Alshon Jeffery has finally been cleared for contact. The next step for him is becoming the Alshon Jeffery we saw in 2017.
That could take a while.
“There’s going to be obviously a progression with him,” Doug Pederson said Wednesday. “I don’t think it’ll be instantaneous. But at the same time, the more comfortable he gets, the better he becomes.”
Pederson said no decision has been made whether Jeffery will play Sunday against the Titans in Nashville, although it’s hard to imagine he won’t barring a setback.
Jeffery missed the first three games of the season while rehabbing following February shoulder surgery.
When healthy, he’s a huge weapon. With his size, he’s almost unstoppable in the red zone. With his wingspan, he has the ability to soar above cornerbacks and make difficult catches. And with his experience, he gives an offense that’s been shaky instant credibility.
“It definitely gives us offensively a shot in the arm,” Pederson said. “He can become a big impact, quite honestly. … He makes a huge difference for us.
“He becomes a target defensively, as you saw in some of the games last year, where he was doubled a lot, especially in the red zone."
Jeffery played way better than his numbers last year.
He caught 57 passes for 789 yards but scored nine touchdowns, then was huge in the postseason, with 12 catches for 219 yards and three more TDs, including an acrobatic 34-yarder from Nick Foles in the Super Bowl.
What makes his performance even more remarkable is that he played late in the season and through the playoffs with a shoulder injury that required surgery.
How big is getting him back?
Mike Wallace, Kamar Aiken, DeAndre Carter, Shelton Gibson, Markus Wheaton and Jordan Matthews have played a combined 327 snaps and have eight catches for 70 yards.
A healthy Jeffery commands double teams and takes pressure off Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor, who have more than half the Eagles’ catches so far (41 of 80) and are the only Eagles with more than eight receptions.
“If he’s doubled, it obviously leaves them singled, and that helps them right there,” Pederson said.
“But I think just having those three guys together, kind of feeding off one another, route combinations, understanding concepts, helps Nelly, helps Zach and really helps Alshon.”
One by one, the pieces of the Super Bowl run are returning.
Carson Wentz will make his second start Sunday against the Titans, and there’s a chance Jay Ajayi will be back as well.
That would mean everybody from the Super Bowl receiving crew is back, minus Torrey Smith and Trey Burton but plus Dallas Goedert and Matthews and perhaps Darren Sproles.
The next step is getting all these new pieces to work seamlessly together.
That could take a while.
“Finally get our quarterback back, we’ve had some injuries at the running back position, receiver, so just getting some continuity and some flow with that group, getting them to play together, is something that in these next few weeks will be important for us,” Pederson said.
“Listen, we’re not going to pick up where we were at the end of the season last year. It takes a little time.
“I’m excited about it because really the sky’s the limit with the group and they begin to work that chemistry out at practice and in the games.”