One of the great mysteries of the Eagles’ 2020 season is what the heck happened to Travis Fulgham?
He went from unknown practice squad call-up to explosive playmaking star for a month before quickly fading back into obscurity.
Who is he really?
The guy who caught 29 passes for 435 yards and four touchdowns out of the blue during a five-week span early in the season or the guy who had just nine catches for 94 yards and no TDs the last nine weeks of the season?
The bigger mystery is where does Fulgham fit in on the 2021 roster? Can he reclaim the form that made the 3rd-leading receiver in the NFL for five weeks (behind Davante Adams and D.K. Metcalf) or have we seen the best we’ll ever get from him?
Aaron Moorehead, the Eagles’ wide receivers coach last year under Doug Pederson, was retained by Nick Sirianni and shared his perspective on Fulgham's 2020 ascent and decline and what it means for his future.
“The (five) weeks showed me a lot and it showed everybody a lot and with that it also comes with responsibility of understanding that now defenses are going to start scheming toward you to stop you and that for a young player, sometimes, him understanding that, took a little bit,” Moorehead said. “And then he got nicked up a little bit, and didn’t complain, but he had to play through it, and as the season got going it wore on him a little bit.
“But the guy has it. We saw it. We all saw it. And it’s in there and I’m looking forward to seeing Travis and what he does this year.”
How good was Fulgham last year?
From Week 4 through Week 8, he had more yards than any other Eagles wide receiver had all year.
Only eight other WRs 25 or younger in franchise history have had 435 yards in any five-game stretch, and it’s an impressive list: Harold Jackson, Ben Hawkins, Harold Carmichael, Mike Quick, Fred Barnett, Reggie Brown, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
Fulgham’s five-game stretch began with a spectacular game-winning 42-yard TD catch from Carson Wentz against the 49ers – his second career reception – and continued with 10-for-152 in Pittsburgh and then 75, 73 and 78 yards against the Ravens, Giants and Cowboys.
He became the first Eagles wide receiver since DeSean Jackson in 2012 with four straight games with 70 yards and the first 25 or younger since Quick in 1983.
And then … nothing.
Drops increased. Production plunged. And then he began losing snaps to Alshon Jeffery, who was back after a long injury layoff.
After averaging 55 snaps in his first eight games, Fulgham averaged just 22 the rest of the year.
He was a non-factor.
Moorehead explained why.
“Football’s a meritocracy,” Moorehead said. “You play what you earn and that is every player on the field. And I think that at the same time, Alshon was coming back from injury, he had been practicing for three or four weeks, and as his injury started getting better he started getting healthy (and playing). … I don’t want to say (his return) stunted Travis. I would say at the least of anything, which is good for Travis, it opened his eyes. ‘Hey look, you better come out here and practice every day like your job is on the line or else someone else can take your job.’ And I think as a young player, a second-year player in this league, he was able to take that lesson. I hope he takes it and runs with it in Year 3.”
Fulgham did pick things up a bit at the end of the season. He had catches of 12 and 18 yards in a loss to the Cards, he caught a 19-yarder a week later in Dallas and he caught a 15-yarder (from Greg Ward) in the season finale against Washington.
At least it was something, and Moorehead credits Fulgham for fighting through a brutal stretch and bouncing back.
“I think the guy as you saw him progress last year, he kind of hit a little bit of a rut,” Moorehead said. “We saw it. He got out of it, and that was the thing to me that was so impressive, he didn’t go, ‘OK, I’m going to let this affect me completely.’ He started understanding what the responsibility was and what the expectation was.
“There’s plenty of players in this league that have played four weeks and have gone really well and you don’t hear from them for a while and understanding is that what’s going to define you or it’s just going to be a little blip? And I think if Travis can continue to grow physically and mentally, all those things, he can get himself to be that guy. And if he does? To be honest? Our receiving corps with Jalen (Reagor) and DeVonta (Smith), Travis, Greg, can be really, really, really good.”
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