As the 2016 season kicked off, the excitement surrounding rookie sensation Carson Wentz stole every headline. From his work ethic to his sneaky athletic ability, every pass would be dissected and every mistake would be duly noted. While Wentz was the focal point for many, his rise would be accompanied by a lashing of the Philadelphia Eagles wide outs.
By now, we have all made up our minds about the Eagles WR’s. Although there were some positive signs, the bulk of the season was covered in bad play. Opinions aside, the Eagles need weapons, both at the RB position and on the outside.
If Wentz is to take the next step as the franchise, the Eagles need to invest in the weapons around him. This isn’t to say the birds’ don’t have players. Jordan Matthews has been better then good during his first three seasons. Zach Ertz has shown he can be a top-5 type NFL TE. Dorial-green Beckham has the size to be dominant and has showed signs of becoming a solid player. Even with all the negative talk about Nelson Agholor, it is obvious in his movement and ability, that if he can just turn a few things around, he could still be a stud.
Along with those four, Trey Burton proved to be a diamond in the rough, when given the opportunity. He just didn’t get as many chances as most of us thought he should. Like Burton, Another player who shined when given the chance, was Undrafted free agent WR Paul Turner.
The 5’10 193 LB Louisiana native proved early and often he could play with the big boys. Coming from West Monroe, LA, young Turner grew up with parents, whom instilled hard work in him at an early age. Coming out of West Monroe high school, Turner was a 3-star athlete, starring at both QB and Defensive back. It wasn’t until 2011, in his freshman year at LSU, that he made the change to WR. Then head coach Les Miles, thought it best to move the young man.
Learning alongside both WR Odell Beckham Jr and WR Jarvis Landry, Turner quickly adapted to his job, participating in 9 games during his freshman year. In 2013, after many long conversations with his family, Turner decided to transfer out of LSU and find a new home at Louisiana-Tech. The transfer itself had less to do with football, and more to do with family.
With both parents working full time and his older brother moved off to Dallas, Paul found himself next up to help take care of his grandmother. Which says a lot about his character.
Football, although being second fiddle to family came easy to Paul. After sitting out the 2013 season (NCAA RULE), in only his second full season as a WR, Turner would have 42 receptions for 514 yards. and 4 touchdowns, even after missing two games with a groin injury.
In the first two games of 2015, Paul had 10 receptions for 185 yds and 2 touchdowns, before a hamstring injury would slow him down for the rest of the season. Even with the injury he would finish with 45 catches for 657 yards and 3 touchdowns. Needless to say his injuries would hurt him in more ways than one. The setbacks and lack of game tape would destroy his draft status.
This aside, a strong pro day, along with the little game film he did have, would lead to two invitations after the 2016 NFL Draft. The Washington Redskins being the other, Turner chose Philadelphia and started the next step in his amazing journey.
From day one, praise rung high on Turner. Fellow WR Jordan Matthews was quoted as saying “He doesn’t look real intimidating, But he can go out there and play some football”.
The impressive part of Paul’s game, is that he was so new to the position, yet so smooth in his routes and proved to be a secure pair of hands.
In Pre-Season He would quickly become a fan favorite. Catching 17 passes (Most in the NFL) for 165 yards, his biggest game came in the pre-season finale against the Jets. Turner would turn in a 6 catch performance for 66 yards and added a 71 yard punt return for good measure. Games like this, and highlights like the one handed catch he had against the Pittsburgh Steelers helped secure his role in a very crowded WR corps.
Despite such a strong training camp and preseason, he was waived September 4th, only to be brought back to the practice squad the very next day. Turner would stay on the practice squad until November, when a mental issue arose with WR Nelson Agholor.
Finally, to the delight of Eagles fans, the pre-season stand out would get his shot. In a week 13 clash with the Bengals, Turner was given his first opportunity to shine..and he did just that. The Eagles were horrible that day, getting dismantled 32-14 in the game. But Turner would turn in an impressive debut. Taking his first catch 41 yards down the field and finishing with 6 catches on 7 targets for 80 yards.
Turner would finish the season with 9 receptions for 126 yards. The potential had been put on full display, considering that he played in just 13.6% of offensive snaps.
With all the talk of the Eagles needing receiver help, one wonders if Paul Turner will get the opportunity to prove once again this offseason that he belongs on the 53 man roster. Sure, he isn’t the biggest guy, or the fastest (4.5), but what Paul has can’t be taught.
Heart, in its purest form. Strength of character, and strength of determination. Things that went a long way in the growth and progression of other UDFA WR’s like Wes Welker and Danny Amendola. It’s also a trait that is now sought after in the culture that Pederson is striving to build.
Turner’s ability to get open falls in line with those of Jamison Crowder in Washington, and Cole Beasley in Dallas. His size has never been a crutch and wont be. He catches the ball very well and has shown time after time that he’s a strong route runner.
Understandably, fans are pining for a star WR either through draft, or Free-agency. The Eagles need more than one Receiver to build around Carson Wentz. When you look at the skill of a Jordan Matthews, or the potential of Trey Burton and Zach Ertz, the idea of a full season with Turner in the mix becomes intriguing to say the least.
Come free-agency, it would be a smart move for the birds’ to add a true weapon and in the draft it wouldn’t hurt to add one early as well. But maybe the smartest move the team could make? Elevating Paul Turner’s spot on the roster and giving him a chance to succeed over the course of a full year. The chemistry built with Carson Wentz during the offseason was beyond impressive. Last year, Paul Turner left it all out on the field in order to earn a spot on the practice squad. This year, he will be looking to force his way into the regular rotation of receivers during the regular season.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports