Press Taylor

The wild innovation Eagles quarterbacks coach Press Taylor believes is next for the NFL

The wild innovation Eagles quarterbacks coach Press Taylor believes is next for the NFL

The NFL is constantly evolving, constantly changing, as teams look for new twists to gain an advantage.

What’s next?

Eagles quarterbacks coach Press Taylor had some fascinating thoughts about that.

I do think at some point one of the big things is having multiple people on the field who can throw the ball,” he said. “I think that’s something [you’ll see] going forward. You’ve seen kind of the Philly Special, all the different versions of double passes, things like that. I think at some point something like that I could see coming into play.

Now, to put this in context, Taylor — who was originally brought to the Eagles in 2013 by Chip Kelly — is the guy who brought the Philly Special to the Eagles after seeing the Bears run it in 2016. (Read Dave Zangaro’s story about that here.)

So we know he has an innovative mind. Taylor, who was a quality control coach under Kelly and assistant quarterbacks coach in 2016 and 2017, is now beginning his second year as the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach.

“Not necessarily saying that we’re doing that or anything like that,” Taylor said, laughing. “But I just think pushing the envelope could be something [we see]. You’ve got these guys coming out of college that are dual-threat quarterbacks and transition to receiver, different things like that. Those guys get on the field and just to be able to get your best players on the field and threaten the defense in the most ways possible. It’ll be fun to see.”

Interesting to note that the Eagles have two pretty successful college quarterbacks in their receiving corps.

Braxton Miller was Ohio State’s starting quarterback for three years and finished fifth in the 2012 Heisman Trophy balloting and ninth in 2013 before missing 2014 with a shoulder injury and converting to receiver.

Greg Ward was a quarterback at Houston and capped his college career with a win over No. 9 Florida State in the 2016 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

The two of them combined for 13,999 passing yards, 104 touchdowns and 43 interceptions as college QBs.

Who knows whether either one will make the final roster, but if they do, the possibilities are intriguing.

You look at all your guys,” Doug Pederson said. “We found out that [Nelson Agholor] can throw and DeSean [Jackson] can throw a little bit and some of these guys, you can use them in unique situations. Again, this is springtime. This is where we get a chance to experiment and sort of dabble in some of these gadget plays and find out who can do that kind of stuff. It does help to have that QB background.

Here are five memorable instances of non-quarterbacks throwing the ball for the Eagles (and we skipped the Philly Special just because that’s still fresh in everybody’s mind):

Keith Byars' perfect season: In 1990, Eagles running back Keith Byars threw four passes and all four were touchdowns (two to Anthony Toney, one to Heath Sherman, one to Calvin Williams). Nobody else in NFL history has thrown more than two passes in a season in which all his attempts were TDs.  

B-Mitch to Dawk: In a 2002 game against the Texans, running back Brian Mitchell threw a 57-yard TD pass to Brian Dawkins, the only career reception of Dawk’s career. Of the 318 players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Dawks’ career yards-per-catch average of 57.0 is highest.

Roger Ruzek did what?: In 1989, Eagles kicker Roger Ruzek threw a 22-yard TD pass to future Hall of Famer Cris Carter in a win over the Cards at the Vet. It was the only pass of Ruzek’s career. Ruzek is the only Eagle in the last 50 years to throw a touchdown pass and make a field goal in the same game.

Big-play Freddie: Interesting note about Freddie Mitchell: He had as many 25-yard TD passes in his career as 25-yard TD catches. One of each. In 2003, FredEx threw a 25-yard TD to Brian Westbrook in a win over the Dolphins in Miami. He’s the only WR to throw a TD pass for the Eagles in the last 35 years.

Legend to a legend: In a 1983 game against the Colts, Harold Carmichael threw a 45-yard TD to Mike Quick. Carmichael, who had 79 career TDs, and Quick, who had 61, are one of only three sets of teammates in NFL history who both had 60 TD catches to connect on a TD pass. The others are Dez Bryant (73) to Jason Witten (68) for the Cowboys against the Lions in 2016 and Charley Taylor (79) and Bobby Mitchell (65) of the Redskins against the Giants in 1965.

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Carson Wentz and Golden Tate already learning how to fly together

Carson Wentz and Golden Tate already learning how to fly together

Carson Wentz was back in his home state of North Dakota hunting ducks during the bye week when Howie Roseman actually pulled the trigger. 

Wentz got the call that the Eagles had traded for wide receiver Golden Tate, so he quickly sent his new weapon a text message to welcome him to the flock. 

On Wednesday, Wentz said that text message was so he and Tate could immediately begin to build chemistry. Same with the invitation for Tate to join him at church on Sunday — an invitation Tate declined to study his new playbook, but his wife took up. They’ll still have to learn to play with each other on the fly, but any bit of information the two can gain about each other will help.

“Everyone’s different,” Wentz said. “Obviously, the more reps, the better. At the same time, you turn on the film of what he’s done in Detroit and just try to see his body language on routes and what he’s good at and those types of things. It’ll be big to finally get out there today and finally start to get used to him and build that chemistry right away.”

Doug Pederson said it’ll be on Wentz and Tate to build their rapport by spending extra time throwing to each other and getting a feel for one another. They won’t get it down immediately; Pederson said it’ll take some time. 

“Getting used to Carson is something he’s going to have to do,” Pederson said. “But we gotta do it fast. Like now. It’s going to take some time.”

Sure, it’ll be a gradual process. No matter how much the two are on the same page by week’s end, they’ll even be further along come this time next week, and so on. There’s no mighty recipe to quickly create chemistry. But the quicker the better. 

It’s good that Wentz isn’t going in blind too. While there’s nothing that can make up for practice reps, there’s plenty he can learn about Tate from watching film. Specifically, offensive coordinator Mike Groh said Tate is a QB-friendly receiver because of his body language. 

Quarterbacks coach Press Taylor was able to elaborate on what exactly that body language looks like: 

It’s kind of just sinking his hips, being able to shed a defender at the right time, understanding when to cross over a defender, maybe when not to, when to get in and out of a break. There’s a lot of times we have depths on certain routes and it may be one revolution short, one revolution extra, based how the coverage is dictated. With stuff like that, you need to be able to trust what you see with your receiver. So when he sinks his hip, when he changes his leverage of a guy, that’s when the ball needs to be out. That’s something that’s developed with Carson and these guys he’s been throwing to. That’s something we need to get Golden up to speed on.

Taylor said that Groh is especially good at making sure Wentz is always communicating with his receivers. If they’re in a meeting and Wentz mentions he’d like a receiver to run a route a different way, Groh will ask if he’s talked to that receiver about it. Because Wentz is the guy pulling the trigger, they want him to be vocal with what he wants. They want him to do that with Tate right away. 

For years, Tate worked with Matthew Stafford and became Stafford’s security blanket on third downs. He can similarly help the Eagles in those situations, but Wentz will need to learn to trust him first. That started with a text message in the North Dakota wilderness as ducks hit the ground for the purpose of jerky.  

So how quickly can these two get on the same page? 

“Hopefully by Sunday,” Taylor said. 

That would be quacktastic. 

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Here’s a scary thought: Carson Wentz keeps getting better

Here’s a scary thought: Carson Wentz keeps getting better

Here’s a scary thought for the rest of the NFL: Carson Wentz is getting better. 

Every single game. 

At least that’s what we’ve seen from him in the four games since he returned from that ACL surgery this season. He’s improved in every contest by almost every measurable metric. 

“I think he's just getting more comfortable with the speed of the game, having missed so much time throughout the offseason and training camp,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “I think he's settling in nicely and finding his rhythm.”

Wentz would probably say the only stat he cares about is wins and the Eagles are just 2-2 in the four games he’s started this season. But if he keeps getting better like he has the last month, he’s going to give the Eagles a chance to win every game on the rest of the schedule. 

Right now, he’s beginning to look like the guy who was on track to win the league’s MVP last season before taking that hit on his left knee in Los Angeles on Dec. 10. 

You might remember that Wentz didn’t begin that season as an MVP candidate. Through four games, he was good, but not great. He had a passer rating of 90.5 with six touchdowns and two interceptions. From there, he has a passer rating of over 100 in six of his final nine starts. 

And it all began after his fourth start. He’s four starts into this season. He might be about to go on a run. 

What’s even scarier is that we might see some additional growth being that this is Wentz’s third season in the NFL. He might be getting back to where he was last year and then, he might pass it. 

Over the last month, we’ve already seen those flashes. 

It certainly looks like Wentz is getting more and more comfortable, but does he feel that way? 

“Obviously the outcome might look that way based on statistical performance and things like that,” he said. “But, like I’ve been saying, I felt good when I came back. I felt good within the offense. 

“I think it’s really just a culmination of us finally settling in collectively as a unit, finding who we are and, like we’ve talked a lot about, just finally eliminating a lot of those small detail mistakes we had been making. And it was good to put one together the other night.”

Wentz might have felt comfortable from the beginning and even got a win in his first game back, but he was clearly a better quarterback last Thursday than he was in Week 3 against the Colts.  

Maybe Wentz is just too close to the situation or maybe he just doesn’t want to admit that it’s been a little bit of a process to feel like himself again. That would be understandable. 

But just about everyone else agrees we’ve seen growth from No. 11 in each game he’s played so far. Quarterbacks coach Press Taylor thinks it was a combination of Wentz getting back into rhythm and his teammates getting used to playing with him.

“I think all of that continues to progress,” Taylor said. “He gets better every single week and that’s what we expect of our offense as well.” 

That’s gotta be scary for 31 other teams.

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