Sometimes what you need doesn’t come from where you usually look.
The Eagles have tried, through free agency, trades and the NFL Draft, to assemble a solid, stable group of wide receivers for Carson Wentz. This season, the group we had expected to see – Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor and JJ Arcega-Whiteside – have been largely absent, whether due to injury or lack of playmaking ability.
But while the Eagles (sorry, the first-place Eagles) aren’t exactly thriving in the absence of those guys, they are doing just fine right now thanks to The Other Guys: a rookie fifth-round pick, a former sixth-round pick on his third roster in three months, and an undrafted free agent who was a full-time quarterback in college.
Let that sink in for a moment.
For all the money and assets spent on the Eagles’ wide receiving corps, they are getting solid production from John Hightower, Travis Fulgham and Greg Ward. Guys that a few months ago weren’t household names outside of their own households.
If the Eagles winning with third-string offensive linemen is the biggest surprise of the season, these wideouts producing as they have is a very close second.
Jackson on IR with another injury? No problem. We have our deep threat. Hightower has as many 50-plus yard catches (two) as Jackson has had since the start of last season. His 59-yard catch in the fourth quarter Thursday night set up a touchdown in the Eagles’ comeback.
“That was a huge play for us and he’s going to keep getting better and better,” Wentz said about Hightower’s big grab. “I like what I see, a lot, from him.”
Jeffery slow to return from Lisfranc surgery? Take your time. Fulgham has stepped in and been Wentz’s go-to guy since Howie Roseman snapped him off the waiver wire back in August. The last three games Fulgham has been Wentz’s most-targeted teammate (34 in all), with 21 catches for 300 yards and two scores over that span.
Searching for a slot possession receiver? We have your man. He’s not the prototype for the position at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, but Ward gets open, and he’s as sure-handed as they come. Remember how well he played down the stretch last season? It’s continued in 2020. Since joining the Eagles, Ward has caught 57 out of 80 passes thrown his way (71.3 percent). By comparison, Patriots WR Julian Edelman has never topped 69.3 percent in a season.
If you want to criticize Roseman for his roster construction this season, you’re right to do so. You should. But you have to give him some credit for finding these receivers.
I know this Eagles season hasn’t exactly been suitable for framing, but imagine if Fulgham, Hightower and Ward didn’t perform to the level they have this season.
Ugh. On second thought, don’t imagine that.