Doug Pederson spoke for a couple minutes Wednesday about Travis Fulgham, but five words stuck out:
“He’s got to play better.”
Why has Fulgham’s playing time diminished down to about nothing not long after he was the NFL’s most productive receiver over a five-week span?
“He’s got to play better.”
One of the stranger developments of this strange 2020 season has been Fulgham’s sudden rise from the practice squad to spectacular heights and his equally rapid plunge back into obscurity.
His 435 yards were most in the NFL from Week 4 through Week 8. And his 152 yards against the Steelers are 15th most in NFL history by a player in his first five NFL games.
Since that whirlwind five-game stretch, the Lions and Packers castoff has four catches for 32 yards in five games. He doesn’t have a catch in the Eagles’ last two games and was targeted once in the Saints game.
His snaps have gone from 73 per game through the Browns game to 37 to 25 to 11.
Heck, he played half as many snaps Sunday as rookie sixth-round pick Quez Watkins, who has one career catch for three yards.
Fulgham, meanwhile, has gone from 13 targets in the Steelers game to 11 snaps in the Saints game.
Pederson in recent weeks has hinted at Fulgham’s work habits being an issue:
Nov. 23: “I’m concerned about Travis' production and getting him better and helping him get better. He needs to get better.”
Nov. 25: “He really has to focus in and detail his work and practice hard and fast.”
Nov. 30: “He’s got to continue to work hard each week.”
Now we’re at the point where Pederson trusts Alshon Jeffery more than Fulgham, which is something nobody could have foreseen a month ago.
“We still game plan for Travis,” Pederson said. “I’ll tell you this, Alshon is getting healthier and is playing better and we game plan for him. There are certain plays, specific plays that Travis is going to be in on and there's specific plays that Alshon is going to be in on. It's the same with Jalen Reagor versus (John) Hightower or Quez or somebody like that. It's just a matter of how we as coaches see the game plan going and getting everybody involved.”
In Pederson’s defense, Fulgham has four drops, including a bad one Sunday against the Saints on a ball that sailed right through his hands and should have been a 20-yard gain.
Jeffery has only three catches in five games back after missing a year but did catch a touchdown pass from Jalen Hurts Sunday.
“Listen, we know we have to do better,” Pederson said. “He has to do better. He's got to play better, but at the same time Alshon is playing better too, so we're going to play the guys on that particular play who are in the game. That's based on game plan, so you can't put it on Travis. You can put it on me. I'm the play caller, I call the personnel groups, so put it on me."
Maybe. But in this case, you have to put a lot of it on Fulgham as well.
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