Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles want to build around Carson Wentz and he can help

Eagles want to build around Carson Wentz and he can help

INDIANAPOLIS -- Not only are the Eagles going to build around Carson Wentz, but they're also going to let him help.

Sure, the Eagles sat down with Wentz after the season to talk about a plan, but his contributions when it comes to actual personnel decisions have likely been exaggerated.

He can help in other ways, though.

Namely, he can just be himself: the talented face of a franchise who other guys want to play with. The Eagles view Wentz as the type of bait that could lure potential free agents to Philly.

"First, in free agency, money does talk. There's no question about it," vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said. "But having a guy that people want to play with, and we've had that before. Having a quarterback that people say, 'I want to play with that guy, I want to build around that guy,' that's huge for you from a recruiting perspective.

"So if things are close or even and people see that there's this opportunity to build chemistry with a guy over a long period of time, we think that will help us as we go and recruit players."

A year ago at the combine in Indy, the Eagles got to sit down and talk with Wentz for an extended period of time. The process of acquiring Wentz began a year ago in Indy too, when Roseman and Dolphins GM Mike Tannenbaum began discussing a trade that moved the Eagles from the 13th pick in the draft to eighth. From there, the Eagles were able to jump up to two in a trade with the Browns.

A lot has changed since then.

Instead of the focus being on finding a franchise quarterback, in 2017 it's all about surrounding that franchise quarterback with talent that can grow with him. On Thursday, a report surfaced that the Eagles are interested in trading for speedy Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

"One of the compelling things when we made the trade, we certainly gave up a lot to go get him," Roseman said of Wentz. "But when you look around our division, when you look around the QBs who were picked in 2004, and we’re going into the 2017 draft, and those teams are still trying to surround that guy.

"That’s exciting when you can say we may have to take it on the chin for a year or two here from a resource perspective. But if we get this right, we can build around him for a really long time."

The Eagles are trying to be realistic about their situation, which has changed the way they view free agency. On Wednesday, Roseman said the team isn't just one player away from a championship. It will take more. That's why splashing in free agency by getting the biggest name with the highest price tag isn't the plan. Instead, the Eagles want younger players, and it's all about Wentz.

Roseman said this is the first time since the organization started over with Donovan McNabb in the early 2000s that they're in this position.

"It’s hard to think of any higher priority than having a QB on your roster," Roseman said. "At this time last year, our starting QB was a free agent. We were picking 13th and we wanted to figure out a long-term answer there."

The Eagles found their answer at quarterback. Now it's all about helping him to fulfill his potential.

Let's learn from past, keep Eagles' preseason positives and negatives in perspective

Let's learn from past, keep Eagles' preseason positives and negatives in perspective

It happens this time every year. 

Two preseason games are now in the books and the overreaction portion of the program has commenced. It's only natural. We're seven-plus months removed from the Eagles' last regular-season game. You have an entire offseason of hype and buildup. There's free agency, the draft, OTAs, training camp, and finally there's the wonderful world of exhibition games. We're dying for storylines and answers. And projections based on illusions become reality.

A stroll through some names of training camps past are a stark reminder not to go overboard anointing these guys the next big thing. Here are some blasts from the past: Henry Josey, Jeremy Bloom, JaCorey Shepherd, Gizmo Williams, Billy Hess. Remember them? No points off if you don't, but they were thought to be the answers in years past.   

Remember way back in the day, like Aug. 29, 2015? The Eagles played their third preseason against Green Bay. New Birds quarterback Sam Bradford's line that night: 10 for 10, 121 yards, three touchdowns and a 156.7 passer rating on three drives. They thought they had found their guy. Bradford went on to have a middling season with a 7-7 record as a starter. His individual stats matched the record, and a year later he was dealt to Minnesota. His coach, Chip Kelly, did not last the season. 

Take last year for instance — Paul Turner was Jerry Rice reincarnated. Now, the receiving corps was awful and Turner, an undrafted free agent stuck with the practice squad, eventually got time with the club during the regular season. But we may want to hold off on his Canton enshrinement.

Which brings us to the consternation surrounding the 2017 Eagles' first-team offense and running game. Granted, sans two amazingly athletic plays by Carson Wentz in the Packers game, the first team has not looked ready for prime time. 

But let's take some things into account. Teams game plan minimally for preseason games. Unless, of course, you're Dom Capers and you blitz an entire exhibition game. The Eagles did not prepare for the extra men sent, therefore they didn't handle it well. 

Thursday against the Bills, the Eagles' first-team offense was without left tackle Jason Peters. They were also missing Wendell Smallwood, and Darren Sproles barely sniffed the field. That will hurt production. 

In the Packers game, 5-foot-9, 180-pound Donnel Pumphrey ran the ball off-tackle multiple times. That ain't happening in the regular season. Would you like to see Wentz protected better and the ones be more productive? No question. Is it time to push the panic button? Certainly not.

The flip side is keeping some of the positive performances in perspective. It's beyond encouraging how Mychal Kendricks has looked through the first two games. But let's not lose sight of the non-factor he's been the last couple of seasons when things were real. 

There is no bigger believer in Derek Barnett than me. From the moment I knew where the Eagles would be selecting in the draft, I wanted him in midnight green. I'm a firm believer he will be starting sooner rather than later. And he has not disappointed in the exhibition games. But some of the guys he is facing will be pumping gas in Jersey real soon. Not playing in the NFL.

Perspective and long views are not easily attained. But they're necessary tools when it comes to this time of year.

NFL Notes: Jaguars open up QB competition after Blake Bortles' struggles

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NFL Notes: Jaguars open up QB competition after Blake Bortles' struggles

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Blake Bortles may have started his last game in Jacksonville.

Coach Doug Marrone opened up the team's quarterback competition Thursday night after another inconsistent performance from Bortles, the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

Bortles completed 8 of 13 passes for 65 yards in a 12-8 exhibition loss to Tampa Bay. All four of his drives ended with punts. The first-team offense now has three points in Bortles' six preseason possessions.

He misfired to Allen Robinson twice Thursday, including a woefully underthrown pass down the seam that drew boos from the home crowd and caused some head-shaking on the sideline.

"It's hard to not hear people booing," Bortles said. "But if they're cheering or booing, it's kind of irrelevant, at least for me it is. I think you've got to treat adversity and prosperity the same way. They're not booing for no reason. They're booing because you didn't do your job" (see full story).

Steelers: LB Shazier returns to practice
LATROBE, Pa. -- On a day when the Pittsburgh Steelers were set to break camp and return home, inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was just glad to be back on the field.

Shazier fully practiced during the Steelers last day in Latrobe after missing the previous two weeks with a slight hamstring pull.

"I was telling the guys on the sideline that I was so thankful to be back in the mix," Shazier said after Friday's practice. "It was great to be back out there, running around and seeing football from the inside of my helmet instead of from the sideline."

Shazier said he isn't playing in the team's second preseason game on Sunday when the Steelers host the Atlanta Falcons. Though he admitted to feeling behind, the fourth-year linebacker believes he can catch up.

Ravens: Zuttah returns after being traded
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have signed center Jeremy Zuttah, who returns to the team that traded him to San Francisco in March.

Zuttah started every game last year and made the Pro Bowl as an alternate. He was dealt to the 49ers so Baltimore could save salary-cap space and move up 12 spots in the sixth round of the NFL draft.

Zuttah was released by San Francisco last week, and the Ravens signed him Friday to join a depleted offensive line in dire need of a veteran presence in the middle.

The Ravens were counting on John Urschel to play center this season, but he abruptly retired in late July. Ryan Jensen has been playing center, but he could move to guard to replace Alex Lewis, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury.

The 31-year-old Zuttah started 41 games in Baltimore over the past three years.

NFL: Gun charge against linebacker Greene
ELIZABETH, N.J. -- A gun charge against an NFL linebacker has been dropped because the man who said he gave him a weapon admitted he lied, the player's attorney said.

The charge against free agent Khaseem Greene was dismissed by a judge on July 17 after a request from prosecutors, NJ.com reported this week.

His attorney, Joshua McMahon, provided an audio recording to NJ.com of the other man telling detectives he lied about Greene's involvement in a shooting outside a nightclub in Elizabeth last December.

Jason Sanders' admission came the same day he told detectives that Greene was involved, but it wasn't included in a criminal complaint that alleged that Greene was seen on camera handing him a gun, McMahon said. Sanders is accused of firing into a crowd and remains jailed on aggravated assault and weapons offenses.

McMahon said the audio recording proves prosecutors moved forward with charges even though Sanders admitted he lied.