Hayes: Eagles discover a deep threat in Treggs

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The search is over.

The Eagles spent the first seven games trying to make square-peg possession receivers into round-hole deep threats. It was plain to see that none of them - not Jordan Matthews, nor Dorial Green-Beckham, nor Nelson Agholor, nor departed gunslinger Josh Huff - not one was capable of burning past a defensive back, torching a safety and pulling in a bomb. They need roadrunners. They had penguins.

A bird of a different color emerged Sunday. Carson Wentz gained a deep threat. The tight ends found an ally to occupy safeties. Matthews can start owning the slot again. The Ghost of DeSean Jackson was exorcised, if only a little bit.

Bryce Treggs arrived.

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"He can make a big difference in this offense," one Eagles insider said.

This, all because Doug Pederson called the first play of their fifth possession for a rookie free agent. For various reasons, some of them logical, Pederson denied Treggs a uniform the first seven weeks. Now, having released Huff and trailing by 11 points on the road, Pederson gave Treggs his big chance:

A deep ball, designed with simple beauty.

"They told me just to go out and run fast," Treggs said. "So, I ran fast."

He ran from the Eagles' 30 and past cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who had given Treggs 12 yards of cushion off the line of scrimmage. Treggs hadn't played for the Eagles but the Giants certainly knew that Treggs ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at his pro day at Cal last spring.

Then he ran past safety Nat Berhe, who was astounded at how things unfolded as Treggs pulled away from him. To his credit, Berhe never gave up. Wentz underthrew the pass slightly, which gave Berhe a chance to recover, dive and trip Treggs at the Giants' 12. That saved a touchdown and limited the play to 58 yards, but running back Ryan Mathews scored and cut the Giants' lead to 14-10, which made it a game until its 28-23 end.

To that point, two interceptions from Wentz and a failed fourth-down conversion essentially handed the game's momentum to the Giants. Treggs ripped it back, then bounded to his feet and celebrated his validation.

He is listed at 6 feet and 185 pounds, and one day he might even get there; but, in a league that features Megatronian giants at receiver, those dimensions don't get it done. Treggs only wanted a chance to prove that he can play bigger than his shirt size. For the moment, he had, and he knew it.

"I was hyped," Treggs said. "I was fired up."

He's not the only one. Birds fans have been waiting for a mercurial messiah.

They had one once: DeSean Jackson, perhaps the most dangerous deep threat since he entered the league in 2008. Jackson is the prime example of Chip Kelly's disastrous culture-over-talent reign of error. Kelly cut Jackson after the 2013 season, Kelly's first in the NFL and Jackson's best. Money played a part, but Kelly insisted the Eagles didn't need Jackson and his big-play skills that often paralyzed defenses.

Three years later, even after drafting Agholor in the first round in 2015 (Kelly's last year), the Eagles hadn't come close to replacing Jackson . . . at least, not until early in the second quarter Sunday. Wentz, a rookie himself, understands the sort of weapon Treggs can become.

"Any time you get a speedster like that it can kind of change what a defense has to prepare for. It'll be interesting to see how we use him going forward," Wentz said. "It'll be good to keep developing this as we go forward."

Hear that, Eagles coaches? The Franchise wants more Treggs (and, probably, less Agholor, bless his stage-frightened heart).

Who can blame him?

Before the bomb Wentz was 5-for-10 for 85 yards with two interceptions, a 39.6 passer rating. After the defense had been burned by Bryce, Wentz was 22-for-37 for 279 yards and no picks, an 83.1 rating. The Eagles also scored 20 of their points post-post pattern.

Eagles receivers coach Greg Lewis was asked about Treggs' potential after the game but he refused to comment. That's probably because he knew the second question would have been, "Why hasn't this guy been playing?"

He didn't play in the preseason or in the first game of the season because he was working through a sprained MCL that prompted the 49ers to cut him after the second preseason game. The Eagles signed him, stashed him and declared him inactive for the season opener because of the knee, but, he said, the knee hasn't troubled him much since then and he has been 100 percent since Game 2 at Chicago.

It's unlikely that Treggs will turn a 4-4 team into a 12-4 team. It's unthinkable that he won't at least get a lot more playing time than he got Sunday, when he seemed to disappear in the second half. Then again, he's only been practicing with the starters for the past week, which might be the biggest mistake of this half-season.

There wasn't much call for Treggs the first three weeks, which were three wins, and after the bye week losses at Detroit and Washington seemed like aberrations. A blowout of undefeated Minnesota put the Eagles at 4-2, so adding anything as dynamic as Treggs to Wentz's arsenal was considered unwise. A loss at Dallas underscored Wentz's paltry weaponry - he managed a season-low 4.7 yards per attempt - and he hadn't thrown a completion of more than 55 yards in four games.

The dismissal of Huff last week after he was stopped for speeding, arrested on DUI and gun charges and cited for marijuana possession created playing time for Treggs, though Pederson insisted that Treggs might play Sunday had Huff been retained. Indeed, Treggs' first NFL catch came in the first quarter, an 11-yard check-down at the sideline - the sort of route Huff would have run.

The difference: Lewis wasn't going to go up to Huff and say, "Go out and run fast."

Only one guy on the roster gets that order.

It's been a while.


hayesm@phillynews.com

@inkstainedretch Blog: ph.ly/DNL