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August 03, 2017

Eagles practicing red zone offense without two biggest weapons

As the Eagles went through live hitting drills at training camp on Thursday, one of the aspects that they worked on was red zone offense and defense. The problem? Perhaps the team’s two biggest threats in that all-important area, both acquired in free agency this past offseason, weren’t on the field.

That would be receiver Alshon Jeffery (minor shoulder injury) and running back LeGarrette Blount (excused for personal reasons), and Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich was asked about their absence after practice.

“Alshon and LeGarrette are a big part of the red zone package,” Reich said. “So, yeah, you want them in there. We'll have plenty more red zone periods when those guys are here. We'll get a lot of reps, got some good reps with them in OTAs to try to figure out some things we can do with them. In the meantime, it gives other guys a chance.

“The package doesn't just revolve around those two. Those two are certainly key components of it, but it gives us a chance to work other things as well.”

Per Football Outsiders, the Eagles finished 22nd in points per red zone appearance and 24th in touchdowns per red zone appearance last season. That number tends to be random from year to year (small sample size, the variance of football in general), but it’s still a critical area of the game. To use a golf analogy, “drive for show, putt for dough."

The additions of Blount and Jeffery could certainly help the Eagles inside the 20. As Jimmy noted when the Eagles signed Blount, the former Patriot was a short-yardage master in New England. Here was how far out his touchdown runs came from: 8, 9, 1, 41, 1, 1, 3, 5, 1, 1, 1, 13, 43, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, and 1.

Jeffery’s red zone numbers were unimpressive over the last two years (when in truth, all of his numbers took a hit from 2013 and 2014), but at 6’3” and 218 pounds with a huge catch radius, he has the ability to be a red zone weapon for Carson Wentz.

The Eagles need to be better in the red zone, and they have the tools to be better in the red zone. But so far in training camp, their major additions from the offseason haven’t been around to practice punching the ball into the end zone.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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