<
>

How's the Carson Wentz, DeSean Jackson connection? 'Every day it grows'

Eagles QB Carson Wentz and WR DeSean Jackson, in their first season together, have been connecting with the long ball during camp. Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

PHILADELPHIA -- When Sunday's Philadelphia Eagles training camp practice was over and the rest of the players were funneling off the field, Carson Wentz and DeSean Jackson stayed behind.

Having shed his jersey and shells, Jackson lined up wide to Wentz's left, and took off on a fly pattern. Wentz dropped back and slung it deep and high and right into Jackson's arms. Bingo. Then they lined up and did it again.

Practice had not been quite so smooth as the new quarterback-wide receiver combo struggled to sync up, hence the extra work. The next practice was drastically different. Wentz and Jackson were on fire. With the offense running up-tempo, they connected for a 20-yard gain down the right side, then again for a long touchdown on the next play. Later, Wentz launched a beauty of a cross-field throw that Jackson snatched 30 yards downfield. It was the best the tandem has looked since joining forces in the spring.

"Every day it grows," Wentz said. "Whether it's on the field and you actually see it with live reps or after practice or off to the side between reps during the team drills when we're talking, we watch film together. Chemistry grows in a million different ways. To just get those opportunities on the field, you see it and it's exciting for sure.”

Watch an Eagles practice and there's a good chance you will see Wentz and Jackson side-by-side, either engaged in lighthearted conversation or working through on-field situations that have come up. Wentz has been eager to learn how Jackson reacts to various coverages and techniques so he can anticipate what Jackson will do in the moment. They've spent time with one another outside of the facility as well, putting away the playbook and talking life instead of X's and O's to develop a personal relationship.

The 32-year-old Jackson, back with the Eagles after being acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March, was a regular at voluntary workouts this spring to help build that rapport, a decision that has paid early dividends.

"[Wentz] made a comment earlier to me, like, 'I saw you make a break and you were expecting the ball. If you weren't here during spring ball, I probably wouldn't have been able to notice that,'" Jackson said. "So just the time we've spent together, knowing when I'm going to break or when he's dropping back he knows where I'm going to be and I know where the ball's going to be.”

Wentz stands to benefit big-time from the Jackson addition. He ranks seventh in deep accuracy percentage (45 percent) over the past two seasons, yet is 23rd in completion percentage (34%) and tied for 26th in touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.0) on passes of 20-plus yards since coming into the league. Jackson, an exceptional long-ball tracker and one of the best deep threats of all time, will undoubtedly help. On average, quarterbacks who have played with Jackson have experienced a completion rate increase of 7%, an additional 3 yards per attempt and an improvement of .65 to their touchdown-to-interception ratios when he is on the field.

With Wentz's big, accurate arm and Jackson's world-class speed (and yes, he's still got it), the ingredients are there for some fireworks this season -- as long as they can establish a solid connection.

"We're just trying to get the timing down," Jackson said. "I think this is a part of what we have to go through. You're going to miss some and you're going to hit some. As long as we can hit some more than we miss, I think that's the goal, so continuously working on that and just getting a feel for it."