I’d like to propose two new rules that will henceforth apply to any discussion between two or more individuals regarding the current and future capabilities of the 2020 Philadelphia Eagles.
(1) Anybody who uses the phrase “When DeSean and Alshon are healthy” shall immediately forfeit the right to have his or her opinion taken seriously.
(2) In the event that one or both of the aforementioned parties, Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, does show himself to be healthy and capable of playing regular snaps in multiple football games, any conversation about their contributions shall credit the Eagles offense with projected statistical totals that do not exceed the player in question’s average per-game contributions over the previous calendar year.
Enforcement of these rules will be on the honor system. If you hear something, say something. Or, find an old game of Taboo and break out the buzzer.
Friends don’t let friends fool themselves into thinking that the salvation of a bad football team can be found in the hands of aging, brittle, one-trick-pony wide receivers – however dependable those hands may once have been.
These rules may seem draconian, but they are long overdue. For two seasons now, a sizable contingent of Eagles fans and local media members have been talking themselves into believing the Eagles offense is something that it’s not.
Last summer, when Howie Roseman acquired Jackson from the Buccaneers for a late-round pick swap, the move was heralded as a stroke of genius that would give Carson Wentz a game-breaking deep threat that he’d never before had.
With Jeffery a full year removed from the rotator cuff surgery that cost him the first three games of the 2018 season, the Eagles now had a legitimate wide receiving corps that would lift coach Doug Pederson’s scheme to unprecedented heights.
One year later, after the Eagles' dynamic duo combined for 52 catches and 649 yards in 13 games, the summertime storyline remained very much the same. The injuries that both of them suffered were somehow categorized as an unfortunate stroke of bad luck that just happened to afflict a couple of players who’d combined to miss 28 games over the previous four seasons.
Sure, the Eagles offense underperformed in 2019, but Wentz had spent the second half of the season throwing to a bunch of guys who were never supposed to see the field. This year? DeSean! Alshon! Look, they’re healthy!
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on the Eagles' bad luck. But here we are, a month into the season, and there is still an audible chorus of voices salivating at the prospect of Jeffery and Jackson getting back out there. Who is the real fool? We’re running out of options.
Look, I get it. Desperation is a powerful source of optimism. For a third straight season, the Eagles have somehow managed to mire themselves with one of the NFL’s worst set of wide receivers. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. They’ve spent the money. They’ve spent the draft capital. They’ve added youth. They’ve added experience. They’ve added speed. Yet there was a day a couple of weeks ago where the Eagles couldn’t find more than one wide receiver to practice.
Given the circumstances, the hopes for Jeffery and Jackson are more than understandable. But there is also a real scenario in which they end up being counterproductive.
Last week, an Eagles wide receiver had a day at the office that the franchise had not seen in nearly a decade. In catching 10 balls for 152 yards, Travis Fulgham joined a list of 12 other wide receivers who have done at least that in a game over the last two seasons. The others: Davante Adams, Keenan Allen, Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, Will Fuller, Chris Godwin, Tyreek Hill, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Tyler Lockett, Michael Thomas, Robert Woods.
Before we pencil Jackson or Jeffery into his old spot, perhaps we should ask ourselves which of those 12 we’d think it wise to replace? Snicker if you want. I’ll acknowledge that one standout game does not put a twice-released former practice squad player in the same realm as the NFL’s elite. But Fulgham’s performance is not the sort of thing that just accidentally happens.
You have to go back nearly a decade to find a player who put up those single-game numbers and did not go on to establish himself as a perennial NFL starter. Over the last five years, the closest thing to an outlier is the Saints' Tre’Quan Smith, who has started 17 games for the Saints over the last three seasons, four in 2020. In 2013, 24-year-old Kendall Wright caught 12 passes for 150 yards against the Cardinals. He played four more seasons in the NFL, averaging 45 catches and 538 yards per season. Then again, Wright finished that 2013 season with 94 catches and 1,079 yards.
Aside from Wright and Smith, 10-plus catches and 150-plus yards is a domain that is exclusive to Pro Bowl-caliber receivers. Fulgham may well have caught lighting in a bottle. But at least he caught something. That alone should warrant his prioritization in the Eagles' plans. Carson Wentz clearly believes in Fulgham’s ability. After the loss Sunday to the Steelers, he called him “a beast” and “a baller.” If it works for the guy throwing the ball, who cares about the scouting report.
Earlier this week, Pederson was asked about Fulgham’s role in the event of his veteran receivers' return. Pederson, no fool, said the first step is making sure Jeffery and/or Jackson is healthy.
“At the same time,” the coach continued, “it is hard to say, ‘Hey, Travis, we’re going to push you to the side because here comes a couple of guys.’ We’ve got to get all of our guys integrated back into practice this week. At the end of the day, we’ve got to select the four or five guys that we feel give us the best opportunity on game day. Some of it could be based purely on matchup. Obviously, Travis has made a case to continue to play and play at a high level.”
The solution isn’t complicated. Play the guy who has earned it.