Alshon Jeffery dropped almost as many passes — three — as he made catches — four — on Sunday. But when the game was on the line and the Eagles absolutely needed their WR1 to make the play, Jeffery came through.
Jeffery’s 13-yard reception on 3rd-and-3 not only prevented a three-and-out, but wound up sparking an eight-minute, 16-play drive that ended in a field goal to put the Eagles up by eight with only 28 seconds remaining. Still, you get the feeling that’s not the play people are going to remember.
On the previous possession, Jeffery’s third drop killed an Eagles drive, and right after the Bears had made it a one-possession game.
“I should’ve made the play before that,” Jeffery said. “I was trying to catch and run, took my eyes off the ball.”
Much like this 5-4 Eagles team, Jeffery has been maddeningly inconsistent this season. While the 29-year-old hasn’t been a 1,000-yard receiver since 2014, he’s currently on pace for 628 yards this season, which would be the lowest output since his rookie season.
Even putting production aside, the combination of lack of contested, highlight-reel catches and drops is concerning, especially for an offense struggling to find reliable targets in the passing game.
“We’re human at the end of the day, just like anybody else,” Jeffery said. “We’re gonna drop balls. We’re not gonna make every throw, not gonna make every tackle. We just gotta flush ‘em and keep moving.”
Jeffery is essentially chalking it up to everybody makes mistakes, which is easy to do after a win. It’s a lot harder after, say, a dropped pass that may have cost the Eagles their game against the Saints in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs.
It’s also easier to accept from Mack Hollins, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and even Nelson Agholor to some extent than Jeffery, who is being paid like one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. The average value of his contract, $13 million, is tied for 15th.
Despite the drops, dwindling production and questions as to whether Jeffery is still a difference-maker — not to mention rampant rumors he anonymously bashed his quarterback in the media — he’s not stopped asking Carson Wentz for the ball. This time, at least, it paid off.
“I told him I was gonna make a play no matter what,” Jeffery said. “I’ve got confidence in myself. It’s gonna happen. Like I said, we’re only human.”
While Jeffery might come off as cavalier about his drops on Sunday, he was anything but, stressing the importance of communication. He relayed to Wentz and the Eagles coaching staff he was open on the critical third-down play when it was called earlier in the game.
“It was a corner route,” Jeffery said. “We ran it earlier in the game, but Carson said he didn’t see me earlier in the game. He did a great job just sticking with me, just putting it right on me.”
For his part, Wentz has no intentions of going away from Jeffery because of a few drops, either.
“I just told him we’re coming right back to him,” Wentz said. “It’s part of football. It’s part of the game. We’re going to all make mistakes and I have nothing but confidence in him. When he does do that, then I’m going to come right back to him much like we did on that third down later in the game. He made a great play.”
It was a crucial play, one the Eagles needed to have — though maybe not had Jeffery caught the one before, or one of the ones before that. You don’t always know which drop is going to become a backbreaker until after the fact.
Add the mounting concerns about his production and performance in general, and the criticisms of Jeffery aren’t going away anytime soon, even if a big third-down catch may mute them for another week.
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