While it didn’t lead to a check in the win column, Alshon Jeffery’s return provided a much needed boost on the outside for the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. He hauled in 8 catches for 105 yards and a red zone touchdown while posting a 78% success rate and 89% catch rate when targeted. If you were worried about chemistry issues, fear not, Jeffery and Carson Wentz were on the same page all day.
Jeffery showcased all of the ways in which he wins at all three levels on Sunday. Starting with his release, he stacked Tennessee Titans’ cornerback Adoree Jackson by winning against press coverage. He did this by using a strong inside arm to keep Jackson at bay.
How do you separate from Adoree Jackson if you're Alshon Jeffery? Strong inside arm through the release to keep him from stealing your wallet - pic.twitter.com/lVzMQfLhTp— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) October 1, 2018
The advantage of having a big target like Jeffery is that not only does he regularly win these battles with physicality, but Wentz trusts him to come down with contested catches. All he needs to see is one step and Wentz puts a beautiful throw in the bucket for a 31-yard catch and conversion on 3rd & 4.
There are two types of separation: windows created throughout the route stem and windows created at the catch-point. Jeffery created both on Sunday, this time winning a battle with Titans’ cornerback Malcolm Butler for a 13-yard catch on 3rd & 6. Jeffery misplaces his club, hitting Butler on the shoulder instead of the elbow, but watch what he does with his inside hand to create a window for Wentz’s ball.
Malcolm Butler gets a good jam here, Alshon Jeffery strikes back with a club.. now watch his inside hand, see how he's hooked on Butler's collar? Escorts him upfield at the catch-point to create a window w/out making it obvious. pic.twitter.com/6sOk2jwEH1— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) October 1, 2018
Play strength has also been a plus for the 6’3”, 218-pound Jeffery and it gives him the ability to create wins in tight spaces. Combined with his understanding of timing and leverage, and maybe a little crafty exploitation of the rules, these tight window throws land at a higher rate than they would with other receivers with less size and/or nuance.
Staying with what his size allows him to do, sometimes he’s just playing basketball out there. He did so on his 16-yard touchdown on 3rd & Goal.
Smooth, sound route with a swipe at the break and then Alshon is just playing basketball. pic.twitter.com/asvnWtmhPf— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) October 1, 2018
It’s not just his size that wins this route; Jeffery runs a clean route that allows him to sink in-and-out of his break efficiently to provide him with excellent positioning for the box out. On a day where the Eagles struggled in the red zone, converting only 1 of 4 trips into touchdowns, Jeffery still shined.
He was also a much needed chain mover, coming down with three of the Eagles’ five third down conversions and totaling six first downs on the day.
Having Jeffery back is a boon for an offense that has lacked consistent and dynamic production from it’s outside receivers. He looks a tick faster off the line than last year when he was dealing with a torn rotator cuff and is on the same page with Wentz. Plus, he did all of it while dealing with the remnants of a flu that kept him off the field at times. Those factors point to big-time production moving forward.