Eagles wide receiver Robert Davis has plenty to be thankful for

USA Today Images/Brad Mills

Eagles wide receiver Robert Davis has plenty to be thankful for

Robert Davis has been in the NFL for three years and has one catch.

He’s not technically on an NFL roster right now, he doesn’t know where he’ll be next year, he doesn’t know if he’ll ever play again.

And he couldn’t be happier.

Davis has a lot to be thankful for as he celebrates his first Thanksgiving as a member of the Eagles’ practice squad.

Here’s a guy who caught seven passes in his entire high school career. Who didn’t get a scholarship offer until a college scout saw him playing basketball. Who worked his way into the Redskins’ rotation last summer before suffering a ghastly injury — a torn ACL and broken leg — at training camp. Who’s already been cut three times and won’t turn 25 until April.

It hasn’t been an easy road for Davis, but he’s one of the most upbeat, positive guys you’ll ever see.

It’s already carried him a long way. And who knows where it'll take him next.

'That was my only offer'

Davis played football at Northside High School in Warner Robins, Georgia, also the hometown of one-time Eagles first-round pick Ben Smith.

As legend has it, he caught only 11 passes in his entire career playing for the Northside Eagles.

Not true.

“Every year it seems like one catch gets added onto it,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve heard 11, but it was actually only seven.”

Seven catches. 

We ran the triple-option, so we didn’t really throw the ball but maybe three or four times a game. My job was really to block a lot, but we won a lot of games. When you’re in high school, especially my mindset, I just wanted to win games. Eventually, when I started thinking about college and stuff like that, I did want to get a couple more catches so college scouts would see me, but it worked out for itself. I was able to show athleticism in the little stuff I did.

But it wasn’t until the 6-foot-3 Davis was playing basketball that a college scout actually spotted him.

Turns out then-Georgia State head coach Trent Miles — who was with the Eagles in 2017 and 2018 as an offensive assistant — was visiting Northside to recruit a linebacker, Trey Payne, and Northside coach Kevin Kinsler gave Miles a heads up about Davis.

He was like, ‘Yeah, we have a guy who can really play, we just don’t get him the ball in our offense, but he has a basketball game today if you want to go check him out.’ So it happened to be a game where I went for 25 points, a couple slam dunks, some blocked shots, and they offered me off that. That was my only offer. That’s one thing to be thankful for. I’m thankful to Trent Miles for giving me a look and a chance to play football.

'I could barely walk'

Georgia State is located in Atlanta, about an hour and a half north of Warner Robins, and Davis had a fantastic college career for the Panthers, breaking just about every school record, including most career catches (222) and yards (3,391) — second-most in Sun Belt Conference history, behind T.Y. Hilton.

The Redskins drafted him in the sixth round in 2017, and although he was briefly on the 53, he played in only one game and didn’t get a snap on offense.

Back for his second season, Davis was enjoying a very good training camp last summer and competing for a starting job when he crumpled to the ground at practice with torn ligaments and a fractured tibia in his right leg.

It was tough because I worked my whole rookie year, came back my second year, was playing my best football, played against the Patriots, started that game and had one of my best games, so to get hurt the next day in practice was pretty frustrating. But that’s the game. You move on.

After spending a week in a wheelchair and a few months on crutches, Davis was back for the start of camp this past summer and opened the preseason with a bang — a 46-yard TD from Case Keenum against the Browns and a 55-yarder from Dwayne Haskins against the Bengals. 

But he wound up back on the practice squad again and after a brief stint on the 53, when he caught his first — and only — career pass, he was released again.

This time he signed with the Eagles, joining the practice squad last month.

You’re always thankful for opportunities. Last year at this time I could barely walk. So just to be on my own two feet is a great feeling, no matter where I am. But to be part of a winning organization like this? That’s really a plus. It’s been a journey, but it’s one that I’m thankful for.

'He's a freak of nature'

Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld was with Davis in Washington during 2017 training camp and was thrilled when he heard the Eagles signed him.

He’s a freak of nature,” Sudfeld said. “He’s got muscles on top of muscles. Definitely looks the part of a big, freak wide receiver, and he plays big. He’s got speed, really good at running routes, he’s smart. He’s got a bright future, definitely. Coming off a serious injury, the way he’s come back and looked as good as he has? So impressive. I think it’s really good for him to get in the system where he can learn, but I think he can really be a good player in this league for a long time. Really glad he’s here.

Players on a practices squad are technically free agents, free to sign with any team whenever they want. So Davis could be gone tomorrow.

But considering that major changes are likely here at the wide receiver position, there’s certainly a chance the Eagles will want to keep Davis beyond this season if he’s still available and see what he can do with a full offseason and training camp.

It’s human nature to think about [the future]. Everybody wants to have success in this sport. I have dreams of being a Philadelphia Eagle, being a contributor, being a starter one day, that’s what I work for. So I work hard every day, try to be my best at practice, treat practice like game day. Just to have this opportunity to elevate to the next level is a blessing in itself.

'I have a lot to be thankful for'

Practice squad players earn $8,000 per week, which is good money but only a fraction of what even the lowest-paid guys on the 53-man roster earn.

So Davis is biding his time, working as hard as he can and hoping for the same opportunity that guys like Boston Scott, Alex Singleton, Craig James, Greg Ward, Bruce Hector, Ryan Lewis and Alex Ellis have all gotten. Just this year, they’ve all signed from the practice squad onto the Eagles' 53.

I have a ton of respect for guys who go on the practice squad and earn their way,” Sudfeld said. “I’m proud I was on the practice squad and had to fight and earn my way onto a roster and it did a lot of good. As Stout (Jeff Stoutland) always says, ‘A hungry dog runs faster.’ When you feel like you don’t have it quite in your grasp you definitely don’t take it for granted and you want to keep pushing and improving and working on your craft. And Rob’s really done that. He’s really determined coming off that injury, really focused every day. I’m very proud of Rob and excited for his future.

Davis will spend a quiet Thanksgiving with his girlfriend at his apartment in Philadelphia and be back on the practice field Friday.

He said he doesn’t really worry about the future. 

I’m a firm believer in God, and I believe God has put me in a situation to set myself up for the future, so I’m thankful for that. As far as everything else, it'll happen when it's meant to happen. But just being here and being able to play the game I love? I have a lot to be thankful for.

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Have Eagles really done enough to fix wide receiver position?

Have Eagles really done enough to fix wide receiver position?

Conventional wisdom says the Eagles upgraded the wide receiver position this offseason.

Not like they had any choice.

Their wide receiver production was the worst in modern Eagles history.

• So bad that for the first time since 1966 they didn’t have a wide receiver with 500 yards.

• So bad that they didn’t have any WRs ranked in the top 65 in the NFL in yards.

• So bad that they didn’t have a receiver all year record consecutive games with at least 65 yards. 

• So bad that the five receivers that suited up for the playoff game against the Seahawks had a combined 55 career receptions.

• So bad that Doug Pederson fired Carson Walch and hired Aaron Moorehead as the team's sixth WRs coach in six years.

It was time for a total rebuild, and that’s what Howie Roseman did.

But as we wait to see what form — if any — a 2020 NFL season takes, the reality is that there isn’t a single sure thing in the restructured Eagles wide receiver corps.

Every single guy is a big, giant question mark.

There are once-great veterans. Youngsters with potential. Long shots who could be keepers.

But there isn’t one guy who you can safely say, “OK, he’s going to catch 65 passes for 850 yards and seven touchdowns this year.”

Yet the Eagles rank sixth in projected 2020 wide receiver spending at $34.1 million, according to Spotrac.

The Eagles currently have 14 wide receivers on the roster. We broke them down into five categories.

Who will wind up making the team? Who will wind up starting? Who will wind up contributing? 

How good will they really be?

A lot of projecting so far. A lot of unknowns. And a lot of hoping.

One-time Pro Bowlers

DeSean Jackson is 33 years old and Alshon Jeffery is 30. Jeffery got significant snaps in only eight games last year and Jackson in just one, although it was an explosive one. Neither has made a Pro Bowl since 2013, both are coming off serious injuries and both are at an age where even healthy receivers begin declining.

Jackson is on the books with an $8.6 million cap figure this year and Jeffery a whopping $15.45 million. The Eagles need production at those numbers. But how much can they expect from Jackson and Jeffery?

Reclamation project

The Eagles gave up virtually nothing to take speedy Marquise Goodwin and his bloated contract off the 49ers’ hands. 

But what are they getting in Goodwin? A guy who has 35 catches the last two years, has averaged 332 yards in his seven NFL seasons and has caught 30 passes just once, in his excellent 2017 season.

Goodwin has a $4.28 million cap figure, so if he makes the team, he better produce. But what does he have left? And can the Eagles get enough of a sense of what they have in Goodwin in a curtailed offseason to make that $4.28 million commitment?

Young draft picks

The real key to this wide receiving corps isn’t Jackson, Jeffery or Goodwin. It’s the 23-year-old JJ Arcega-Whiteside and the 21-year-old Jalen Reagor, the Eagles’ second- and first-round draft picks the last two years.

Reagor was the 21st pick this year and you’d expect a sizeable contribution as a rookie. JJAW was terrible last year but you’d hope for a big jump in Year 2. The reality is Roseman has never drafted an elite wide receiver. Or even a better-than-average one.

Reagor and/or JJAW have to end that streak.

Practice squad posse

Greg Ward is the closest thing to a sure thing the Eagles have, and he’s played seven games in his career. He had nearly half the catches by Eagles WRs the last seven games of the season (28 of 59). But it's still a very small body of work.

Deontay Burnett had a big 41-yard catch against the Giants — the fourth-longest catch of the year by an Eagles WR — and Ward, Burnett, Robert Davis, Marcus Green and Shelton Gibson make it Eagles six 2019 practice squad receivers currently on the roster. Can any of them really be factors?

Rookie long shots

Rookie fifth-round pick John Hightower and sixth-rounder Quez Watkins are both late-round speeders. Manasseh Bailey had a fine career at Morgan State and Khalil Tate is trying to convert from quarterback to wide out, much like Ward did after playing QB at Houston.

Hightower probably has the best shot from this group to make the team and find his way onto the field, but at this point, without OTAs or preseason games, they’re all long shots.

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New York Jets WR calls Philly a 'dirty a**, trash a** city'

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While the city of Philadelphia was celebrating the birth of a nation over the weekend, a New York Jets rookie wide receiver was trashing the city where our independence became official.

Denzel Mims must have had one really bad weekend in Philly once upon a time. You may recall Mims' curious comments about Philadelphia back prior to the draft in April:

I've been to Philadelphia one time, and it was last summer, before the season. I went with a couple teammates, and my head coach. We went up there, and we just spent a lot of time together. 

The experience I had, I was very scared. I wasn't familiar with the whole city, and it was a lot going on. You see a lot of people that look scary. I'm not a part of that, I don't like that. So I mean, I had a bad experience, you could say, going up there for the first time. But I feel like if I just go there more, and I just get familiar with it, I could have a great time.

And then over the weekend while streaming a video game online, Mims doubled down with even harsher words when asked about his dislike of Philadelphia, via USA Today.

I didn't like that dirty ass, trash ass city.

I mean, to be fair, there is a problem with litter on the streets here. But still, harsh words.

Too bad there probably won't be a preseason game with the Jets this year so some defender could lay a smackdown on him.