Time has worked wonders for Shelton Gibson. During 2017 OTAs, the West Virginia product seemed overwhelmed and lost, forcing many to lose hope. Skipping forward to the 2018 preseason, Gibson seems to have regained his confidence after a down rookie year. In fact, with the slew of injuries the Eagles face at wide receiver, Gibson is now pushing for playing time. Throughout the first three weeks of Eagle’s preseason, Gibson put up 195 yards on nine receptions and two touchdowns. In game, he has looked sharp and focused, showing the Eagles front office that he could be the DeSean Jackson like burner that they hoped they would get in the 2017 NFL draft.
Coming out of college, Gibson was regarded by scouts as a talented athlete. He was touted for his big-play ability and his explosive jumping ability. With solid size, Gibson was expected to be a great field-stretching wide receiver who could be called on to hit the homerun whenever needed. The 5’11, 191-pound product terrorized Big 12 conference for his last two years in Morgantown, averaging 23.1 yards per reception throughout. When he was drafted by the Eagles, however, he struggled to find a rhythm. In college, Gibson was never expected to learn the entire route tree. He prioritized the basic routes – posts, slants, curls, and flys- to separate from cornerbacks. In the NFL, Gibson had to learn a myriad of new routes and had to run them against veteran defensive backs. This led to the young receiver struggling early on in his career, dropping multiple balls in training camp during 2017.
Gibson even said “I used to wonder all the time ‘am I running the right route?’ ‘So then I can’t even run fast, I can’t even play fast.’”
Still, the Eagles kept him around on the final 53- man roster, just because they did not want to risk losing him off waivers. This (almost) entirely redshirt season has proved to do wonders for Gibson, as he feels ready for the 2018 season. He stated that watching veterans helped him develop his own work ethic.
“Seeing how Nelly (Nelson Agholor) worked. Seeing how Alshon (Jeffery) worked. Seeing how Torrey (Smith) was working. Having those vet guys talking to me every single day, it made me want to change in the offseason how I was taking it onto the practice field.”
Eagles co-offensive coordinator Mike Groh spoke very highly of Shelton Gibson, saying
“He’s come a long way. We’re pleased with the progress and the work that he’s put in. Nobody puts more into it than Shelton. He really does invest not only the time while he’s here in the building, but his personal time when he’s out of the building when he’s not required to be here. I know how much he puts into it. I know how much it means to him. He’s really worked really diligently to make himself a better player.
It’s nice to see that work pay off with some plays in a game. You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. He knows there are things that he can still do better, and we’re working toward that end.”
In addition to working on his game as a receiver in the preseason, Gibson has also shown that he provides the Eagles value as a kick returner. He has been a kick returner back to his high school days, and at college, Gibson returned 53 kicks for 1,244 yards and one touchdown. On film, Gibson displayed great patience and the ability to find the open hole quickly. While he waited for the blocks to set up, the burner was able to scan the entire field to make a quick cut when needed. Gibson may be the Eagle’s primary kick returner for the 2018 season. But with star Alshon Jeffery definitively missing two or more weeks to open the season, Gibson may also have a role as an X receiver early on.
After three solid weeks of preseason football, Gibson has shown that he could try to fill the void Jeffrey has left. Number 18 could stretch the field and be dangerous with the ball in his hand after underneath shallow routes.
“I’ve put a lot of work in,” Gibson said. “My goal is to just get better every day, keep putting good days back to back. I feel like I’m doing that, but I know I have a lot more to do.”
With a disappointing 2017 season well behind him, it’s time to get excited about the energized 2018 Shelton Gibson.
Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports