Shelton Gibson Could Have a Leg Up for Final WR Spot
When the Philadelphia Eagles opened training camp, Shelton Gibson was pretty far down the wide receiver depth chart. But on Thursday night when the Eagles faced off with the New England Patriots, he made another case to land on the 53-man roster.
Gibson, a 5-foot-11 2017 second-round draft pick from West Virginia, caught a touchdown pass in the Eagles preseason opener against Pittsburgh, which opened some eyes. Against the Patriots he was targeted six times, catching five balls for 90-yards and came down with a four-yard touchdown reception and returned four kicks for 121 yards.
In two preseason games, Gibson has six returns for 174 yards, second best in the NFL, averaging 19-yards per return with a long of 46-yards.
With that showing, he may be in line to win a job as the kick returner — while showing he can contribute on offense. That could give him an edge over veteran receivers like Markus Wheaton and Bryce Treggs, who both are dealing with injury issues.
With those injuries, it might be just enough to earn him a spot on the roster.
"Shelton made a few plays today," Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh said on Monday. "Made a really nice play the other night in the game and scoring a touchdown. He's continuing to come out here and work really hard and improve each day."
Being versatile, and playing on special teams will also be a factor in roster decisions with the receivers. Knowing that Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mike Wallace will be getting a majority of the reps, the other receivers who dress have to contribute in other ways.
“I did it at West Virginia, it’s just getting back into it,' Gibson said about returning kicks after the Pittsburgh preseason game. "It’s going to be tough, but just keep getting better at it every single day.”
The 23-year-old receiver has seven catches for 167 yards, second best in the NFL preseason after two weeks, and said he has been keeping his eye on the guys ahead of him on the depth chart, learning from them on how to practice and carry it over to the playing field.
“Just being on this team last year helped me out a lot, seeing how they work every single day – seeing how [WR] Nelly [Agholor] works, how [WR] Alshon [Jeffery] works, seeing how [WR] Torrey [Smith] was working," explained Gibson. "[It’s] having those vet guys talking to me every single day. It made me want to change in the off-season. I had to start at practice; I wasn’t having good practices. Everything will carry over to the game.”
The Eagles’ next preseason game against the Cleveland Browns could be a deciding factor in the receiver race. With Jeffery still sidelined with a shoulder injury, Agholor and Wallace seeing limited reps and Wheaton and Treggs injured, Gibson is in the driver’s seat to win a spot on the final roster.
The sophomore wideout played just 17 snaps as a rookie, but after a strong offseason, and now a solid preseason, he could be in line to do more than just make the roster, but also help the team.