Wentz to host Eagles' skill players in beautiful summer destination of North Dakota

Wentz to host Eagles' skill players in beautiful summer destination of North Dakota

North Dakota is not tropical. Its beaches line lakes instead of the ocean. When vacation destinations are discussed, it does not come to mind for most — unless you're an Eagles skill position player who wants to get closer with the man responsible for giving you the football.

Eagles minicamp ended Thursday, meaning team activities are done until training camp begins July 24. But Carson Wentz said Wednesday he plans to host his offensive targets in his home state at some point in the next five weeks. Before beginning the long grind of a season that they'd like to see last through the end of the calendar year, the retooled Eagles offense will have time to be one with nature and one with each other.

"Beautiful summers up there, believe it or not," Wentz said. "It'll be fun to get together with those guys."

Fun is part of it. It's no secret that the Eagles' quarterback is an outdoorsman, and some fishing and hiking will undoubtedly take place. Jordan Matthews would like to try a bison burger. Rookie wideout Shelton Gibson used to fish a lot. Zach Ertz wasn't thrilled about the travel time from California, but said he will be in Fargo, a city Wentz "raves about," for the first time this summer.

"Wherever there's going to be a quarterback to throw, that's where I'll be," Ertz said.

Nelson Agholor, who seems to have reinvented himself from the drop-prone receiver he was last year (see observations), said he will be there too. Other skill players, like new wideouts Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery, were not available for questions in the locker room Thursday.

Agholor, Ertz and Matthews were part of an Eagles group that went to San Diego with all three of the team's quarterbacks last summer. But even though North Dakota is different from coastal California, the goal of the trip remains the same.

"I think [the help that comes out of these trips is] huge. Not only on the field but off the field, and kind of just growing as well. Building that chemistry," Ertz said. "During these offseason programs and during camp, you never get to really hang out with anyone because everything is so football-focused. But when you get that downtime to relax and just hang out with the guys, I think it's really refreshing."

Coach Doug Pederson has made similar bonding efforts. He took the team paintballing last week, and was happy to see the man at the helm of his offense take charge in forming what he called a "band of brothers." 

"I think it just shows the leadership that Carson has and the type of rapport he has with the receivers and the confidence he has in his guys," Pederson said. "It's something that's exciting as a coach, to know your guys are getting together these next couple weeks and working on their craft."

For someone new to town like Gibson, that last part is key. He hasn't worked with the first team all that much and would've understood if Wentz wanted to spend his time off with other veteran newcomers whom he'll be throwing to more often, such as Smith and Jeffery. But, no, everyone is included.

And Matthews, the longest-tenured receiver on the team, recognized that more time together and more reps together can only be positive.

"Are you gonna win the Super Bowl out there? Probably not. But at the same time, does it hurt? No. It's always good to build that team camaraderie," Matthews said. "... I'm just looking forward to going there and spending time with the guys and when it's time to work, get to work."

Pederson said he was proud of the work that the team has put in, but that the coming five-week gap shouldn't signal an end. Especially for the rookies, who have come in and learned new material, he sees this time off as an opportunity to refresh, but still retain everything that's come their way since signing on with the team.

"I mentioned to them that training camp's going to be tough and physical and I want them to be prepared mentally and physically," Pederson said. "... Again, if they're with teammates, take care of each other, be smart, make good choices and good decisions, and get their minds and body ready for July."

Report: Eagles work weight incentive into LeGarrette Blount's contract

Report: Eagles work weight incentive into LeGarrette Blount's contract

The Eagles' biggest back might be getting a bit smaller in the coming weeks.

According to a tweet from ESPN's Field Yates, LeGarrette Blount has an incentive in his contract with the Eagles that will net him $50,000 if he weighs in between 240 and 245 pounds when the team reports for training camp on July 24. Blount's one-year deal carries a $1.25 million cap, including a $900,000 base salary as well as a $200,000 signing bonus.

Currently, the Eagles' website lists the two-time Super Bowl champion running back at 6-foot, 250 pounds — at least 30 pounds heavier than any back currently on the roster. 

When asked how much he weighs at an introductory press conference last month, Blount responded, "The weight I need to be at."

Weight clauses have become more and more common, especially with running backs. Seattle's Eddie Lacy earned $55,000 in May when he tipped the scales at 255 pounds (or fewer) and the Seahawks' bruising back will have the chance to earn another $330,000 over the course of six more weigh-ins through the end of the regular season.

The same goes for Atlanta defensive lineman Dontari Poe, who could bank as much as $500,000 in bonuses if he slims down to 330 pounds from his listed 346 pounds.

Eagles have NFL's best offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus

Eagles have NFL's best offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus

Thanks to Lane Johnson’s suspension and a few injuries, the Eagles' offensive line unit wasn’t what most expected it to be in 2016. Should things go according to plan on the O-line in 2017, expectations are high. For Pro Football Focus, they’re as high as it gets.

PFF ranked the Eagles’ O-line No. 1 in the entire league heading into this season, citing the fact that it has the “fewest holes.”

Center Jason Kelce is considered their biggest question mark, but even though his abilities have faded a bit with age, he hasn’t missed a snap in two seasons. That has to count for something.

Allen Barbre and second-year Eagle Brandon Brooks, who allowed just one sack last season, complete the line’s interior. Then, of course, the tackle tandem of Jason Peters and Lane Johnson is hard to beat. PFF says Johnson, when on the field, was the best right tackle last season. Johnson would agree.

Even beyond the first-team unit, the Eagles have experience. Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Isaac Seumalo both saw unexpected snaps as rookies last season because of the reshuffling. That should help moving forward.

Rounding out PFF’s top three are the Browns and Steelers. Cleveland boosted its corps by signing J.C. Tretter and Kevin Zeitler in free agency. The Steelers had the best unit during the second half of last season.

More notably for Eagles fans, the Cowboys come in at No. 9 in PFF’s rankings after owning one of the league’s best O-lines in recent years. Ronald Leary and Doug Free are gone, and La’el Collins’ move to right tackle is not a sure bet for success.

Washington sits two slots below at No. 11. PFF considers continuity the 'Skins' greatest strength — they return all five O-line starters from last season and four of five from 2015.

And the Giants, well, it’ll take some scrolling to reach their spot on the list: No. 28. Left tackle Ereck Flowers was the worst among his position in pressures allowed as a rookie. Eli Manning could be in for a busy season.