Even when he’s not catching passes, Alshon Jeffery can make a huge difference.
When he is catching them it’s that much better.
That’s why Carson Wentz is so excited about the prospect of getting the veteran wide receiver back for the Eagles’ pivotal game Thursday night against the Packers.
Jeffery, one of the NFL’s steadiest wide receivers, caught five passes for 49 yards and a touchdown on opening day against the Redskins but then left the Atlanta game after just six snaps with a calf injury.
He didn’t play Sunday in the loss to the Lions but practiced Tuesday and head coach Doug Pederson said he expects to have him Thursday night.
I expect him to play,” Pederson said Wednesday morning before the team chartered to Wisconsin. “Obviously with limited full-speed practice reps he took part in everything this week. He feels good, so I expect him to go. It gives our offense a lift from the standpoint of a veteran player, a guy Carson knows and understands.
DeSean Jackson is still out indefinitely with an abdominal strain, but getting one of the starting receivers back would be huge.
I’m hoping to have him back,” Wentz said. “Obviously, having Alshon out there, he’s a difference maker. He’s a matchup problem for a lot of guys. Even when he’s covered I always think he’s open and he’s able to do some different things that are special, so having him out there would be a huge lift for this offense and I think it would definitely put a little fear in their defense, just knowing that he’s out there. They’d have to be aware of him.
Jeffery is one of only five NFL receivers with at least 50 catches and 750 yards in each of the last six seasons.
The others are Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton, DeAndre Hopkins and … Golden Tate, of course.
Jeffery’s 5,814 yards since 2013 are 10th-most in the NFL.
The Eagles miss Jackson and his deep play capability, but they miss Jeffery just as much. He’s a big, reliable target, a matchup nightmare at 6-foot-3 and a legit red-zone threat.
In 25 games with Wentz, Jeffery has 127 catches for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Zach Ertz was doubled virtually every snap Sunday in the loss to the Lions. He played 76 snaps but was targeted just seven times and caught only four passes, though they did go for 64 yards.
If Jeffery is healthy and can run, doubling Ertz constantly becomes much more problematic because now you have a more dangerous, more accomplished receiver being singled.
“It does open up guys like Nelly, it does open up guys like Zach," Pederson said. "Being able to spread the ball around is critical in our offense.”
Jackson will help stretch the field whenever he gets back, but just having Ertz and Jeffery on the field at the same time should open up a lot for this offense and give Wentz another legitimate option.
Having Zach and Alshon out there together I think definitely creates … I don’t know who they’re going to double, I don’t know if they would double anyone because of that,” Wentz said. “But hopefully we can get Alshon back healthy and create some mismatches that way.
Jeffery, much like Jordan Howard, has a history at Lambeau, thanks to his five seasons with the Bears.
He caught 21 passes for 246 yards in four games at Lambeau after becoming a full-time starter in 2013.
Overall, he’s got 40 catches for 539 yards and three TDs in eight starts against the Packers.
That’s five catches for about 67 yards per game. The Eagles would sign up for that right now.
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