfeld 
19. Avonte Maddox
18. Nathan Gerry
17. Dallas Goedert  
16. Derek Barnett
15. Jalen Reagor 
14. Jalen Mills
13. Brandon Brooks
12. Rodney McLeod
11. Javon Hargrave
10. Miles Sanders  
9. Andre Dillard
8. Brandon Graham
7. Zach Ertz 

We got to Dallas Goedert earlier in this countdown at No. 17, but let’s not lose sight of just how good Zach Ertz is. He’s still the better tight end and one of the three best in the entire league. 

Last season, Ertz caught 88 passes for 916 yards, both the second-highest totals of his career and he also added six touchdowns. He’s been to three straight Pro Bowls and has caught 70+ passes for 800+ yards in five straight seasons. 

There are just two players in the NFL who have longer season streaks with 70/800: DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones, who have both done it for six straight seasons. 

The craziest thing is that Ertz has gone 70/800 for five straight seasons and just two other Eagles have ever had 70/800 in two straight seasons: Irving Fryar from 1996-97 and Jordan Matthews in 2015-16. 

So what Ertz is doing isn’t just amazing. He’s putting up all-time great numbers. 

With 65 more catches, he’ll pass Harold Carmichael for first on the Eagles’ all-time receptions list. 

Ertz and Carson Wentz have become close on and off the field and Ertz is his go-to target. Of his 204 catches over the last two seasons, 122 of them have gone for first downs. 

One main reason Ertz has been so important to the Eagles is because they haven’t had consistent play at the receiver position. He’s been the offense’s best and most consistent weapon in the last several seasons. In fact, he’s led the team in receiving for each of the last four years. 

While the Eagles have added some new receivers this offseason, my best guess is that as long as Ertz stays healthy, he’ll lead the team in receptions again in 2020. 

Ertz is 29 now and he’s under contract through the 2021 season, which also happens to be when Goedert’s contract runs out. The Eagles will eventually have a decision to make, but as long as Ertz keeps playing at this high of a level, he’s going to be a key part of the Eagles’ offense. 

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Chad Johnson geeked up about these DeSean Jackson clips from training camp

Chad Johnson geeked up about these DeSean Jackson clips from training camp

DeSean Jackson is 33 years old now and he’s coming off a sports hernia surgery that basically wrecked his 2019 season. 

But he still has it. 

On Friday afternoon, former NFL receiver Chad Johnson shared some 1-on-1 practice video that Jackson sent his way from the Eagles’ ongoing training camp practices. Johnson was pretty excited to get these clips and posted a couple on his Twitter account. 

That one is Jackson going against Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay, in his first training camp with the Eagles. This will be a fun battle all camp long. Last year in training camp, DeSean dominated but he didn’t have a top tier cornerback to go against. 

It was fun to watch Jackson do this to the DBs in camp last year, but now he’s going against a three-time Pro Bowler and one of the best corners in the game. And Slay still stood no chance. 

That little hesitation step from Jackson and the explosion out of it is pretty wild. In a regular foot race no one is going to beat Jackson; if he gets the DB flat-footed, forget about it. And Jackson is going to beat corners as long as he’s healthy. That’s why so many defensive coordinators slide any help they can that way. 

And then there’s this hitch route that Johnson posted with some NSFW language.

On that one, you can see that Slay has to respect the deep ball and Jackson has that change of direction ability. One of the misconceptions about Jackson is that he’s just a go route deep threat; but that’s not the case. He can run short and intermediate routes well and it’s all set up from his ability to burn corners deep. 

The Eagles won’t be in pads until Monday, which is also when reporters are allowed to watch practice. I can’t wait to see this battle in person and report back. 

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Jon Gruden's curious comparison of Nelson Agholor and Randall Cunningham

Jon Gruden's curious comparison of Nelson Agholor and Randall Cunningham

Twenty-five years ago, Randall Cunningham retired after a dismal final season with the Eagles. 

Two years later he came out of retirement, signed with the Vikings and a year later had one of the greatest quarterback seasons ever, earned MVP honors and would have taken the Vikings to the Super Bowl if not for some terrible coaching by Dennis Green.

Cunningham’s offensive coordinator his last year in Philly? Jon Gruden.

Gruden today is head coach of the Raiders, and one of his pet projects is Nelson Agholor.

“A change of scenery worked for Randall Cunningham, maybe it will work for him,” Gruden told the Athletic.

Interestingly, Cunningham, who settled in Las Vegas after playing college football at UNLV, is now the Raiders’ team chaplain.

As for Agholor, he’s trying to rebuild a career that despite some great moments in 2017 and a brilliant Super Bowl never lived up to expectations.

"I trust him and I think he was picked high in the draft for a reason,” Gruden said of Agholor. "He’s a good player. You can pick up the Philadelphia Inquirer and they will probably say something different, but this guy has caught over 200 passes, he’s a young guy, he has played split end, flanker and in the slot. He caught eight or nine passes in a Super Bowl (9-for-84) and won a Super Bowl. So he's a world champion. He's a great person.”

Agholor caught 224 passes for 2,515 yards and 18 touchdowns in five seasons with the Eagles, who made him the 20th pick in Chip Kelly’s 2015 draft.

He never caught more than 768 yards in a season and he surpassed 64 yards in only nine of his 76 games here.

Agholor said he and Gruden actually have a family connection that goes back to when he was in high school at Berkeley Prep in Tampa and Gruden had just finished coaching the Buccaneers.

“He actually used to hang around after his days coaching in Tampa, he still lived in Tampa, and he would always go to a racetrack near his home, and my brother worked at that racetrack so him and my brother spent a lot of time talking every morning when Jon was getting his coffee about football and about my college career and things like that,” Agholor said in a Zoom call with Raiders writers. 

“So it’s a blessing to be in this opportunity having a previous relationship. But at the end of the day I chose this relationship because he knows the game and all I want to do is learn and be a better player.”

The Eagles, who paid Agholor nearly $19 million over the last five years, made no attempt to re-sign the 27-year-old after last season ended.

He signed a one-year minimum salary benefit deal with the Raiders worth barely above minimum wage - $1.0475 million.

In Vegas, he’ll likely compete for slot reps with Hunter Renfrow, who had 49-for-605 with 4 TDs as a rookie 5th-round pick last year.

“Honestly, this is a beautiful opportunity for me to get a chance to play with a guy like Jon Gruden, who has a background in coaching receivers,” Agholor said. “I chose this opportunity to make myself a better player. There’s no better opportunity to play for a head coach that knows receiver play and can articulate ways you can get better.

“My No. 1 goal is to progress as a player.  Lot of things that happened in the past, some really good things and some things I wanted to grow from. I told myself this opportunity is to be 2 percent better than the player I was in my previous five years.”
 

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