Eagles QB Carson Wentz ready to play with WR Alshon Jeffery after 'long time coming'

NFL 2017: Eagles OTA MAY 30
Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) talks things over with quarterback Carson Wentz during OTAs in May.

Even if Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffery play only a series or two together Thursday night, it will be the first game with the Wentz-to-Jeffery connection that is going to be critical for the Eagles offense this year. The two worked together often during the spring and Jeffery even flew to North Dakota this summer to train with Wentz, but they’ve had limited reps together in full-team work.

Coach Doug Pederson is leaning toward playing Jeffery against the Buffalo Bills, and Wentz is eager to play with the wide receiver in game situations.

“It seems like it’s been a long time coming with him,” Wentz said. “Hopefully, he does [play], and hopefully, we start getting that chemistry, that relationship on the field in live situations.”

Pederson said the starters are likely to be on the field for 1-2 drives, as in the first preseason game. That is a departure from one year ago, when Sam Bradford played the entire first half of the second preseason game. Pederson explained that there are more opportunities this summer — most notably the third preseason game next week — and that he doesn’t want Wentz to get injured.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Wentz said. “That’s Coach’s decision. You know how it is. You get in the middle of the game, it starts flowing, and you get a feel for what’s right. I trust that he’ll make the right decision. Obviously, I want to play as much as he sees fit.”

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Wentz thought there were “sloppy plays” in the opening drive of the preseason opener, even though the Eagles scored. He wants better communication and more consistency Thursday.

“We can’t have negative plays and then a big play,” Wentz said. “We have to stay ahead of the chains and just be sharp with the little things.”

It will be Wentz’s first game without Jordan Matthews on the Eagles. Wentz said he won’t force balls into the slot to try to work out his new targets. The Eagles will likely roll a few players into the slot, with Nelson Agholor the top option. But Trey Burton, Zach Ertz, Donnel Pumphrey and Mack Hollins could also be options there Thursday. Wentz compared it to the spring, when Matthews did not participate in mini-camp.

The Packers blitzed more frequently than the Eagles expected last week in the first preseason game. Wentz said the Eagles didn’t game-plan much for that game and kept their offense basic, so they didn’t have some of the protection and blitz adjustments that they would typically use in the regular season.

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Even though it’s a preseason game Thursday, Wentz expects a lively crowd at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles had 36,000 fans show up to a practice, after all, so Wentz is looking forward to seeing what it’s like Thursday.

“I’m expecting them to be loud, honestly,” Wentz said. “For a preseason game, you never know what to expect. But this is Philly. They’re hungry. They’re ready for it. So I expect it to be rocking even though it’s just preseason.”