Philadelphia Eagles training camp is almost here. Players report to the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday, July 24. As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles roster. We continue today by taking a look at the wide receiver position. Previously: Quarterback | Running back.
To be honest, it was a little disappointing to see Jeffery miss voluntary OTAs. It’s not like the 29-year-old needs them for the sake of his development. But Jeffery does need to form a better connection with Carson Wentz.
We saw signs of a promising Wentz-to-Jeffery connection early in 2018. Their first four games together: 25 receptions, 306 yards, four touchdowns.
Then Jeffery had a quiet game while being covered by Jalen Ramsey in Week 8. Then the Eagles traded for Golden Tate and that screwed things up as Jeffery’s targets immediately took a hit.
This offseason figures to be the first one where Wentz and Jeffery will fully practice together. Jeffery missed most of training camp in 2017 with what we didn’t know at the time was a torn rotator cuff. Then Jeffery missed the entire 2018 offseason while recovering from shoulder surgery. Wentz also missed most of the 2018 offseason while he recovered from ACL/LCL injuries.
Hopefully a full summer together ends up making a difference for these two guys. This training camp will be important in that regard.
Assuming they can get on the same page, Jeffery should be a productive No. 1 receiver. ESPN’s Mike Clay has Jeffery projected for 74 receptions, 965 yards, and eight touchdowns.
The Eagles addressed a HUGE need by trading for Jackson earlier this offseason. Philadelphia was just so nonexplosive in 2018. Jackson’s presence should fix that. He turns 33 this season, sure, but he led the league in yards per reception last year. Jackson also looked as fast as ever in spring drills.
With Jackson on board, Wentz is now equipped with the best deep threat he’s ever played with. One could also wonder if Wentz is the best quarterback Jackson has ever played with. In any case, there’s reason to believe these two players could form a lethal connection in 2019. Wentz and Jackson connected over and over again during OTAs and minicamp. They already have a great on-field chemistry.
In theory, at least, Jackson should make the Eagles’ entire offense better. Opposing teams must account for his burner speed at all times. If defenses are going to try and take Jackson away, that should create more underneath opportunities for the likes of Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, etc.
There was some buzz that the Eagles were willing to trade Agholor and his $9.4 million salary earlier this offseason. There’s a non-zero chance Agholor could still get moved but, for now, he’s here.
2018 was a weird season for Agholor. Last year’s stats weren’t dramatically different from his 2017 production but he looked worse by the eye test. Will Agholor get back to looking like his 2017 self in 2019?
Maybe. But maybe Agholor’s production drops in 2019. The Eagles have loved to employ 11 personnel in the Doug Pederson era but that could (read: should) be changing somewhat. The Eagles need to get Dallas Goedert on the field more often this season. And if the Eagles are running 12 personnel more frequently, that means a receiver has to be coming off the field. That receiver isn’t going to be Jeffery nor Jackson; it’s going to be Agholor.
It’s not like the Eagles are going to phase out Agholor entirely. That’d certainly be $9.4 million not well spent. But Agholor’s projected stats for 2019 are significantly lower than his past two years. ESPN’s Mike Clay has Agholor finishing with 36 receptions for 410 yards and three touchdowns this season. That’s a steep drop from the 768 and eight Agholor had in 2017 and the 736 and four he had in 2018.
It remains to be seen how Agholor will handle a potentially decreased role as he enters a contract year.
It’s not hard to see why the Eagles liked JJ enough to draft him in the second round. The rookie wide receiver made a strong impression during spring drills by excelling in the red zone. His jump ball ability is legit. It’s hard to imagine JJ having a big role as a rookie — especially with so many other mouths to feed — but he could be a situational player. He has the opportunity to play his way into red zone snaps with a strong summer.
Hollins is still alive, so that’s good. The hope is that he’ll be full go once training camp begins after missing all of OTAs and being limited in minicamp. It’ll be interesting to watch Hollins because he showed some potential as a rotational role player as a rookie back in 2017. He’s also expected to be a key special teams contributor moving forward. Can Hollins pick up where he left off or has his lingering injury impacted his ability? Something to watch.
Gibson might be spending his last summer with the Eagles. The 2017 fifth-round pick only had one reception in 2018 despite having a nice showing in last year’s training camp/preseason. Gibson will have to fend off the likes of Johnson, Michel, Ward, Thompkins, etc. ... just to potentially be a sixth receiver on the roster.
The veteran Johnson did a nice job during spring practices. His NFL experience gives him an edge on his competition when it comes to battling for a roster spot. He’ll need to continue to show up in the summer.
Michel was one of the Eagles’ standout players from OTAs/minicamp. Now we’ll see if he can continue to show up when the pads go on. Michel has a chance to push for a fifth or (more likely) sixth receiver spot, especially if he can contribute on special teams. He told me the Eagles have him in the mix for the punt returner job.
Ward took some first team slot reps when Agholor missed some practices due to injury. Still doubt he makes the team.
The 2016 third-round pick failed to stand out in spring drills.
Thompkins received the third most guaranteed money of any Eagles undrafted rookie free agent signing. Thompkins is a long shot to stick around but his odds are helped by the fact the Eagles don’t have established punt/kick returners. Thompkins might be able to make the practice squad.
Ifeanyi Momah redux. The 6-6, 220 pounder might make a cool catch or two this summer but he won’t be sticking around for long.
Camp body who wears the No. 3 jersey.
How will it play out?
Jeffery should lead all Eagles wide receivers in targets provided he stays healthy. History suggests Jackson could miss a game or two but he should still be a dangerous deep threat when he is playing. Agholor should be the starting slot receiver in 11 personnel but we’ll see just how much the Eagles will use that package.
JJ figures to be a role player who can contribute in the red zone. Hollins might see some occasional offensive snaps but the majority of his work will come on special teams.
Gibson, Michel, and Johnson are the strongest contenders for a sixth receiver spot. Whoever wins the job will likely only be playing on special teams.
Overall, Wentz has a strong receiving corps to work with. There’s a lot of good talent and diversified skill sets with this group.
Who could be a surprise cut?
It’s at least worth noting that Agholor can be traded to save nearly $9.4 million with zero dead money. The Eagles won’t be trading Nelly just to clear cap space but they could find it hard to turn down a strong offer for him. Keep in mind Agholor’s going to be a free agent after 2019.
I’d bet that Hollins sticks on the roster since he projects to be a good special teams contributor at worst. But what if his extended injury issues linger even longer?
Gibson wouldn’t be a surprise cut as much as he’d be a noteworthy cut.
Michel and Johnson are the top candidates to be a “surprise addition” on the 53-man roster.
On a scale of 1-5, what’s your confidence level in the Eagles’ wide receiver position? (5 being the most.)
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