341 days — the number of days since wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has played in an NFL game. He returned Sunday, November 15, making his season debut in Week 10 against the New York Giants.
STARTING WHERE HE LEFT OFF
Ironically for Alshon Jeffery, his last game for the 2019-2020 season was against the Giants. That Monday night, with 11 minutes left in the second quarter, Jeffery sustained a foot injury, leaving his return questionable.
Jeffery was targeted twice that game but did not have any catches. After trailing the Giants, 17-3, at the time of Jeffery’s departure, the Eagles took the win in overtime, 23-17.
In the days following the NFC East match-up, Jeffery was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list. He finished with 43 catches for 490 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games — the lowest totals since his rookie season.
The plan was to undergo surgery, attend nine months of rehab, and return for the start of the 2020-21 season.
AWAITING ALSHON’S RETURN
Well, that plan didn’t happen. Jeffery was then set to return for Week 7 against.. you guessed it, the New York Giants; however, he sustained a minor calf injury, further delaying his comeback.
The Eagles received criticism for not placing Jeffery on the PUP list at the start of the season. There were also rumors of a possible trade despite his 2017, $52.25 million four-year contract extension. However, the Eagles would have lost $26 million in the process, so the waiting game continued.
After the Eagles’ bye week (Week 9), Jeffery returned as a full participant in practice, leaving many fans wondering if he would play in Sunday’s game and whose snaps he would take as a result.
Earlier this week, head coach Doug Pederson stated, “I’m hopeful that he can just kind of plug and play, but realistically I think it’s going to take some time. It’s going to take a little bit of time for him to get comfortable in the game, to be up to game speed, to kind of get fully integrated back into playing football”.
SLOW AND STEADY?
The rumors regarding Jeffery’s debut were true, but his 2020 appearance was less than sub-par. He finished with 18 snaps, one target, and no catches.
During the play where Jeffery was targeted, Travis Fulgham did come off of the field to allow room for Jeffery.
Pederson stated, “I thought he did some good things. It was good to have him back”.
Although Pederson depends on time, the Eagles’ clock is ticking. Integrating Jeffery into a group of young receivers who have been carrying the offense all season will be trial and error. Divvying up their targets is another story.
Quarterback Carson Wentz said, “…I don’t make the decisions at the end of the day on those things, but I think as he continues to work back in and everything, we kind of see where he’s at, see where he’s at within our offense and how we can use him and mix him in with these other guys, and it is a fine line, and there’s really no right or wrong answer there. But at the end of the day, the guys that are gonna help us win are the guys that are gonna be on the field”.
After Week 10, Travis Fulgham leads as the Eagles’ top wide receiver with 443 yards, 52 targets, and four touchdowns. Jalen Reagor, who also recently came back after a thumb injury, has 159 yards in four games. Greg Ward has 282 yards, John Hightower with 166 yards, and J.J Arcrga-Whiteside with 45 yards.
Missed time or not, Jeffery was one of Wentz’s biggest weapons before his sustained injury. In 39 games with the Eagles, he’s ran for 2,122 yards, 165 catches, and 19 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, the Philadelphia Eagles fell to the New York Giants, 17-27 — their first loss to Big Blue since 2016.
The Birds play the Cleveland Browns next week, followed by the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, and Arizona Cardinals.
The road ahead is rough; hopefully Jeffery is well rested.