Opportunity is Wasted for Many Eagles Skill-Position Players
(973espn.com) - It was supposed to be a night for "The Other Guys" but unlike the underrated Mark Wahlberg-Will Ferrell comedy, everyone not named Shelton Gibson failed to seize their opportunities.
Gibson, the second-year receiver out of West Virginia, proved to be the exception to the rule during a 37-20 preseason setback to New England and after sweating out cutdown day as a rookie, the rest of his summer this year will be filled with sunny days and cool breezes.
That's because Gibson has turned into a certified deep threat early in the preseason, starting with a 63-yard touchdown connection with Nate Sudfeld last week against Pittsburgh and going up top again in New England for a 57-yard gain, again from Sudfeld, that got the Eagles out of the shadow of their own goal line.
“I was excited because Coach [Doug Pederson] was being really aggressive calling a go route on the outside," Sudfeld explained. "I knew if I had one I was going to try and hold the safety in the middle. Obviously, Shelton is really fast and I just tried to let him run under it and he did a great job making a play on it."
Even more impressive for Gibson, however, may have been his brilliant sluggo route for a 4-yard touchdown because route-running was a big issue for Gibson as a rookie after coming in from the rudimentary WVU offense where he was strictly used as a deep threat.
"I feel like it's not outstanding because we didn't win," Gibson said of his performance. "Just bringing back the West Virginia days and trying to be consistent every day. I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help this team win another championship."
With veterans Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins and Markus Wheaton not available in Foxborough, plenty of others received significant playing time but none really stood out.
Veteran Kamar Aiken came to Philadelphia late with a reputation of dropping too many balls in Baltimore and flubbed an easy crossing route early. Bryce Treggs has slowly come along after starting camp on the NFI list with a knee problem but went down with a hamstring injury in the second half and Rashard Davis, although hauling in a 31-yard TD reception, made one of the worst decisions you will ever see as a punt returner, his main gig.
“It was a good learning night," Davis admitted. "I made some plays but I also made some mistakes. There is a lot to learn. I just have to go back and watch film and correct them for next time. Looking back on that, [the punt return for negative yardage] that was just a learning mistake. You’ve got to go back and look at the film and go from there, make sure you don’t make the same mistake again and just move forward.”
The backfield was probably even worse with Matt Jones likely closing more eyes than he opened. The one-time starter in Washington has become so hyper-focused on his prior issues with ball security he had major trouble corralling the ball as a receiver before he could show off his "Eagle Claw."
When it was all said and done Jones had dropped three easy passes, one of which should have been a huge gain on a wheel route but Jones allowed a solid Sudfeld throw to bounce off his helmet and turn into a gift interception for Pats linebacker Christian Sam.
With Corey Clement, Donnel Pumphrey and Josh Adams all out with lower-body injuries this may have been Jones' lone opportunity to share the stage with so few. After a Jay Ajayi cameo, it was all Jones and Wendell Smallwood but Jones lost ground on the field for the fourth RB spot instead of gaining any.
Doug Pederson deferred to the film before admitting, “I think both [Jones and Smallwood] would agree that there were plays left out on the field tonight."
“It’s a great battle between those two," Pederson hyped. "We’ve got a couple of weeks left before we have to make these tough decisions. So, we’ll look at the tape and see exactly how they did."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen