Alshon Jeffery is a No. 1 wide receiver, and now that he’s under contract with the Eagles through 2021, don’t let anybody try to tell you different.
From a pure production standpoint, Jeffery’s Eagles tenure admittedly got off to a slow start. Seven games into a one-year deal, the longtime Bears star had 26 receptions for 354 yards — an average of 3.7 for 50.6 per game — with two touchdowns. The numbers hardly lived up to the hype, or some of the more modest expectations for that matter.
Even now, Jeffery is not on pace to finish with 1,000 yards this season, while less than 50 percent of his targets (48.3%) have gone for receptions. It’s certainly atypical of a so-called feature receiver who just signed a four-year extension worth $52 million, $27 million guaranteed.
Those statistics also ignore the way Jeffery has performed of late. Whether it’s because he was new in the offense, needed time to build a rapport with quarterback Carson Wentz, or opposing defenses are taking their chances and rolling coverages elsewhere, Jeffery is beginning to fill up the box score with regularity.
In the Eagles’ last four games, Jeffery has 17 receptions for 265 yards with five touchdowns. Extrapolate his current run over a 16-game season, and he would finish with 68 catches, 1,060 yards and 20 trips to end zone.
This may be just the tip of the iceberg for Jeffery. Or, it could be that he’s finally realizing his potential.
Either way, Jeffery looks increasingly like the No. 1 wideout that he truly is.
At this point, any criticism of Jeffery’s No. 1 credentials may boil down to expectations. He’s not necessarily going to catch 80-plus passes, as he did twice in Chicago, or rack up 1,400 yards receiving as he did in his 2013 Pro Bowl campaign. Nor do the Eagles require that type of volume, with tight end Zach Ertz playing a huge role in the passing attack and one of the NFL’s best running games.
Where Jeffery has shined, however, is finding the end zone. With seven receiving touchdowns — tied for fifth in the league — and five games remaining, he could easily reach double digits for the second time in his six-year career. Wentz has overthrown his favorite target on multiple occasions as well, robbing Jeffery of the chance to have 10 already.
Five of Jeffery’s seven scores have been inside the red zone, and give him three two-point conversions as well. He’s 6-foot-3, 218 pounds and plays like every bit of it when the field shortens.
But even when Jeffery hasn’t made an outsized impact on the stat sheet, his presence is still felt. One look at the tape will show the respect defenses have for the 27-year-old wideout. He dictates coverages, creating opportunities for Ertz and Nelson Agholor in the slot — it’s no coincidence both players are enjoying career years.
Jeffery does everything a bona fide No. 1 does. He produces. He's a beast in the red zone. He catches 50/50 balls. He draws the attention of the defense. He blocks. The only thing Jeffery doesn't do it seems is complain when he doesn't get his numbers.
In terms of both the total of the new deal, Jeffery's contract currently ranks eighth among all wide receivers. At $13 million annually, the deal is seventh, and the guaranteed money is fifth. It is expensive.
Although, Jeffery will be just 31 in the final year of this contract, and he's only now beginning to find his groove with Wentz. It's entirely possible the best is yet to come.
Even if it's not, and Jeffery is the same player we've seen through 11 games, the Eagles locked up a legitimate No. 1 receiver for the foreseeable future, through his prime, at the going rate. That's nothing to complain about.