July 28, 2017
In Carson Wentz's rookie season, there was little margin for error on his throws. The struggles of the Eagles wide receivers in 2016 were well documented, and they certainly didn't do their quarterback any favors. It's why Howie Roseman felt the need to put so many of his offseason resources into adding talent at the position – like free agents Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, as well as fourth-round pick Mack Hollins.
There are some holdovers from Year 1 of the Doug Pederson Era, most notably Jordan Matthews (who looked pretty good on Thursday) and former first-round pick Nelson Agholor but that's about it. And the star of this new-look receiving corps is unquestionably Jeffery, the former Bears wideout who signed a one-year deal with the Birds earlier in the offseason.
In the first full-squad practice of training camp, Wentz and Jeffery connected a few times, including once down the sideline on a jump ball over a pair of defenders – the 6-foot-3 wideout made defensive backs C.J. Smith and Jaylen Watkins look like small children.
And that's a nice luxury to have. As a former quarterback himself, Pederson recognizes how important a guy like Jeffery – one with good size, solid hands and, perhaps most importantly, an enormous catch radius – can be for a young quarterback like Wentz.
"That's a good comfort for a quarterback to have," Pederson said following Thursday's practice at the NovaCare Complex. "You don't have to necessarily be pinpoint accurate down the field when you have guys that can leap and high-point balls. And Alshon can do that. [He] did a great job today with the one [catch].
"We talk about it all the time – you just have to read the technique of the corner, too. If we've got a chance to throw it down the field where our guy can go get it, we do. A guy like Alshon, you can really throw it right on top of his head and he can go get it, and then we've got to continue working on that back shoulder throw. So there are really three types of throws that we can work. That just so happened to be one of those throw it on top of his head and allow him to make the play."
It's obvious that Wentz recognizes this as well, saying on Thursday that guys like Jeffery “really make a quarterback throw a lot more confidently."
He was echoing a sentiment from his first session with the media earlier this week. And although he's always cautious when praising his wideouts, careful not to slight one by praising another, Wentz made his thoughts on Jeffery crystal clear.
“It’s really nice having a guy like Alshon – not only [his] catch radius, but he has some of the strongest hands I’ve ver seen," Wentz said Tuesday. "The thing with Alshon and I, it’s all about building that chemistry and building that relationship. I’ve already seen it in OTAs and mandatory minicamp. And I’m excited. [I saw it] out in Fargo, as well.
"You can just see, it’s kind of a different animal throwing the ball to him. He covers some ground. It's nice to have a guy like that.”
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