I guess the Eagles aren’t as high on Shelton Gibson as I originally thought. So much for a solid preseason carrying you into week one, because the second-year receiver only played four offensive snaps last Thursday night.
It seemed like Gibson might be in line for a legitimate role in week one with Alshon Jeffery and Mack Hollins missing out via injury. Nelson Agholor would play in the slot with Mike Wallace on the outside, opening up the other outside spot in a three-receiver look, theoretically speaking.
“Not so fast my friends,” as Lee Corso would say.
DeAndre Carter, the camp surprise who forced his way onto the 53-man roster, got the bulk of the third receiver reps playing mostly on the inside as Agholor actually moved back and forth from the slot to the outside.
Here’s how the receiver and tight end reps finished up after the 18-12 win:
- Zach Ertz – 70 snaps (97%)
- Nelson Agholor – 68 snaps (94%)
- Mike Wallace – 66 snaps (92%)
- DeAndre Carter – 53 snaps (74%)
- Dallas Goedert – 17 snaps (24%)
- Shelton Gibson – 4 snaps (6%)
- Markus Wheaton – 2 snaps (3%)
Not what I expected.
The day after the game, Pederson explained the preference for Carter over Gibson:
Q. The decision to use WR DeAndre Carter as much as you did and not WR Shelton Gibson, was that match-up based or is that kind of what we’ll be looking at until WR Alshon Jeffery is back? (Dave Zangaro)
DOUG PEDERSON: It’s based on kind of how we go into each game. It’s not a match-up thing or anything like that. It’s just that DeAndre right now is more of an inside receiver and Shelton is more of an outside guy. We moved [WR] Nelson [Agholor] outside a little bit more in this game, which allowed for DeAndre to play. And then we put DeAndre at the point where he was having to block safeties and — he does a nice job there. It was a little bit by scheme, but also the way the game kind of played out.
Makes sense, yeah? Wallace is brand new and has little chemistry with Nick Foles right now, so if Agholor is the surest bet of the entire group, get the most value out of him and put the rest of the pieces into place elsewhere.
Still, moving Agholor around the other night, it wasn’t like he was catching deep balls or running deep routes.
At the NFL’s Next Gen stats page, it looks like he lined up wide on two of his targets but also technically played on the outside on two more narrow looks where he had a tight end next to him in the slot. You can see those four routes on the far left, circled in orange:
Foles only looked for him down the field on one occasion, that big looping gray line on the right, which was actually a route he ran out of the slot and not from the outside. The rest of it is typical short yardage stuff and some east/west drag routes.
When they did move him wide, this is one of the ways they did it, with Carter in the slot, Ertz also in the slot, and Wallace on the opposite side of the field. Agholor ran a simple five yard slant for an easy catch:
The alternative there is to play Ertz and Agholor in the slot with Wallace and Gibson outside, but is that any stronger than the look they showed on this sequence? I don’t know. I really don’t know, but the flexibility of the modern tight end really allows for a lot of variety here.
What I do know is that the entire offense looked ‘off’ on Thursday, so for whatever it’s worth, here’s how the receiving numbers finished at the end of the night:
Ertz had a pair of drops, one a tough play and a second he should have caught. He was targeted 10 times along with Agholor, who looked like a PPR fantasy league stud in catching 8 passes for just 33 yards. Carter, Wheaton, and Gibson combined for one total target. I honestly thought we’d see more of Dallas Goedert out there considering the injuries in the receiving group.
Gibson got his run with 22 special teams snaps (81%) and handled kick returning duties, so he wasn’t totally iced out. He had one poor return and one good return and contributed to the third phase of the game.
On paper, it seems like the path with the receivers moving forward is relatively simple. Jeffery returns, Agholor moves back into the slot, and Wallace starts to find his feet in Philadelphia. That’s a solid group that should only improve over the course of the season and will get the benefit of playing with Carson Wentz hopefully sooner rather than later.
But it seems like the Eagles aren’t entirely enthusiastic with what they’ve got right now. They signed Braxton Miller to the practice squad and apparently worked out Breshad Perriman and were going to do the same with Corey Coleman*, both former first round draft picks who have flamed out for various reasons, be it injury or form or both.
Here’s what each guy has done in his three-year career thus far, courtesy of Pro Football Reference:
Not a lot to write home about. *Coleman was the best of the bunch, but is now heading to New England, according to reports. Perriman missed his rookie season with a knee injury and Miller was the Ohio State QB who converted to receiver and had a couple of bum years in Houston. He’ll probably be cycled out of the practice squad for the next guy.
But the fact that they’re sniffing around for depth, or even a 4th wideout at this point, feels… I don’t know. It’s not “concerning,” because I think we all know that this group will be fine once Jeffery comes back. But if they don’t believe in Gibson and someone else goes down, there’s a pretty big dropoff once you get to WR4 on the depth chart, which looks something like this right now:
- Alshon Jeffery (WR1) – injured
- Nelson Agholor (slot) – healthy
- Mike Wallace (WR3) – new to the team
- Mack Hollins (WR4) – injured reserve
- Shelton Gibson (WR5/6) – barely played any offensive snaps
- DeAndre Carter (WR5/6) – one catch on Thursday night
- Markus Wheaton (WR7) – added to roster when Hollins went on IR
- Braxton Miller – practice squad
- Reggie Davis – practice squad
- Doren Miller – practice squad
- Breshad Perriman – workout
What do we make of that group? I don’t think Miller and Perriman are the answer.
Either way, we’ll see how the offense looks against a Tampa Bay team that gave up 439 passing yards last week. No, Nick Foles isn’t Drew Brees playing at home, but Michael Thomas hit 160 yards receiving and Alvin Kamara went over 100 himself in a 48-40 Saints loss.