3rd-rounder Josh Huff reunites with Chip Kelly

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3rd-rounder Josh Huff reunites with Chip Kelly

For the first time in nearly a quarter of a century, the Eagles have drafted two wide receivers in the first three rounds of the draft.

After releasing DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant, who had the top two reception totals of any Eagles receivers over the past two decades, the Eagles moved to replace them on Friday.

They began the day by selecting Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews in the second round (see story) and finished it by adding Oregon receiver Josh Huff in the third.

“It’s lovely to be reunited with him,” Huff said. “When I saw that 215 come up on my phone, I started to cry. It’s a dream come true for me. Can’t wait to get out there and come to work.”

‪Huff (see bio), the 86th player taken in this year’s draft, is the first Oregon player Chip Kelly has drafted since he left the Ducks to become the Eagles’ head coach last year.

Huff said Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost told him recently the Eagles would draft him in the third round.

“Obviously, I know him extremely well,” Kelly said. “Outstanding young man, great position versatility. Josh played every wide receiver position at Oregon, played a little running back early in his career, he’s returned kicks, he’s an outstanding special teams player.

“He’s a physical football player, a shade under six feet, he can run, he’s got a nasty presence about him. Really excited to see if we can add him to the group.”

Huff said the fact that he was drafted by his college coach means he’ll have to work that much harder to show he’s not just here because of who he played for in college.

“Go in and prove myself and prove that the reason he drafted me isn’t just because I played for him,” he said.

This is the first time since 1990 the Eagles have taken two wide receivers within the first three rounds. That year, they drafted Mike Bellamy in the second round and Freddie Barnett in the third -- then added Calvin Williams in the fifth.

And there could be a third on Saturday, when the Eagles have picks 101, 141, 162 and 237.

"We're not averse to taking another one tomorrow, either,” Kelly said.

But even though the Eagles went into the draft with only Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper on the roster as experienced wide receivers and this was considered the strongest wide receiver draft ever, Kelly said the Eagles weren’t necessarily focused on taking wideouts with two of their first three picks.

It just worked out that way.

“We’re following exactly the way [the board] was,” Kelly said. “It’s staring you in the face. He was the highest-ranked guy we had. … You just keep picking the names off the board and look up, who’s the highest-ranked guy?”

‪Huff caught 144 passes for 2,366 yards at Oregon and had a breakthrough season last year with 62 receptions for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 18.4 yards per catch last year -- one of the top-20 figures in Division I -- and 16.4 in his career.

‪Huff also returned kickoffs as a freshman, averaging 24.7 yards on 23 returns.

It wasn’t until his senior year that Huff even had 500 receiving yards in a season. But he made a huge jump this past year.

“Just hard work, dedication and just staying patient and waiting my turn,” he said. “I had a great offensive team at Oregon, a lot of off weapons and I had a great quarterback in Marcus Mariota.”

‪The Eagles went into the third round with picks 83 and 86 but traded No. 83 -- acquired Thursday from the Browns -- to the Texans in exchange for two Saturday picks -- No. 101 overall in the fourth round and No. 141 overall in the fifth round.

Kelly said he considers Huff a potentially outstanding special teams player as well as receiving depth.

“He’s got an opportunity to play in the National Football League and he’s graduated from college,” Kelly said. “He’s a great young man.”

Kelly said he removed himself from early talks about Huff, since he coached him in college, and he didn’t want his relationship with his former recruit to shade his opinions.

“I try to divorce myself from that situation,” he said.

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Carson Wentz takes pride in not letting plays die easily. 

In Sunday’s 34-3 win over the Steelers, one play he didn’t let die ended up being the back-breaker in the blowout. 

We’re, of course, talking about the 73-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles at the 13:08 mark in the third quarter. Coming into the second half, the Eagles had a 10-point lead, but this touchdown pushed it to a 20-3 advantage and the rout was on. This play was a tone-setter (see story)

“That’s something that we talk about a lot,” Wentz said after the game. “We always say that a play is never dead. I like to make plays when we need to and everyone just does a great job of getting open in those situations.”

This was the first big off-schedule play Wentz has hit during his three weeks as the team’s starter, but the signs were there. In the Chicago game, there were several times where he showed his ability to extend plays. We broke them down in a film review last week (see story).

Throughout the week, Wentz had been compared to Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. One of the reasons was their shared ability to extend plays and make something happen. Big Ben showed his ability in the first quarter and almost connected on a huge touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton in the back of the end zone, but the receiver couldn’t pull it in. 

When Wentz got his shot later in the game, Sproles was able to pull it in, then make something happen with his feet. 

“I saw Carson scrambling this way,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Darren was literally right in front of me and when I saw him wheel, my first reaction was to find the sideline to see if he stepped out to be quite honest.  He hadn’t, and Carson just — it was like in slow motion — floated that ball up the sideline and Darren did the rest from there. It was a tremendous play from those two individuals. I guess the last thing I did is I always look back to make sure there are no flags on the ground on those long plays.”

There were no flags. Touchdown. Game. 

Let’s take a closer look at the play: 

Wentz is in shotgun with Sproles in the backfield with him. The Eagles come out with three-wide on the far side of the field and a lot of space on the near side. 

Stephon Tuitt, who actually had a pretty good game against the Eagles, takes this route to the quarterback. When he gets to left guard Allen Barbre, Barbre either didn’t see him or didn’t react quickly enough. 

While Sproles is still running his short out, Wentz feels the pressure and is able to step up through the hole created by Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks. As soon as he makes it through, Wentz still has his eyes downfield. 

Now Wentz is through the hole and sees Sproles finishing his out-route. This is when Wentz, on the run, motions to Sproles to take off. This is something we’ve seen Wentz do a few times during his three weeks as Eagles quarterback. 

Wentz was left with a tough decision here. He could have run for 10, maybe even 15 yards. It was wide open, but he decided to try to make a play with his arm instead. 

“I always want to be a thrower first,” he said. “Even when a play breaks down, I’m always looking [to throw] because that’s where the big plays are happening. If I scramble I might get 5, 10, 15, 20 yards, but I’m not that fast. I always want to get it to the guys that can make plays. We always want to make plays when they’re there, and that’s what happened.”

With the line of scrimmage at the 27, Wentz has enough awareness to run horizontally to make sure he didn’t cross. And as soon as Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell takes that first step toward him, Wentz sees how much room Sproles has to work with. 

Ryan Shazier, who was covering Sproles on the play, froze and then started to step toward Wentz too. He said he thought the quarterback crossed the line of scrimmage, but Wentz was aware enough to stay behind.  

Once Sproles catches the ball in open space, he begins to do Sproles things. Defensive back Sean Davis took a bad angle on him and once he gets close, the veteran turns it inside. Davis said he was trying to buy time for the rest of his defense to get there and stop Sproles. It didn’t work. 

“Man, it’s Sproles!” receiver Nelson Agholor said. “Did you think he was going to get tackled?”

While he’s blocking downfield, Dorial Green-Beckham actually trips himself up and does a somersault. But it didn’t matter — Sproles didn’t need a great block. He pretty much did it himself. 

“Anytime that you can put it in the hands of [Sproles] something special can happen on any play, and he did the rest of it,” Wentz said. 

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Now 22/1 to win Super Bowl, Eagles also the NFC East favorite

Now 22/1 to win Super Bowl, Eagles also the NFC East favorite

The Eagles crushed a Super Bowl contender on Sunday at the Linc. And Vegas took notice.

According to Bovada, the Eagles' odds to win the Super Bowl went from 33/1 to 22/1. Just nine teams have shorter odds to win the Super Bowl. The Patriots are tops at 15/4, followed by the Packers (8/1) and the team the Eagles beat, the Steelers (9/1).

With the win, the Eagles also became the favorite to win the NFC East, going from 11/4 to 2/1. They're followed by the Cowboys and Giants (both at 11/5) and last year's division champs, Washington, is at 6/1.

The Eagles are also 12/1 to win the NFC.

Of course, the biggest story for the Eagles this season has been the emergence of rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. He had his first 300-yard passing game Sunday and was named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week. His odds to win MVP went from 50/1 to 33/1. Those are the same odds as Drew Brees and Eli Manning.

Meanwhile, former Eagles quarterback and current Minnesota Viking Sam Bradford went from 50/1 to 25/1 to win MVP.

While Wentz's MVP odds shortened, his odds to win Rookie of the Year actually got longer, going from 8/5 to 7/4. That could have something to do with the odds of Ezekiel Elliot (7/4), Dak Prescott (5/1) and Sterling Shepard (7/1) all improving.

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