Jeffrey’s injury description
Alshon Jeffery played all of 2017 with a fully torn rotator cuff. Jeffery’s injury occurred during training camp, while matched up with Patrick Robinson. He came down and tried to brace himself for the ground, but ended up landing awkwardly on his shoulder. The wide receiver told NJ Advance Media that “if [he] had to do it, [he’d] do it again” when talking about playing all year with the injury. He called it being “Philly tough”. Jeffrey’s injury required surgery that took place 17 days after the Super Bowl victory. His injury and surgery surprised most Eagles fans.
Will Jeffery’s injury cause him to miss time?
Initially, Jeffery said he would definitely be ready for week one of the season. However, the original recovery time was six months from surgery. That would place Jeffery at a late August return, well into the preseason. Jeffery’s injury sidelined him for all spring workouts. It will continue to keep him out of the rest of practices this summer. The team has been tentative about saying the wide receiver will be ready for week one. If he can’t answer the bell for the start of the season, who will step up in his place?
The obvious choices
Obviously, if Jeffery’s injury keeps him from the start of the season, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz will shoulder more of the receiving load. However, if that fact is obvious to me, it is definitely obvious to the defensive coordinators in the league as well.
Ertz led the Eagles in receiving yards in the regular season last year while Agholor had a breakout year. Both guys notched some big plays for the Birds during the season, as well as in the Super Bowl. The Eagles also have their top pick of the 2018 draft, tight end Dallas Goedert to utilize. But, if the Eagles are going to be effective in the passing game without Jeffery, some other players will have to step up as well.
The backpack kid
Last year, Mack Hollins gave us glimpses of why he belongs on an NFL team. He proved reliable when the ball was thrown his way, with 16 receptions for 226 yards and one touchdown. His single touchdown in 2017 came on a deep pass from Carson Wentz on Monday Night Football against the Redskins. With a full offseason working with Wentz and Nick Foles, Hollins is in position to play a bigger role and put up some bigger numbers. Not only will a full offseason be beneficial, but let’s also not forget that the new wide receiver coach, Gunter Brewer, was Hollins’ wide receiver coach at North Carolina.
The former Baltimore Raven and Pittsburgh Steeler
The Eagles signed free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace as a veteran guy to replace Torrey Smith. Wallace is a fast receiver, who said he turned down more money in order to play with Wentz and the reigning Super Bowl champs. Some people were not very high on the signing, pointing out that Wallace had a bad 2017 season.
For the last two years, Wallace played for the Ravens. Last year the Ravens carried a horrifically bad offense. In 2016, the team only finished 8-8, but Wallace notched 1,017 receiving yards. With a quarterback like Wentz (or Foles depending on how that injury situation plays out), the former Raven is set up for another solid year, especially if Jeffery’s injury keeps him on the sidelines early.
Another new face in the locker room
Also in free agency, the Eagles signed former Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, Markus Wheaton. The top three receivers in Philadelphia will be Jeffery, Agholor, and Wallace. Hollins appears to have solidified the fourth spot. The question marks rise beyond those four. Wheaton had an injury-plagued 2017 season suffering a torn groin and broken finger among other things. Wheaton’s biggest years came in 2014 and 2015 where he recorded 644 and 749 receiving yards respectively.
It is undetermined if Wheaton will make the final roster or not. However, if Jeffery’s injury keeps him from suiting up, that would be Wheaton’s best chance to prove himself.
Two guys looking for their shot
Bryce Treggs and Shelton Gibson were two guys we saw last year. Treggs signed as an undrafted free agent to the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 but was waived when the season began. The Eagles then claimed the receiver off waivers and signed him to the practice squad a year later. Treggs spent multiple stints on the Eagles practice squad and signed to a future/reserves contract after the Super Bowl. Treggs played his college football at the University of California, where he tallied over 2500 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns during his four years. He has showcased glimpses of what he is capable of doing but has not been able to get over the hump.
Gibson, on the other hand, played his college ball at West Virginia. He entered the draft after his junior season. In his three years, he totaled 1,898 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. Gibson ran an impressive 4.39 40 at West Virginia’s pro day, however, he spent much of last season on the list of inactives for gamedays. At West Virginia, Gibson was only responsible for a handful of routes, so the NFL playbook has been slightly overwhelming. However, he gets his practice in against the best defense in the league. Former wide receiver coach (and now offensive coordinator) Mike Groh said he was impressed with the young receiver and how invested he was in learning and getting better.
Who will be the one to step up?
Although there are still other wide receivers that were brought in as undrafted free agents or signed to future/reserve contracts, Treggs, Wheaton, and Gibson are the top candidates to help round out the wide receiver corps. The Eagles have high hopes for both Treggs and Gibson. I believe that one of those guys will fill the role. I think Wheaton was brought on in case one of the younger guys didn’t appear to be ready. However, given the opportunity to develop a younger player, that is where I see the Eagles going. They spent a draft pick last year on Gibson for a reason, and the Eagles don’t like wasting picks. They will need one of these players to step up in the case that Jeffery’s injury keeps him off the field early in the year.
Who do you think will be on the roster in September?
All stats from Pro Football Reference and Sports Reference.
Featured Image: Curt Johnson via Flickr