By Rob Maaddi
The Eagles are determined to get something out of Alshon Jeffery this season for the $11.5 million they’re paying him.
It’s a gamble that can’t be worth his production.
Jeffery repeatedly denied he was the anonymous player who was critical of Carson Wentz last season but enough teammates believe that he was the source, which made him guilty by suspicion.
Now consider this. If Jeffery had negative feelings about Wentz in 2019 when his stats were far better, imagine what he thinks now that the quarterback is struggling through the worst season of his career.
It’s not a stretch to think that Jeffery could express those thoughts to fellow receivers. The Eagles don’t need Jalen Reagor or John Hightower or any of their young wideouts being influenced that way. They’re part of the future. Jeffery isn’t.
Of course, it’s possible Jeffery has been the perfect teammate this season and is acting like a consummate professional. The Eagles are clearly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because Howie Roseman guaranteed his contract.
Still, the reward isn’t worth the risk.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was a healthy scratch to make room for Jeffery, who is clearly a better option. But the Eagles aren’t going anywhere this season. The most optimistic outlook is one playoff win and that obviously won’t be easy.
So why bench a 2019 second-round pick for a guy on his way out? It doesn’t matter that Arcega-Whiteside only has 12 career catches in 24 games. Give him an opportunity in the second half to prove he wasn’t a bust instead of playing Jeffery to justify his contract.
“We knew Alshon was coming back and listen, we have to make some tough decisions on who is up and who is down,” Doug Pederson said Monday. “I think moving forward, we know that Alshon is healthy and I know his play time will increase probably each week. It’s something that as we construct game plans, who is going to be in, who is going to be out. They are tough decisions and it could change this week again. We just have to make those decisions as we go each week, but it’s nothing against J.J. We’ve still got a lot of confidence in him. Quez Watkins has been down, guys like that, and the thing is, we’ve got to get
more out of the guys that are playing, too, and that’s something we’ve got to focus on this week.”
Jeffery played 18 snaps against the Giants and got one target. He cut into Hightower’s playing time. That’s a problem. Hightower needs to be out there, getting valuable experience. More playing time for Jeffery might cut into some of the snaps for Travis Fulgham and Jalen Reagor. That can’t happen.