DeSean Jackson

Carson Wentz knows DeSean Jackson is a deep threat like he's never had

Carson Wentz knows DeSean Jackson is a deep threat like he's never had

When asked about DeSean Jackson on Monday afternoon, Carson Wentz’s eyes lit up. 

It’s easy to understand why. 

Not only will Jackson bring back an element that has been missing from the Eagles’ offense for years, but he’ll also provide Wentz with the kind of deep threat he’s never had before. 

Never. 

It’s exciting. It’s, without a doubt, exciting. You see the guy, obviously, the guy is getting up there in age, but the guy still runs like the wind. Impressive on film, [saw] it last year opening play of the game we played them. The guy’s still got it. It’s, without a doubt, exciting. I think he’ll bring a dynamic aspect to our offense. Whether he’s catching balls during the game or whether he’s opening things up underneath, I’m really excited to have him.

Jackson is 32 now but has shown no signs of slowing down, literally or figuratively. At 31, he led the NFL in yards-per-catch last season at 18.9. It’s the fourth time (for his third different team) that Jackson led the league in that category. 

And since he entered the league in 2008, Jackson has led the NFL with 40 catches of 50-plus yards. The next closest player on that list is Mike Wallace, who has just 26. 

Wentz brought up Wallace on Monday. He mentioned that Wallace was supposed to be the fastest player he had ever played with, but it didn’t happen. The Eagles brought Wallace in on a one-year deal for 2018, but Wallace got hurt in the second game of the season and Wentz didn’t return until Week 3. They were ships passing in the night last season. 

But now Wentz has Jackson. 

“I’m excited to get out there and just really see it in action,” Wentz said. 

With all due respect to the 30 players who have caught a pass from Wentz during his first three NFL seasons, Jackson will be the most dynamic deep threat Wentz has ever had. Heck, Jackson is one of the best deep threats the NFL has ever seen. 

Among the players who have caught at least 10 passes from Wentz, the highest career yards-per-catch belongs to Torrey Smith (16.1). But in Smith’s one season in Philly, he averaged just 11.9 yards per catch. 

Here’s every player to ever catch a pass from Wentz and their career yards-per-catch average. Guys like Bryce Treggs and Shelton Gibson have so few catches, their averages are obviously skewed. 

Zach Ertz: 216 (11.0) 
Nelson Agholor: 117 (11.6)
Alshon Jeffery: 100 (14.5)
Jordan Matthews: 91 (12.1)
Darren Sproles: 62 (8.8)
Trey Burton: 56 (10.2)
Dorial Green-Beckham: 36 (13.8)
Torrey Smith: 33 (16.1) 
Wendell Smallwood: 33 (8.3)
Corey Clement: 25 (9.8)
Dallas Goedert: 24 (10.1) 
Brent Celek: 23 (12.6) 
Golden Tate: 19 (11.8)
Josh Huff: 13 (10.3) 
Ryan Mathews: 12 (7.7) 
Mack Hollins: 12 (14.1) 
Paul Turner: 9 (14.0)
Kenjon Barner: 9 (5.9)
Jay Ajayi: 9 (6.7)
LeGarrette Blount: 5 (7.1) 
Josh Adams: 4 (8.3)
Bryce Treggs: 3 (19.9) 
Byron Marshall: 3 (5.8) 
Carson Wentz: 2 (5.5) 
Marcus Johnson: 2 (13.4)
Terrell Watson: 1 (5.0) 
Shelton Gibson: 1 (19.7) 
Kamar Aiken: 1 (11.6) 
DeAndre Carter: 1 (9.8)
Joshua Perkins: 1 (13.6)

So who is the best deep threat Wentz has ever had? Maybe it’s Alshon or Smith or Treggs or DGB or Agholor. But it won’t be any of them for very long. 

And it’s not like Wentz doesn’t like to throw deep balls. He has 13 passes of 50-plus yards in his career, which ranks ninth in the NFL — and that’s with missing eight games over the last two years. 

It’ll be up to Wentz and Jackson to get their work in together because so much of completing deep balls is about building a rapport between quarterback and receiver. But if these two can get on the same page, they could form a special duo. 

It’ll be like nothing Wentz has ever had. And that’s why he seemed so happy on Monday.

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Eagles Mailbag: Dividing the pie, RBs in draft, Doug Pederson on injury report

Eagles Mailbag: Dividing the pie, RBs in draft, Doug Pederson on injury report

I knocked out the first group of your questions in Friday's mailbag

Let’s not waste time today: 

As far as problems go, count this one as a good one to have. While in Phoenix last month at the owners meetings, I wrote about this in depth and that was before the trade to get Jordan Howard.

Now, the Eagles have Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Howard. And one football. It’ll be up to Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz to spread the ball around. If the Eagles are winning, everyone will buy in and the egos will be kept in check. The problem might come if things aren’t going well and certain players feel they are being underutilized. But the Eagles shouldn’t complain about a surplus of guys who deserve the ball. 

It’s still a draft need, just much less pressing now. If I’m weighing this with importance of position, it’s behind defensive line and offensive line, but ahead of linebacker. I still don’t think the Eagles value that position as much as some fans do. 

1. DL
2. OL
3. RB
4. LB
5. S

Remember, Howard has just one year left on his rookie contract and will be a free agent after the season. So trading for him shouldn’t drastically change the Eagles’ plan in the draft. If there’s a RB in the second round and the Eagles have him ranked as their top player on the board, they should take him and not think twice about Howard. 

1. Josh Jacobs
2. David Montgomery
3. Miles Sanders 

The thing all these guys have in common is their futures as true, three-down backs because of their ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. The Eagles don’t seem to care about the do-it-all nature of some running backs, as evidenced by some of their recent moves. But if I were using a first- or second-round pick on a running back, I would need to know they have the ceiling to be an every-down back. All three of these guys will be gone by the end of the second round. 

As Pederson would say, this is a lower-body injury. The Eagles' head coach had surgery on his ankle to prevent an Achilles tear. Basically, he had a bone spur that was rubbing into his tendon and they had to shave it down to make sure the Achilles didn’t rupture. He’s stuck with that walking boot for a total of 10 weeks, but said he’ll be fine for OTAs. He better make sure to stay out of the way, though. As much as Pederson wants to be involved, he might need to take a little step back to keep out of harm’s way. 

I have! A few years ago at the Eagles' media field goal challenge. I didn’t win, but that wasn’t my goal. My goal was to not make too much of a fool of myself and … mission accomplished. I made my first really short field goal, but missed the next one in a respectable manner. I left the NovaCare Complex that day with my dignity intact.

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Onus on Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz to balance out Eagles' offense

Onus on Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz to balance out Eagles' offense

PHOENIX — There are going to be a lot of mouths to feed in the Eagles’ offense in 2019.

It’ll be up to Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz to feed them.

After all, the Eagles’ offense seems to be at its best when it stays balanced.

As far as problems go, having a bunch of offensive weapons who catch the ball is a pretty good one to have. But since signing DeSean Jackson, the Eagles do have to find ways to get the ball to five very talented pass-catchers this season, while making sure egos don’t get in the way.

The egos won’t be a problem when things are going well, but if the Eagles’ offense sputters like it did in 2018, it’s a pretty natural reaction for a player who isn’t getting passes thrown his way to think he can help. These are extremely confident professional athletes we’re talking about.

At his annual hour-long media session at the owners meetings in Arizona, I asked Pederson if it puts pressure on him as the play-caller to get everyone involved:

Well, listen, you’ve got one football and a lot of times, defenses dictate where the ball goes. I can sit here and tell you we have a play designed for Alshon (Jeffery) but it ends up going to Nelson Agholor. Or it’s designed for Zach (Ertz) and it ends up going to Dallas (Goedert). It’s hard to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to get X amount of touches, here, here, here, here.’ It just doesn’t work that way. We’re going to scheme and we’re going to plan the way we always have and we teach the quarterbacks the progressions. And Carson gets through his reads and the ball ends up where it ends up.

Without including running backs — because it seems like there is still an addition coming at that position eventually — here’s a look at the Eagles’ top five receiving threats for the upcoming season, along with their stats from last season. The list includes the top four receivers from 2018, plus Jackson. All five will factor heavily into the 2019 offense.

Alshon Jeffery: 65 catches, 843 yards, 6 TDs (13 games)
*DeSean Jackson: 41 catches, 774 yards, 4 TDs (12 games)
Nelson Agholor: 64 catches, 736 yards, 4 TDs
Zach Ertz: 116 catches, 1,163 yards, 8 TDs
Dallas Goedert: 33 catches, 334 yards, 4 TDs

*with Tampa Bay 

If those five players were to duplicate their 2018 stats in 2019, they would combine for 3,850 receiving yards — more than 12 NFL teams had total last season.

There’s more to this issue than just who gets balls thrown their way. Depending on personnel groupings, these guys aren’t going to be on the field together. In 11 personnel, Jeffery, Jackson, Agholor and Ertz will be on the field. In 12 personnel, it’s likely that Jeffery, Jackson, Ertz and Goedert will be on the field together.

So a lot of times this season, the difference between 11 personnel and 12 personnel will be having Agholor or Goedert on the field. The Eagles are paying Agholor $9.4 million this year and they aren’t paying him to sit on the bench. But Goedert is coming off an impressive rookie season, he’s expected to make a jump in Year 2 and the Eagles found a lot of success in their two-tight end grouping last year.

In fact, on Tuesday, Pederson hinted toward adding more wrinkles to their 12 personnel package, which would make sense given the success they had with it in 2018.

Pederson will call the plays, but it certainly seems like it’s going to fall on Wentz to get all of his weapons involved. Remember, there was some grumbling last year that he locked in on Ertz too often.

“I don’t think you have to think of it that way,” Pederson said. “It’s still a progression offense. You just have to get through your progression, get through your reads. If you try to force the ball here, here, here all the time, you don’t allow the whole offense to work for you. So we just continue to teach progressions. The ball’s going to go where the ball’s going to go. That’s why we continue to progress forward and prepare our guys the same way each week.”

On paper, this passing attack seems to have all the pieces needed to be dynamic, but it can only be truly dynamic if everyone gets involved. So as much as Pederson says it’ll happen naturally, he and Wentz would benefit from trying to keep as much balance as possible.

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