As the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles football team slowly trots on the field outside the Nova care complex, the feeling of optimism circles the air as young talent and new additions alike start their season-long journey. Amongst the well deserved hype surrounding second year franchise quarterback Carson Wentz, is a an electricity over the new weapons put in place to help his growth.
Of all the additions to the team, both on offense and defense, perhaps there are none more important then that of star wideout Alshon Jefferey. Brought on to alleviate the pressures pressed on to the young QB and elevate an offense that was “BLAH” for most of the 2016 season, the 27 year old monster has had more ups than downs during his 5 year career. Although going into his sixth (Now with the Eagles), some would say he hasn’t been the playmaker, the NFL expected him to become.
Originally drafted by the Chicago Bears, in 2012 out of the University of South Carolina, Jefferey was bought in to be Jay Cutler’s safety blanket and eventually become his number 1 target.
Despite not being the “top-5” type of player many expected him to be, he has been a legit weapon inside and outside, and has the potential to score from anywhere on the field. Needless to say in an Eagles offense void of star potential, Jefferey immediately became a number one option the moment he signed his one-year deal.
The potential to become the player he was in 2013 and the prospect every analyst thought he could be is still very much a real possibility. He possesses the big-play ability to dominate defensive backfields across the NFL. At 6’3, 220 LB’s, he is a matchup nightmare for smaller Corner’s on the outside, and has the strength to body-up, on bigger players and come down with the ball.
He is faster than his size would imply and loves playing in traffic, never shying away from contact when going over the middle. This type of play would lead to injury at times, as he sacrifices his body for the good of the team. Jeffery runs a great route tree, and possesses the break away speed to separate at the top of routes.
Over the past few years, the Eagles have lacked a true number 1 target, something that was blatantly apparent last season. WR Jordan Matthews was the Eagles top playmaker but struggled to shine on the outside and was instead locked into dominating the slot. Now with the addition of Jefferey, expect Matthews to take a long stride in becoming an even more dangerous player, now that defenses can not key in on him.
Along with helping the other receivers on the team, the addition of Jefferey should help a run game that showed signs of life last year take a larger leap. With a true threat at WR and new RB LeGarrette Blount, it doesn’t take long to notice the difference in the Eagles offense. The players felt the exact same way as OTA’s opened.
Offensive Guard Brandon Brooks spoke on this. “Immediately you see the difference on offense. The receivers room got a real boost with the new guys in there. Alshon is a good leader, leads by example, and can really be used as a teaching tool for our young guys, along with the fact he is a real threat to score anytime. I think our offense will see a difference with all the talent we brought in.”
New Eagles Running back LeGarrette Blount also chimed in, as we asked him his thoughts on the talent surrounding him.
“Man… you see talent everywhere. Not just the running back room, with Sproles, and Pumphrey, but we got talent everywhere. watching Alshon Jefferey play is fun, it’s real fun watching run routes, and compete the way he does. You would think the way he is running around out there, that he was an UDFA trying to make a team, and not a legit star already. He goes out there and competes, fights for balls, and is always teaching, and asking questions.”
What may help, the growth of Jefferey, from star to superstar, is perhaps the growth of Carson Wentz. When you watch the tape, it isn’t farfetched to think Wentz is by far the most talented QB Jefferey has ever played with, or at least the one most primed for success. That and the talent surrounding Jefferey, with players like, Zach Ertz, Blount, Sproles, Jordan Matthews, and Torrey Smith, may be the big difference.
We are still a ways off from playing any meaningful football, but if Alshon can stay healthy and Carson Wentz, takes the steps we believe he will, he could be looking at a very successful year, one that could mimic his 2013 season in which he had 89 receptions, 1,421 yards, and 7 touchdowns, and dominated the NFC North with his play. I guess time will tell, but there is one thing for sure, the Philadelphia Eagle WR room looks a lot better heading into the 2017 season and Alshon Jefferey is a huge part of the reason why.
Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports