When the Eagles splashed the cash and attracted the services of highly touted wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, fans were elated. Finally, the Eagles had a dominant number one wideout again. A one-year $14M prove it deal was handed to the former Chicago Bear and all of a sudden the passing game looked lethal. We’re now seven games in. Alshon Jeffery has 354 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The dominant wide receiver many expected has not been on show this far…but perhaps it’s not Jeffery’s production that’s the problem, it’s the expectation.
Jeffery is coming off of two disappointing years in Chicago, compiling less than 900 yards in both seasons and 6 touchdowns, missing 11 games due to a suspension and injury problems. In the two year’s before that, Jeffery was one of the league’s most dangerous receivers. Combining for 2,554 yards and 17 touchdowns, Jeffery decimated Defenses. The contrast in production is startling…but there has to be more to it than just suspensions and injury.
There is. Brandon Marshall left for what he believed were greener pastures in New York. When he left, Alshon Jeffery had to be the guy. There was nobody else directing traffic for him, no other wideout who was lethal enough to draw attention and open up the game for him. Jeffery was a number one receiver.
Beneath him in 2015 was Marquess Wilson who has just 464 receiving yards. Martellus Bennett had 439 yards that year and like Wilson, played in 11 games. One year later? Something interesting happened.
Cameron Meredith happened. Martellus Bennett took off to New England while Alshon Jeffery continued to draw number one corners and double coverage. Meredith thrived, leading the team in receiving yards with 888 and 4 touchdowns while Jeffery amassed 821 and a pair of scores. The pattern at this stage is clear…and it goes all the way back to the days when Brandon Marshall was at his best.
Marshall was incredibly productive during his time in Chicago, setting a career high in single-season receiving yards in 2012. The more he drew attention in the years that followed, the more Alshon Jeffery would be licking his lips at mismatches and reaping the rewards, putting up a pair of 1,000+ yard seasons.
Fast forward to 2017. Jeffery registered just two receptions in Monday Night’s win over the Redskins. He’s been the most targeted wide receiver on the Eagles roster while Zach Ertz leads the team overall. It was never that Alshon Jeffery was “overrated”. It was never that Alshon Jeffery was unproductive.
Through the opening five weeks of the season, the only wide receiver in the entire league to be matched up against more top-25 corners than Jeffery was Dez Bryant. Nearly 50% of passes that went in Jeffery’ direction were against top-25 rated corners. When Jeffery does get an opportunity to wreak havoc, he does. There have been flurries of big catches in clutch situations that only number one wideouts could make.
The Eagles offense has opened up tremendously since the arrival of Jeffery. Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz have amassed a total of 10 touchdowns already this season as well as 860 yards. Mack Hollins caught an unsuspecting Defense off-guard for a 64-yard score on Monday night and the ball is being spread around more than we have ever seen before in Philadelphia. Every receiver is a threat…and you don’t see that in offenses where there isn’t a commanding number one wideout to draw attention.
“It’s just unselfish ball players. Alshon could easily say, ‘Hey, I need more targets,’ or [TE] Zach [Ertz] could say, ‘Hey, I need more targets,’ or any of the guys could say that on offense, or [RB] LeGarrette [Blount] could say, ‘I need more rushing attempts,’ or whatever.” Doug Pederson told reporters recently. “But you know what, when everybody has a piece of the pie, and you look at the end of the day and all our top receivers are getting equal amount of targets during the game and our rushing attempts are — and passing attempts are almost 50/50 and the bottom line is winning the game, then that’s the exciting part. And then nobody cares. They’re unselfish guys. They don’t care about their own stat sheet, their own bottom line. They’re unselfish guys. They come to work every day and practice. Ultimately, it’s the team that is the most important thing, and listen, I talk about team all the time with the guys. It’s about ‘Us’ mentality, not individuals, even though it’s a lot of individuals coming together. But it’s that team atmosphere, and that’s what they’ve bought into and are buying into, and you just — offensively you just never know who’s going to have the hot hand that day.
In the last game it was Ertz and Nelson had some big plays. And the next week, the week before, Torrey had some big plays and then Alshon gets an opportunity. So you just never know who’s going to be the guy. That’s the way we coach. That’s the way I teach, and it’s been very, very successful so far.”
The Eagles don’t care who scores. They don’t care who leads the team in receiving. They care about wins and right now they have six of them. Alshon Jeffery has been responsible for opening up the Eagles offense in ways that were previously unheard of. Just like Brandon Marshall did for him, Alshon Jeffery is now doing for the Eagles. That’s the power of a number one receiver. Not stats, not production, but the ability to propel an offense to the next level. Alshon Jeffery is doing exactly that.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports