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Eagles’ Carson Wentz headed for homecoming, of sorts, in Minnesota | Early Birds

There will be Dakotans in the house for Eagles-Vikings on Sunday.

Carson Wentz shows off the buck he killed while hunting during the Eagles' bye week in 2016.
Carson Wentz shows off the buck he killed while hunting during the Eagles' bye week in 2016.Read moreTwitter

Snow is in the forecast, so the folks heading to Minneapolis this weekend from Bismarck, or Fargo, N.D., or Sioux Falls or Britton in South Dakota, will want to set out early. The assumption here is that oxen are being yoked as we speak.

The Eagles’ visit with the Minnesota Vikings will be the closest Carson Wentz gets to where he grew up (Bismarck) and where he went to college (Fargo, home to North Dakota State). The same is true for linebacker Nate Gerry, from Sioux Falls, and tight end Dallas Goedert, from Britton.

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Wagon trains headed East?

Wentz, maybe you’ve heard, didn’t get to play in Super Bowl LII, his only other chance to take the field at U.S. Bank Stadium, which is the closest NFL venue to his homeland. He said this week that the Dakotans are pumped to be able to drive three or four hours to watch him play.

“Without a doubt. There’ll be a big contingent of family, friends and everything, and I’m excited that they’ll get to see me play live,” Wentz said.

They’ll see him play, but they won’t be able to spend time with, or convey news from the harvest to, their region’s most famous sporting icon since Roger Maris.

“Unfortunately, there’s really no time, especially when it’s a noon football game. We get in, we have meetings, go to bed, wake up and it’s ‘go time.’ I won’t really get to see them. I’ll make sure I get to see them in the offseason. I know they’ll have fun cheering me on.”

Wentz contended he felt no special emotion, headed into the venue where he watched the Eagles and Nick Foles best Tom Brady and New England. “Just another regular-season game,” he said.

Gerry played in Super Bowl LII, on special teams, but he played 37 percent of the defensive snaps last week, including a pick-six, so his relatives ought to see more of him on the field this time around.

“I’ve got more than 25 people coming. It’s only a little over three hours to the Cities. Then, my mom’s whole family is from Minnesota, so all those people will be there, too,” Gerry said.

Gerry said there isn’t a lot of trash-talking between North and South Dakotans.

“We only make fun of each other when someone makes fun of us. Like someone will say, ‘Oh, you’re from South Dakota. You ride horses everywhere.’ And we’re like, ‘No, that’s North Dakota.’ That’s really the only time. Dallas and Carson talk smack about their colleges, but I never had any problem with North Dakota. I wouldn’t go up there and stay long, I promise you that. It’s cold and there ain’t [stuff] to do.”

Goedert was still at South Dakota State when the Eagles won the Super Bowl. This game is a very big deal back in Britton, a town on the border between the Dakotas. Goedert said he knew of someone who was chartering a 53-person bus. “I probably have 50 family coming. Probably be like 200 or so from the Britton area [pop. 1,241], maybe more. It’s going to take most of Britton,” Goedert said.

“Being from a small community, the support is incredible. Throughout high school, college and now, a lot of people changed from Vikings fans to Eagles fans. So, to go play in front of my fans will be real special.”

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. DeSean Jackson has brought in extra help in his comeback from an abdominal injury, Jeff McLane reports.

  2. Help is on the way at cornerback. Jalen Mills is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list next week, and Mills says he’s ready to roll when he gets the doctor’s OK. EJ Smith checks in with the Green Goblin, who last played nearly a year ago, Oct. 28 in London.

  3. EJ also reports on the Eagles declaring, almost in unison, that they won’t be thinking at all about Super Bowl LII when they return to U.S. Bank Stadium, no sir, no how, no way! You are free to believe this or not, seek your own level of credulousness.

  4. Paul Domowitch is always the man with the matchup deets.

  5. Domo also writes about the Eagles going all-in with two-tight-end sets.

  6. Bob Ford wonders whether the Eagles are best served with a calmer, more-mature Carson Wentz or one who takes more chances.

  7. Are you listening to our Bird’s Eye View podcast? You seem like a pod person. There’s good stuff in there about last week’s game and this week’s game, at no extra charge.

From the mailbag

Question: Sanders looks lost. Should they limit his contributions and emphasize getting him the ball in space? C.W. Donald (@donaldc58) via Twitter.

I’m gonna say no. The only way Miles Sanders is going to learn to hit the hole and go is to, well, hit the hole and go. He is the most explosive offensive weapon the Eagles have right now, with DeSean Jackson sidelined. Only using Sanders in space sounds good, but if you start to do that, before long every time he enters the game, teams will know you’re throwing it to him on a wheel route or a screen. And those things will stop working.

I honestly wouldn’t say that he looks lost, but I was hoping he was a little more ready, from what we saw in training camp and preseason. Same goes in spades for J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Dunno if you saw my story on the offense without DeSean, but in it, toward the end, Mike Groh calls Arcega-Whiteside a “developmental player for us.” Generally, that’s not what the second round of the draft is for. Especially when you only have five picks, for the second year in a row.