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July 29, 2017

Wentz, Eagles offense firing on all cylinders to begin training camp

Unless there is an overwhelming talent disparity, the general rule of thumb for NFL training camps is that the defense starts out ahead of the offense from an execution standpoint. There is still a ton of intricacy on the other side of the ball, but quarterbacks and receivers often take more time to find the rhythm they need.

That wasn’t the case for the Eagles during their first practice with full pads on Saturday, as Carson Wentz and his receivers were extremely locked in. For a while, the ball wasn’t even touching the ground.

“Today was a really good day for the whole offense,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “We had a few snafus here and there, but I thought in the pass game in particular, we really executed well. It’s only one practice so I’m not getting too excited, but that’s probably as well as we’ve executed since I’ve been here.”

Wentz made a couple of very impressive throws in 7-on-7, a perfectly placed touch pass down the seam to a streaking Jordan Matthews and a back-shoulder throw along the sideline to Zach Ertz.

Strangely enough, the Eagles’ sharp offensive execution on Saturday happened mostly without the team’s newest weapon. Alshon Jeffery, who has been as advertised in camp so far (QBs mostly just have to put the football in his vicinity), had his shoulder checked out after one-on-one drills and practiced sparingly the rest of the way.

Jeffery sat out most of the team drills, but he didn’t seem too concerned.

“I just got to look at the film, I’m not sure if the defender landed on top of me,” he said. “That’s all I can say, but I’m fine.”

Jeffery and Torrey Smith were additions to a wide receiver corps that probably stacked up as the worst in the NFL last season. Stepping in for the former Chicago Bear on Saturday was Marcus Johnson, who was part of Eagles training camp last season as well.

Making the Eagles 53-man roster should be more difficult in theory this year for Johnson (Mack Hollins, Nelson Agholor, and Jordan Matthews also appear to be locks if Matthews isn’t traded), but after a strong performance during the spring, he doesn’t appear too fazed.

“I don’t look at it as a standpoint of competition,” Johnson said. “I understand that if I go out there and put the best player that I am each and every day, that’ll speak for itself. From there, I just go about it one day at a time, chipping away. And it’s been good for me so far.”

The University of Texas product initially was placed on the Eagles practice squad after training camp last year, but he was released to make room for Aaron Murray once Sam Bradford was traded and the Eagles needed another quarterback around. He was later re-signed to the practice squad in December.

What did he do for the three months he wasn’t in Philly?

“At one point I was training by myself,” Johnson said. “I’d go to a park and just run routes, whatever I could do.”

Johnson said that he suffered a quad injury at this point last season, which slowed him down in the preseason. On Saturday, he was one of Wentz’s favorite targets, making catches all over the defense.

As for the second-year quarterback, he appears to be pretty locked in.

“He’s such a Type-A personality, and for him to kind of have to just kind of wait in the wings, I don’t think that was comfortable for him to kind of be behind Sam and Chase at this time last year,” Ertz said. “He wants to be motivating people each and every day, so I think now he’s so confident and comfortable in his role.”

It has only been a few training camp practices, but hey, it’s certainly better than Wentz missing receivers all over the field, right?

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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