NFL 2017: Midterm grades for Philadelphia Eagles wide receivers

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(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

With Week 9 shortly getting underway, let’s take a look at midterm grades for wide receivers of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Now that the Philadelphia Eagles have passed the halfway mark of the NFL 2017 season, and the mostly golden dust is settling on the mud puddles left after the game against the San Francisco 49ers, how about some midterm grades? Let’s consider the Eagles wide receivers, the area so under-manned last season for Carson Wentz.

This year, the young quarterback has hit 13 different offensive players for completions, backs and receivers only (no tackle eligible plays, thus far.) Of those catching passes, five have caught five or fewer: LeGarrette Blount, Brent Celek, Corey Clement, Marcus Johnson, and Kenjon Barner.  As receivers, then, all of them receive an incomplete grade, although I liked that one-yard pass to Blount for a touchdown in the first Washington Redskins game.

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Among the four players who have held onto between six and 10 passes, Darren Sproles is now out for the year with two injuries, and Mack Hollins is arguably more important as a special teams player. Or is that so? Hollins currently has only eight catches, but leads the team in yards per catch at 20.5. Not to mention, he has a catch of 64 yards, the team’s second longest, for a touchdown in the second Washington game. On the other hand, that long touchdown pass clearly skews his average per catch.

So, then, Sproles, Trey Burton, and Wendell Smallwood all get by with no grades, and Hollins gets a B+. It’s hard to say whether, with more passes, these players would move into the A category or drop more passes and slip down to C.  One suspects, however, that Hollins wouldn’t slip. As Jeff McLane pointed out Oct. 26, Hollins had caught all the balls thrown to him at that point (six).

The Principal Receivers

By process of elimination, this all means Carson Wentz has four principal pass receivers this season: Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Torrey Smith. Together, they have caught 112 passes for 1,546 yards and account for 15 of 19 touchdown passes for Wentz.  These are four of the six principal offensive weapons of the NFL’s best team at the halfway point in the Eagles. Their grades follow:

Zach Ertz: A. This one is pretty obvious. We have finally reached the long-awaited and much-discussed Year of Zach Ertz’ Breakout. The tight end is Wentz’ favorite target; he has 43 receptions and is on pace to finish with more than 1,000 receiving yards. Fox Sports currently has him with one dropped ball all season. There is clearly chemistry between Wentz and Ertz, which has played a big role in the success of the offense so far.

Alshon Jeffery: A-. That’s right, an A-. If you were to judge by tweets and sports talk radio heads, however, Jeffery might sometimes seem to be a complete disappointment. If I have to hear or read one more comment about how Jeffery still hasn’t caught enough “jump balls” or how he and Wentz aren’t in sync, I believe I will drown myself in pickle juice. Jeffery is the Eagles second leading receiver by total balls pulled in (28) and yardage (416), and is third in touchdown passes (three). Fox has called him on one drop.

No, these are not Jerry Rice figures, but as McLane noted in that Oct. 26 piece, he has “often been a decoy.” Also, don’t forget his sideline tap dance against the New York Giants, setting up Jake Elliott’s game-winning field goal. The kick was treated as though it was 461 yards instead of 61, while Jeffery’s catch was simply overlooked.

We were ready not to like this guy because, apparently, he didn’t seem to work hard enough in training camp … or he’s being paid too much … or he doesn’t like tuna fish sandwiches. Who knows? He’s been solid.

Oh, and in case you missed it, in the mess at the Linc on this past Sunday, Jeffery finally caught that ball everyone seemed desperate for when he hauled in a 53-yard touchdown, his longest catch of the season. Moreover, as Fox announcer Kenny Albert pointed out, the ball was “contested.”

Nelson Agholor: A-. The head case of the year in 2016 has been cured of dropping fever. As with Ertz and Jeffery, Fox counts only one muff this season for Agholor. He has five touchdown catches, and when he gets a step on a linebacker with a ball in his hands over the middle, he is very, very hard to run down.

Next: 3 takeaways from Eagles 33-10 win over 49ers

Torrey Smith: B-. Like Jeffery, he sometimes seems to be there to make defenders chase him anywhere but near the actual play, but for a guy with his speed, he does seem strangely absent. He also has two drops.

If you do the math, Wentz’ principal receivers have a 3.50. That makes the Dean’s List at many institutions.