Facing a group stacked with young and veteran talent, second year wide receiver Shelton Gibson has work to do. If the fifth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft expects to make the roster he’s going to have to show he’s taken a significant step forward from his training camp last year. Criticized for his shaky performance that was littered with drops, to say he’s on the roster bubble is being generous. However, a path to making the 53-man roster exists for Gibson, who will have to show he’s more than just a receiver, he’s a weapon.
Drafted to infuse speed into the offense, Gibson first needs to show he can take the top off in the NFL. It wasn’t much of a problem for him in college. Combining his sophomore and junior campaigns at West Virgina, he amassed 1,838 yards on only 80 catches for a blistering 23-yards per catch average. Most of his touchdowns came on him torching Big 12 corners, a talent that has yet to translate to the NFL.
The first phase of being a deep threat is getting a step on your man. The second is completing the catch. Gibson’s struggles from 2017 have persisted thus far.
Nate Sudfeld with a beauty of a pass to Shelton Gibson. Ball came out after the catch but the NFL ref here ruled it was a TD. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) June 6, 2018
Shades of 2017: Wide open Shelton Gibson with a drop over the middle. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) July 28, 2018
Looking back on my pre-draft evaluation of Gibson, this should come of no surprise. Gibson was adept at eating cushion, stacking defenders and tracking the ball, but there were times where he suffered from concentration drops. He also was inconsistent against contact.
Gibson takes a rib shot and somehow hangs on. pic.twitter.com/DBL8pGoToG— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) April 1, 2017
Think the rib shot affected his arm length here? pic.twitter.com/BXCCGcvmc8— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) April 1, 2017
Digging deeper into my pre-draft evaluation, other concerns about Gibson’s game are still lingering. For starters, context regarding his deep ball production needed to be applied heavily.
“The Youngstown State safeties he played against were mind-blowingly frustrating to watch, as they blew assignment after assignment and let Gibson run free. Kansas State had similar issues with their safeties, ballooning Gibson’s production. Gibson also doesn’t run a full route tree, so there wasn’t much else to gleam from his tape other than ‘these safeties suck and he’s fast.’”
There were other warning flags raised about his game that pointed to Gibson struggling to adjust to life in the NFL.
“Charmin soft vs. contact. Skittish when having to make catches over the middle with oncoming contact. Can be rerouted and shut down when a defender gets hands on early. Limited separation on in breaking routes due to lacking savvy at top of route stem. Skinny frame that will struggle vs. borderline physical corners. Frugal as a blocker.”
Assuming Gibson can clean up his problematic drops and technique while flashing next level deep ball skills, he will also have to provide value in other ways. The Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles are looking for stability and explosiveness in the return game. Unfortunately, Gibson is not experienced in returning punts in college, but he did show home run ability as a kick returner.
The Eagles are making it a point to give Gibson every opportunity to showcase his skills. This year the early focus has been getting him the ball early, hoping to catch a glimpse of his run after the catch ability.
2nd team receivers: Ward, Wheaton, and Gibson. Shelton just got two schemed space plays to him. They want him to become something.— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) July 28, 2018
There’s still a ways to go for Gibson and for jury deliberation regarding his prospects as a contributing member of the team, but he’s going to have to act quick before he finds himself on the outside looking in. If he can showcase big play ability and consistency while providing value on special teams, he’s got a legitimate shot to crack the roster. But let’s face it, that’s an evergreen statement.