It’s been nearly a year since we’ve seen Alshon Jeffery play a snap for the Eagles. After suffering a Lisfranc injury in December of last year, Jeffery has been rehabbing in the shadows. He’s set to make his return this week, but there are obvious questions about where he will fit and more importantly, who takes the fall.
“We have a plan for him, and without revealing that plan, we got to get through another day of practice first.” Doug Pederson explained. “He’s done a good job with his rehab and put himself in a position to practice this week and have a full complement of practice participation.
So we’ll see again today. But, look, he’s a veteran player. He’s been one of our starters, and we’ve got a plan if he’s ready to go to get him in the game. Obviously, he’s a big receiver that can help and he knows the offense and what we’re doing.”
“Been one of our starters” might be the key phrase here. A lot has changed since Alshon last saw an NFL field, but the offense largely runs off of the same blueprint:
X receiver: Big-body target
Y receiver: Twitchy slot guy
Z receiver: Speed demon
This obviously puts Alshon Jeffery in line to return to his old stomping ground…which is currently being ripped to shreds by Travis Fulgham. The sophomore wideout leads the NFL in receiving since his activation in week 4 and has been the brightest point of this Eagles season so far. If Alshon’s return cuts into Fulgham’s snaps, there will likely be a lot of external backlash.
Another option is that we see Jeffery used in the slot. He featured on slot screens last year with varying success levels, but as a bigger body, he could well become a red-zone weapon on the inside against smaller cornerbacks.
Despite the question marks, it is naturally unlikely that Jeffery jogs out onto the field for the first drive and plays every snap thereafter. This was something Pederson was quick to acknowledge.
“I’m hopeful that he can just kind of plug and play, but realistically I think it’s going to take some time.” The Eagles Head Coach explained. “It’s going to take a little bit of time for him to get comfortable in the game, to be up to game speed, to kind of get fully integrated back into playing football.
It has been a while, as you said. That’s why our plan has to behoove him as a player and the offense. It’s just something that we have to as a staff be smart if he’s ready to go that — you know, I don’t want to crush Alshon physically and factor in fatigue or more injury or whatever.
So we have to be smart with that, but I also have to listen to Alshon and how he feels going into this week. That’s why these practice days have been so important and really today becomes a big day as well.”
Whatever Alshon’s role looks like, the Eagles need to be careful that he doesn’t eat into the playing time of Travis Fulgham or Jalen Reagor. It’s not like Jeffery is guaranteed to be around next year due to his astonishing cap-hit and it makes far more sense to continue feeding the younger guys. Only time will tell if Pederson carries that same mindset, having been without Jeffery for 11 months.
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