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Eagles’ Carson Wentz wants to keep ‘growing together’ with young wide receiver corps

PennLive.com logo PennLive.com 10/30/2020 Daniel Gallen, pennlive.com

PHILADELPHIA — For Carson Wentz, the Eagles wide receiver corps was never a weakness. Even when the team was starting a group that featured Greg Ward as its most accomplished member earlier this year, the quarterback still viewed his group of pass-catchers as a strength.

Entering Week 8, it appears that Wentz’s faith in the group has started to manifest. Rookie John Hightower has 50-yard catches in back-to-back games. Ward has been a key option on third downs. Travis Fulgham’s emergence speaks for itself. And the Eagles are poised to add to the group with first-round pick Jalen Reagor reportedly cleared to return Sunday.

Even without DeSean Jackson (ankle, injured reserve) and Alshon Jeffery (calf), the Eagles offense could feature a dangerous group of wide receivers for their crucial NFC East tilt against the Cowboys.

“I got to see what we had in practice, I got to see what we had in training camp,” Wentz said earlier this week. “I think it was more just having time to work together and building that relationship, building that chemistry. And being able to do that in game situations has been extremely valuable for us to this point, and these relationships and the chemistry and the connection with these guys is just going to keep getting better. I never would have called it a weakness.”

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The passing game could also get a boost if tight end Dallas Goedert (ankle) returns from injured reserve this weekend, but if not, the Eagles will enter a second straight game with Richard Rodgers, Jason Croom and Hakeem Butler as their tight ends. Starter Zach Ertz (ankle) remains on injured reserve.

While Rodgers was the leading receiver in last week’s 22-21 win over the Giants with six catches for 85 yards, the Eagles could get some more explosive plays on the outside. And one way to do that would be with four wide receiver sets. The Eagles used a couple late against the Giants, and it would allow them to get Fulgham, Ward, Reagor and Hightower on the field at the same time, plus J.J. Arcega-Whiteside or Quez Watkins.

The Eagles wanted to lean on the combination of Ertz and Goedert this season in “12” personnel — one running back, two tight ends — but the personnel has dictated some changes.

Coach Doug Pederson said he likes the idea of using four wide receivers or empty sets, but it depends on the opposing defensive fronts, since tight ends and running backs are often tasked with assisting in pass protection by chipping rushers before going out on routes. But the Eagles might have the bodies to do it now.

“I think it’s a good changeup,” Pederson said. “I think it’s a good way to go tempo, way to go fast, and I think we’re getting closer to being able to do that a little bit more.”

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Wentz thinks the Eagles should still be able to run the ball out of those sets, and running backs Miles Sanders, who hasn’t practiced yet this week because of a knee injury, Boston Scott and Corey Clement have all had their moments as receivers.

“Injuries happen and you’ve got to adjust, you’ve got to make things happen on the fly,” Wentz said. “And I think the receivers that we have, they’ve done a great job of knowing their assignments, both in the run game and the passing game, and being able to play multiple positions. I think it’s fun. I think it’s exciting.”

Reagor could add a new, explosive element to the wide receiver group that could complement Hightower’s straight line speed and Ward’s ability to find holes in the defense. Fulgham, with 23 catches for 357 yards and three touchdowns in four games, has simply been a playmaker.

Read more: ‘You miss out on the little things’: Eagles' Matt Pryor details stint on reserve/COVID-19 list

It’s not necessarily the group that was on paper at the beginning of the season, but Wentz could be in a position to pilot an offense with a diverse set of weapons on the outside. When the Eagles made moves this offseason, the focus appeared to be on giving Wentz an assortment of young playmakers to grow with. This is a chance for that to happen.

“I’m excited about the skill group that we have here is super-talented, and they have a lot of ability out there and so we’ve just got to keep growing together,” Wentz said. “We’ll keep doing that.”

Daniel Gallen covers the Philadelphia Eagles for PennLive. He can be reached at dgallen@pennlive.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Follow PennLive’s Philadelphia Eagles coverage on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

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