Carson Wentz can’t wait for the start of the season, and who can blame him?
While injuries between now and Week 1 always can change the narrative, the Eagles quarterback opened training camp last week with more pass-catching weapons around him than you can shake a stick at.
He’s got, not one, but two tight ends -- Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert -- who are matchup nightmares for opposing defenses.
The wide receiver corps, which already had Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, finds itself flush with talent following the offseason additions of DeSean Jackson and second-round rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
Even running back presents some very attractive options for Wentz with the return of 36-year-old Darren Sproles and the arrival of Penn State product Miles Sanders, who the Eagles think could eventually be as valuable to the passing game as he is expected to be to the running game.
“From a skill-position perspective, it’s probably the best we’ve had going into my fourth season," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “But listen, all that can change in a heartbeat, as we know. This is a violent sport, a violent game."
Questions abound less than a week into training camp. Most of them good questions.
Given the rapid development of Goedert, who had 33 catches and four touchdowns as a rookie and quickly grew into a very dependable inline blocker, will the Eagles use “12″ personnel — one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers — even more this year than they did last year? The Eagles used 12 personnel 37.1 percent of the time last year, up from 23.3 percent in 2017.
What kind of an impact will Arcega-Whiteside and his contested-catch skills have on the Eagles’ red-zone offense, which dropped from first in the league in 2017 to 17th last year?
What impact will the 32-year-old Jackson and his zoom-zoom-zoom speed have on an offense that finished 13th in pass plays of 20 yards or more last season (52)?
How quickly can the Eagles integrate Sanders, who caught just 24 passes for the Nittany Lions last season, into their passing offense?
How will Jackson’s presence impact Agholor’s role and his playing time?
And last, but not definitely not least, with just one football at his disposal, will Wentz be able to spread the ball around enough to keep everyone happy?
“As long as the guys catching the ball don’t make it an issue, we’ll be fine," Ertz said. “No matter what anybody says, Carson’s a guy who goes through his progressions. It’s never about who it is. It’s about who’s open."
Last year, Ertz caught 116 passes, which was the most ever by an NFL tight end. He and Wentz have a special chemistry on the field.
But with the arrival of Jackson and Arcega-Whiteside and Sanders, and the emergence of Goedert, chances are Ertz won’t be catching 100-plus passes again this season.
He’ll likely be a huge factor in the red zone and on third down again, which is what he cares most about. But his total number of receptions probably will decrease. And he’s fine with that.
“The good thing about our team is that most of us have had individual success and we’ve had success as a team," Ertz said. “I won a Super Bowl and I set the record for receptions by a tight end the last two years. I can tell you I had way more fun when we won the Super Bowl."
The trouble, though, typically comes when you’re not winning. That’s when people who aren’t getting the ball as much as they feel they should usually start griping.
Jackson often was guilty of this during his first tour of duty with the Eagles. But people change. We’ve been told that Jackson is much more mature now. Time and a three-point loss in which he fails to get targeted will tell.
“You’ve seen through the years how he’s matured, how he’s grown up, and surrounded himself with family," Pederson said. “He’s attacked the offseason and he’s dedicated to the Philadelphia Eagles."
Said Jackson: “Carson’s going to have his hands full trying to figure out who’s open and who’s the go-to guy. But it’s a lot better having too many weapons than not enough."
Pederson said the matter of ball distribution won’t be his or Wentz’s decision as much as it will be the defense’s. He’ll let them pick their poison.
“If defenses come in here and want to take DeSean away, then you’ve got two tight ends and two other receivers and running backs that you can kind of exploit and get touches to," the Eagles coach said. “So it all kind of gets predicated on how teams want to approach us and how they want to attack us."
It’s going to be interesting to see who Pederson uses in specific personnel groupings and situations. Which wide receiver will be the odd man out in “12" personnel? Agholor? Jackson?
Initially, Arcega-Whiteside is expected to earn his keep in red-zone situations, probably in “12" personnel groupings with Jeffery and the two tight ends.
“The coaches are going to do a great job of putting us in situations to be successful," Ertz said. “After that, it’s up to us to go out and execute."
Last year, 44.8 percent of the Eagles’ receptions were by wide receivers, 41.4 percent by tight ends and 13.8 by running backs. That percentage by the wideouts was the lowest since Pederson’s arrival in 2016, and clearly played a role in the decision to sign Jackson and draft Arcega-Whiteside.
Wentz said he doesn’t think keeping everyone happy will be an issue “because they’re all great people."
“We don’t have a bunch of me-me guys," Wentz said. “You do get that [in the NFL]. But I don’t think we have those guys. I don’t think we have those kind of personalities.
“At the same time, Coach does a great job of designing game plans where we distribute the ball and spread it around. I think we’ll have the luxury of doing that with this group."
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