EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz broke a cardinal rule on his first touchdown pass of the night Thursday against the New York Giants: don’t throw across your body into traffic, and definitely don’t do it late.
Well, it was across his body to the middle of the field and it was really late — the 6.77 seconds from snap to release was the third-longest by a player on a TD this season.
“But when you’ve got a guy like Alshon [Jeffery] in the back of the end zone,” Wentz said, “you can really trust him to make a play.”
And he did, hauling in the score with safety Landon Collins draped on his back.
Jeffery has inspired confidence throughout the offense since returning in Week 4 from offseason rotator cuff surgery. He evokes the feeling, tight end Zach Ertz says, “That no matter what, we’re going to go out there and make plays. He kind of has that demeanor about him.”
He’s not the obvious candidate to be an emotional spark. He is quiet and soft-spoken much of the time. But there’s a certain swagger that has proven infectious during his year-plus in Philadelphia, and he’s got a defiant way about him that comes through in his messaging.
“I always just tell [my teammates], ‘Ain’t nobody f—ing with us.’ That’s what I always say,” Jeffery said.
Jeffery has made an immediate on-field impact. He is averaging seven catches, 73 yards and a touchdown over three games. On Thursday against the Giants, he was targeted 12 times and came up with eight catches for 74 yards and two TDs.
Jeffery played through all of last season with a torn rotator cuff, delaying surgery until after the Eagles’ Super Bowl run. As a result, he and Wentz, who was recovering from ACL/LCL surgery, weren’t able to work with one another much during the spring and summer, yet they’ve picked up where they left off last year.
“I think I’m still a little rusty. I didn’t have an offseason or training camp,” Jeffery said. “It can only improve and get better.”
Jeffery’s value to the team has never been higher. With injuries hitting the skill positions hard — receivers Mike Wallace and Mack Hollins are on injured reserve, as is running back Jay Ajayi — Wentz is operating without his full complement of weapons. That makes it all the more important that veterans like Jeffery, Ertz and Nelson Agholor are producing at a high level.
There’s a repeat to chase, after all. Jeffery has kept that top of mind. Though still sidelined with injury, he addressed the team before the opener against the Atlanta Falcons and told them, “The season starts against Atlanta, let’s finish it in Atlanta,” the site of Super Bowl LIII.
“That’s exactly what he said. And he’s absolutely right,” said guard Brandon Brooks. “The talent we have, when we execute, there’s no reason why we can’t be one of the better teams, if not the best team in the league.”