The Eagles got some good news on the injury front over their bye week, as NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported that both Miles Sanders and Alshon Jeffery should be full participants in practice this week as the team prepares for their second matchup with the New York Giants.
Getting Sanders back is obviously great for the running game, which takes a dip in production whenever Sanders isn’t in the lineup. We all know the value he brings to the Eagles backfield.
Alshon’s role in this Eagles offense isn’t a clear now, though, with the emergence of Travis Fulgham and the return of rookie Jalen Reagor from injury. In Alshon’s absence, Fulgham manned the X position on Doug Pederson’s offense, the position typically occupied by Jeffery.
It’ll be interesting to see how Doug decides to treat the return of Alshon. For long-term purposes, allowing Carson Wentz to get as much playing time with the trio of Fulgham, Reagor, and Greg Ward is the right move. Throwing Jeffery back into the fold will take one of those guys off the field.
But speaking on just the 2020 season, the Eagles could use an extra hand at wide receiver. You can never have too many viable weapons on offense, especially in the Eagles’ case, where we see skill players get hurt almost every week. Alshon is more than capable of filling in full-time for one of the starting wideouts if they go down with injury.
There are two ways I could see Alshon’s return playing out this season. The first, and the more interesting one, would have Alshon resume his role on the outside at the X spot and move Fulgham into the slot. This would take playing time away from Ward, who leads the team in receptions this year with 32 and has found the endzone three times. But putting a big guy like Fulgham in the slot would create matchup issues for opposing defenses.
I’m sure Pederson would still start Ward in the slot heading into each game, but supplementing him with Fulgham from time to time would keep defenses on their toes. The only position Alshon can play effectively at is the X, so if you want to get the most out of him, you’ll have to figure out ways to move Fulgham around. From what we’ve seen out of Fulgham since he’s been in the starting lineup, there’s no doubt in my mind he could still produce playing in the slot.
The other way this could play out, is just keeping Alshon on a snap count and subbing him in for Fulgham throughout the game. That’s not nearly as interesting or exciting as the first idea, but it’s something we’ve seen Pederson do before. He did something similar with DeSean Jackson when he was healthy this year, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he employed a similar plan for Alshon.
The Eagles are getting healthy at the right time. It doesn’t matter what you think of Alshon at this point in his Eagles career, he still brings value to this offense. Like I said earlier, you can never have too many weapons on offense, so Alshon’s return should be a welcomed one.