Good morning, Eagles fans! The Birds are nearing the end of training camp. They have a light practice Monday morning and a workout Tuesday before Wednesday’s walkthrough. Their second preseason game is in Jacksonville against the Jaguars Thursday night. There is still uncertainty as to whether Doug Pederson will play quarterback Carson Wentz in any preseason game, let alone the second. The injury to Nate Sudfeld in the preseason opener against the Titans only hammered home the risks of playing in games with little meaning.
— Jeff McLane (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Eagles released Shelton Gibson Sunday. The wide receiver had an ankle sprain that was expected to keep him out on a week-to-week basis, so his release came with an injury settlement. It’s possible that Gibson returns, but all signs had already pointed to his tenure with the team being over. The Eagles had invested significantly in the position this offseason, so the numbers weren’t in his favor. But even some of the journeymen and undrafted receivers the team had acquired had stood out far more than Gibson before his injury.
In truth, Gibson probably wouldn’t have ever made the roster had the Eagles not selected him in the fifth round of the 2017 draft. His first several months of practice were so mistake prone that many beat reporters thought he’d fall short of the 53-man roster. But he survived, although he would play only 17 offensive snaps in the regular season. The Eagles touted his abilities as a gunner on special teams, but there was little evidence of even competency.
By the end of last season Gibson was logging just single-digit snaps on special teams and was even inactive in the season finale.
But he was drafted to be a receiver and simply catching the ball was an issue. He may have had the most drops at a single camp in Eagles history. Gibson showed improvement in his sophomore season. The drops weren’t as prevalent and he had a couple of nice moments in the preseason. Injuries forced him into the lineup in the Eagles’ second game last season, but Gibson didn’t catch a single pass despite playing 35 snaps. He struggled to get separation on the outside.
He did catch a 48-yard pass from Carson Wentz in Game 5 against the Vikings, prompting some fans to call for more of Gibson, as if he would be the solution to the Eagles’ deep receiving woes. He wasn’t slow. He ran a decent 4.5-second 40-yard dash at the combine, although he predicted before the drill that he would beat Chris Johnson’s record of 4.24. Not quite. He later told reporters that his time didn’t matter because he ran faster in pads.
Speed wasn’t his main problem, though. He failed to grasp the intricacies of route running with the Eagles’ scheme and couldn’t process as fast as he needed to. Thus the drops. Gibson wasn’t the first fifth-round pick to fail and he won’t be the last. The odds are stacked against three-day selections.
The jury is still out on most of the Eagles’ 2017 draft, Joe Douglas’ first with the team. Defensive end Derek Barnett (first round), cornerback Sidney Jones (second), and cornerback Rasul Douglas (third) have shown some promise, but the clock is ticking on all three to start making significant contributions. It could happen this season.
Receiver Mack Hollins (fourth) had a solid rookie season, but missed all of last year with injuries. Running back Donnel Pumphrey (fourth) has already been released, only to return, but is just filling space now. Linebacker Nate Gerry (fifth) could have a increased role this season, but will he be consistent enough? Defensive tackle Elijah Qualls (seventh) was released last year, although he recently signed with the Ravens, who the Eagles will see next week.
Gibson was the next to go. But it was always a foregone conclusion.
John, thanks for your question. While I agree that the Eagles could use a “stud linebacker," I don’t see it as important in their scheme as, say, having a stud defensive lineman (Fletcher Cox) or a stud defensive back (Malcolm Jenkins). They would love to draft a linebacker who develops into being an elite talent, but they just aren’t going to invest in a position that isn’t as vital in Jim Schwartz’s defense, and is of decreasing importance in the pass-happy NFL. The Eagles may have three linebackers on the field together less than 25 percent of the time this season. They may even have less than two on the field together more than they have three.
All that being said, there is legitimate concern that they didn’t do enough this offseason to offset the loss of Jordan Hicks. Nigel Bradham is back, and he’s solid, but he’s still returning from foot surgery. Kamu Grugier-Hill was having a good camp, but he suffered a MCL knee sprain and will likely miss multiple weeks during the regular season.