December 26, 2017
Way back before the start of the 2017 NFL regular season, Alshon Jeffery and Carson Wentz were slow to get on the same page, due to Jeffery missing close to two weeks of training camp after joining the team as a free agent acquisition.
As we pointed out in August, Jeffery was behind mentally, which showed on the field during preseason games, in which Wentz thought Jeffery would be in one spot, but he was sometimes in another. Predictably, Jeffery's 2017 season got off to a slow start as a result.
As the season progressed, Wentz and Jeffery started clicking. In Wentz's last six games before being lost for the year with a torn ACL, Jeffery had six touchdown receptions, and was Wentz's most targeted receiver during that span, by a wide margin. After a four-game stretch in which he had five TD receptions, Jeffery was rewarded with a four-year contract extension worth $52 million. It seemed the Eagles' prized free agent was beginning to meet expectations.
After 'the injury,' Jeffery is right back to square one with Nick Foles.
Jeffery's game is predicated on a mix of timing with the quarterback, and the ability to win contested catches against defenders with close coverage. He is simply not a player who is able to gain separation from opposing defensive backs. He never has been, and he never will be.
In fact, on average, according to the NFL's 'Next Gen Stats,' Jeffery averages just 1.7 yards of separation between himself and the nearest defender at the time of catch or incompletion. That is the lowest amount of separation in the NFL among all receivers and tight ends with a minimum of 40 targets.
Because of his inability to create separation, it is imperative that Jeffery be on the same page with his quarterback, or he's simply not going to be a very effective player. It is also necessary for the quarterback to be willing to throw to Jeffery even when there is a defender nearby.
"Sometimes you do have to challenge the receiver, challenge the defensive back, make it a contested catch," Doug Pederson acknowledged. "All we all know, Alshon has a tremendous catch radius, and can catch a high ball, or a back shoulder throw this season already. It's just (Jeffery and Foles) working out the details of body language, and understanding route combinations, and how he runs certain routes, and continue to work that way, learn to have that trust, and the ability to make those plays.
"I won't stand here and say that there weren't any opportunities to throw him the ball. There were. As a staff we have to make sure that we're coaching the play right, teaching the play right, teaching the quarterbacks the progression on plays, and we're doing all of that right so that we can make those plays in the future."
In the Eagles' ugly win over the Oakland Raiders Christmas night, Jeffery had two targets, and no catches. The Eagles play a meaningless Week 17 game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, and Pederson will have to decide whether or not he will rest key players.
The lack of rapport between Nick Foles and Alshon Jeffery is 'Exhibit A' for the argument to have them play.