The Eagles offense looks more fiery than ever heading into 2019. With depth and excellence at every position, it’s hard to pinpoint a weakness. The wide receiver spot has become an area of massive strength after an offseason in which they signed DeSean Jackson, drafted JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and retained Nelson Agholor, but with such an elite group, there are bound to be players left out in the cold…and one of those names just so happens to be a former draft pick.
Through his first two seasons, Shelton Gibson has three catches for 59 yards. That production alone is worrying, but 48 of those yards came on a reception against the Vikings last year. But that in itself is worrying.
The then second-year receiver finally broke free of his own chains during last year’s preseason, notching 195 yards, scoring 2 touchdowns and leading the team in receiving. Nate Sudfeld had no qualms in letting it rip downfield and Gibson reaped the rewards, averaging over 20 yards per reception. This in itself should come as no surprise. As a senior in college, Gibson recorded 951 yards for West Virginia, averaging 22.1 yards per reception, ranking 4th in the country.
So, when Mike Wallace went down with an injury and the team desperately needed a deep-threat, one would assume that Gibson would be the natural choice, especially after ‘redshirting’ his first year. But he wasn’t. The wideout saw just 5% of offensive snaps in 2018, finding a new home in the process.
The 5’11, 191 lbs, receiver played in 34% of special teams snaps, primarily acting as a ‘gunner’. But even that niche role may not be enough to secure him a place on the roster by default.
Players like Greg Ward Jr, Charles Johnson, and even Marken Michel, a former CFL standout who bears a near-identical frame to that of Gibson, and brings with him plenty of speed and versatility, are now breathing down his neck.
One would think with DeSean Jackson now back in the fray, having the opportunity to learn from one of the best deep-threats in NFL history could be of tremendous value to Gibson. After all, he was taken under the wing of Nelson Agholor heading into his second season.
“Last year, I used to wonder all the time ‘am I running the right route?’ Gibson said. So then I can’t even run fast, I can’t even play fast.”
“He asked me a couple weeks ago, when we first came back, if I’m doing everything I can do to be great,” Gibson said. “I told him ‘no.’ He told me from this day forward, don’t let that be the thing.”
But now Gibson isn’t guaranteed that luxury. Time is running out and speed may not be enough to save his spot. He simply has to step up and stand out to prove that he can be a solid depth option beneath DeSean Jackson and outside of a preseason breakout last year, there is little else working in his favor.
Speed is nice, special teams prowess is nicer, but showing a clear leap in development heading into year 3 would be nicest. There is pressure from all angles now and it may even come down to choosing between Mack Hollins, another deep-threat who is built in a very different way and is a fellow draft-mate of Gibson’s, and Shelly himself.
The wide receiver competition is intriguing to say the least, but Gibson is going to have to claw his way to a roster spot this time around. A preseason breakout may not be enough if the Eagles are finding value elsewhere. So with Training Camp on the horizon, what we have is a fragmented receiver. Gibson’s lightning-fast, but hasn’t been able to reliably prove that at the next level. He has special teams value, but that matters not if he can’t provide that same value on offense.
Can the former Mountaineer channel that deep speed once again and put all the pieces of a broken puzzle together?