What if Alshon Jeffery is the Philadelphia Eagles’ best receiver in 2020?
A lot has been said, written, and discussed about Alshon Jeffery over the past few months, some of it good, most of it bad.
While Jeffery’s initial signing was near-universally lauded by fans of the Philadelphia Eagles as a perfect receiving foil for Carson Wentz on the outside, his perception has sorely soured by no fault of his own.
Okay, maybe by some fault of his own.
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Between a season-altering drop against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Round, to a 2019 season marred by injury, and who can forget the comments he definitely didn’t make to ESPN’s Josina Anderson ripping Carson Wentz – an outcome eventually outed by Howard Eskins of all people on Twitter – and let’s just say, some fans wouldn’t mind of Jeffery kinda, sorta, wasn’t a member of the Eagles anymore, if you catch my drift.
Factor in the addition of four promising pass-catchers via the 2020 NFL Draft and a trade with the San Francisco 49ers and it’s borderline accepted that Jeffery is entering the forthcoming season a lame duck, with no future in South Philly moving forward.
But, hear me out, what if Jeffery plays really, really well for the Eagles this fall? What if he plays so well that the Eagles’ front office not only retains him for the remainder of his contract in 2021 but actually gave him an extension to remain with the team indefinitely?
Sounds crazy right? Well maybe not.
I mean think about it, as things presently stand, the Eagles are set to enter the preseason with eight viable receivers under contract; five speedsters in DeSean Jackson, Marquise Goodwin, Jalen Reagor, John Hightower and Quez Watkins, an Edleman-esque slot receiver in Greg Ward, and two big outside options in Jeffery and JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Now as you can probably assume, most offensive coordinators – and by extension, offensive play-calling head coaches – like to have a diverse collection of receiving options to vary up their offensive looks and put players in the best position to succeed. That’s why Ward actually has a pretty decent chance to make the roster this fall and why Jeffery and JJAW are borderline locks to make the roster – that and their contractual guarantees.
In a perfect world, Arcega-Whiteside would eventually unseat Jeffery on the outside, cement himself as a long-term, cornerstone piece, and allow Howie Roseman to release number 17 next March with a clean conscious. Could that happen? Most definitely, as for all of the hate JJAW received in 2019 for his less than notable rookie campaign, he actually did some really nice things statistically speaking (more on that here) but that being said, encouraging statistical trends effectively mean nothing if he can’t pick up 50, 60 yards a game with regularity.
Nelson Agholor put on a statistical masterclass against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2 of the 2019 NFL seaso… what, too soon?
Since joining the Eagles in 2017, Jeffery has averaged 56.5 yards per game while catching 58.75 percent of his targets. Are those Pro Bowl numbers? Nope, funny enough, Jeffery has never been a Pro Bowler as a member of the Eagles despite being paid like one, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help the team win. In the 44 games Jeffery has appeared in as an Eagle, the team is an impressive 30-14, including the most important win of all, in Super Bowl LII against the New England Patriots.
Granted, I’m not saying Jeffery alone is the reason for these wins, but when you look at the less than intimidating collection of receivers the Eagles have had to rely on in his absence, it’s safe to say he’s a pretty big part of the team’s offensive identity.
Once Jeffery returns to full strength, whether that’s for Week 1, or a few weeks later, maybe he sees the writing on the wall, realizes this could be his last chance to ensure a healthy payday for the 2021 season and indiscriminately balls out against the best and worst the NFC has to offer?
If not him then who?
There’s no doubt about it, when Jackson is on he’s still the best deep threat receiver in the NFL not named Tyreek Hill, but can anyone really rely on that in 2020? I certainly won’t draft D-Jax high in my fantasy football league later this summer. Or maybe Ward and/or Arcega-Whiteside take the sophomore leap and develop into legitimate starters moving forward, locking down their respective positions for years to come? Between the Birds’ four new speedy outside options, someone has to stick, right? They can’t all be Shelton Gibsons in a world desperate for a Hollywood Brown, right?
As crazy as it may be to admit, Alshon Jeffery is very much the Philadelphia Eagles’ best wide receiver going into the 2020 NFL season. He may not be as reliable – or relied upon – as Zach Ertz, or for that matter, even Dallas Goedert, but in a league where wide receiver is king, having a good one just makes an offense better. Alshon Jeffery makes Doug Pederson’s offense better and assuming he doesn’t fall to pieces in 2020, the team’s going to need him now more than ever.