For a five-week stretch earlier this year, Travis Fulgham came out of nowhere to become one of the best receivers in the entire NFL.
In his first five games with the Eagles, Fulgham had 29 catches for 435 yards and 4 touchdowns. He led the NFL in receiving yards from Weeks 4-8, ahead of guys like George Kittle, Stefon Diggs, Julio Jones, everyone. That’s no fluke.
But Fulgham has come back to Earth in the last two weeks.
Since the bye week, against the Giants and Browns, Fulgham has been targeted 12 times but has just 2 catches for 16 yards and has also dropped a couple of passes.
“Well, I attribute probably the lack of production for just the way that defenses are scheming him,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “We have seen a top defender, corner, at least go to his side of the field or at least guard him.”
Against the Giants, Fulgham saw quite a bit of James Bradberry. And against the Browns he got a healthy dose of Denzel Ward. Those are two very good cornerbacks.
See, when Fulgham was called up from the practice squad and began to have immediate success, he surprised NFL defenses. But now those defenses have tape on Fulgham and have adjusted accordingly. They’re treating Fulgham like a No. 1 receiver.
So now it’s time for Fulgham and the Eagles’ offense to adjust to that adjustment.
“It's something that he has to, as a young player, he has to understand,” Pederson said, “because the more – and if he wants to be an elite receiver in this game, and in this league, he's going to know that's always going to be the case every week, and he really has to focus in and detail his work and practice hard and fast and just prepare himself for that.
“That's how you see some of the great players in this league, particularly at the receiver position, how they handle that. Just knowing that they're going to gain the respect around the league the more opportunities and the better they become.”
Sure, some of this is also on Pederson and the offensive coaches to figure out how to best utilize Fulgham, especially with a quarterback like Carson Wentz who is struggling. So there need to be adjustments all around. But some of it is on Fulgham too. He’s a big body receiver without blazing speed, so everything else has to be detailed.
When the dust settles, is Fulgham the player who took over the NFL earlier this season or is he the guy who has struggled mightily to produce in recent weeks?
The truth might be somewhere in between. You just can’t convince me that being the NFL’s top receiver for over a month is a fluke; that doesn’t happen unless he somehow became the NFL’s version of Jeremy Lin. I’m not buying that.
On Wednesday, Wentz was asked if he thinks Fulgham can take the steps toward becoming an elite receiver as Pederson mentioned.
“I do. I have a lot of trust in Travis,” Wentz said. “I don’t think he needs to necessarily change how he plays. I think it’s just continue to build within this offense and his route tree and all of those things. He obviously came onto the scene pretty quick, caught a lot of people by surprise and he’s been a pleasant surprise for me and for this offense.
“But he’s going to keep being a big part of this offense. Last game, the conditions and everything were maybe challenging for him, but that is what it is. I think he’s a dynamic player that’s going to keep getting better. He’s still young and within this offense he’s going to keep learning and developing into, I believe, a really good player.”
The Eagles have six games left in their 2020 season and one thing they need to find out is how Fulgham fits into the puzzle at receiver going forward. On Monday night, the Eagles will face the NFL’s 32nd-ranked pass defense, so that could give Fulgham a nice boost.
Because we all want to know what Travis Fulgham is. We’ll hopefully find out soon enough.
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