Philadelphia Eagles: Is Travis Fulgham fighting for his roster spot?

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

For the first time in the 2021 NFL preseason, fans were treated to a look at the Philadelphia Eagles‘ starting wide receiver trio.

Now granted, said trio wasn’t hauling in passes from Jalen Hurts – who was hospitalized just prior to kickoff – and had deep route potential hindered by a less than elite performance from a piecemeal offensive line, but in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t matter, unless, of course, you spent big money on tickets to the game.

That’s right, for the first time of hopefully 18 more times this season at minimum, Quez Watkins, Jalen Reagor, and DeVonta Smith, the 10th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, finally spent the better part of a half on the field together, and you’d best believe the trio impressed in rather limited action.

But do you know who we didn’t see much of in the first half versus the New England Patriots save a few surprise appearances on special teams? Yeah, that’d be Travis Fulgham, the surprise practice squad player-turned-eight-game starter who actually led all players on the team in passing yards last season.

In a true twist of fate, has Travis Fulgham gone from diamond in the rough to marginal receiver fighting for a spot on the 53 man roster?

Monitor Travis Fulgham’s snaps versus the Jets closely, Philadelphia Eagles fans.

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As things presently stand, the Philadelphia Eagles have four wide receivers who are virtual locks to make the 53 man roster: Quez Watkins, Jalen Reagor, DeVonta Smith, and Greg Ward.

Could one argue that Ward shouldn’t receive such a lock status, as he’s 26, has no guaranteed money on the books, and surpassed 420 yards in a regular season? Honestly, if you feel that way, you do you, but considering Ward finished out the 2020 season with the most catches, most touchdowns, and the third-most receiving yards of any of the team’s 19(!) pass catchers, I’d put his chances of getting cut in the low single-digits.

So really, that leaves Travis Fulgham, John Hightower, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside – plus players like Jhamon Ausbon, Hakeem Butler, Andre Patton, and our old pal Marken Michel – competing for two spots at most on the 53 man roster.

If the competition really comes down to those three, I’d say Fulgham has the best chance to make the initial roster, even if the team only keeps five wide receivers.

Now, in theory, that sounds sort of counter-intuitive, right? Fulgham didn’t play a single offensive snap in the first half of the Eagles’ brutal loss to the Patriots, and yet he’s somehow going to outlast players who are younger, faster, and surely more “talented.” What proof, either on the tape or on the stat sheet, would garner such a suggestion?

11. 11? 11.

That, my friends, is the number of special teams snaps Fulgham received versus the Patriots, which ranks third overall on the team behind only Patrick Johnson and Shaun Bradley- both of whom have looked great so far this preseason. While that may not seem like a big deal or particularly worthy of note, it marks the second straight week where Fulgham led all wide receivers in special teams snaps and could signify a serious interest from new special teams coordinator Michael Clay in using the former sixth-round pick out of Old Dominion as one of his core players.

Would it be a tad unusual to go from being a team’s most prolific offensive weapon to being relegated to special teams action? Most definitely so, but considering just how impressive Watkins and Reagor have been so far this preseason as interchangeable inside-out options across from Smith, there really aren’t that many other options to get on the field/remain gainfully employed.

Even if the Eagles only opt to keep five receivers, rolling into the year with Smith, Reagor, and Watkins interchangeable in the starting lineup with Ward serving as an interior backup and Fulgham as an outside backup could make for a pretty darn impressive rotation, even if they don’t keep JJAW, Hightower, Patton, or even Sony Michel’s older brother heading into the regular season.

Sidebar: For those who really care about special teams and how the third-facet of the game could impact roster decision-making, Hightower also played five special teams snaps – including one kick return for 18 yards – and JJAW played four exclusively on return units. If Jason Huntley falls out of favor and the Eagles are on the lookout for a return man, Game 3 could seriously boost Hightower’s chances of making the team if he can flash some electricity running back a kick.

Next. Stock Watch versus the New England Patriots. dark

Did Twitter sort of meltdown when Travis Fulgham’s second preseason game with the Philadelphia Eagles was put under a microscope? Most definitely. Holding Fulgham out of the first half of the game was certainly a choice, as was the decision to only target him once in the second half, but that honestly could have more to do with the ineffectiveness of the team’s backup quarterbacks than any individual player’s performance. For my money, Fulgham still looks like he has a darn good chance of making the team this year and could be active for all 17 games if for no other reason than his ability to run down the field and contribute on special teams.