By Connor Thomas
If you haven’t heard the news yet, the Eagles are losing a huge roster piece this offseason – one that played a huge roll in their Super Bowl run in 2017. Even though some considered him injury prone and reports of him being a locker room problem did pop up here and there during his tenure in Philadelphia, at the end of the day, he made some big plays for the birds. Of course, I’m referring to
Carson Wentz Alshon Jeffery, who the Eagles will be releasing when the new NFL league year begins this March. Every player who played on the Super Bowl winning team in ’17 has a special spot in Eagles history, but some have seemingly tried their hardest to tarnish that legacy in the years that followed. So in an ode to the great AJ (which of course stands for “Anonymous JosinaAndersonSource”), here are the top 5… let’s call them leaks… in the boat that is his legacy as an Eagle.
5.) Stealing snaps from one of the hottest WRs in the NFL.
Who the hell is Travis Fulgham was a question that a lot of Eagles fans were asking in week 4 when the undrafted practice squads call up scored the game winning TD against the 49ers. In a 5 week span from weeks 4 through 8, however, Fulgham was one of the best WRs in football. Is it a coincidence that when Alshon Jeffery returned from a lisfranc injury in week 9 that Fulgham basically disappeared from the Eagles’ game plan? My money is on no. It is impossible to know what caused the strange change in scheme, but the fact is that Jeffery’s return put the kibosh on the emergence of Philly’s brightest young receiving option. And to do all that for a guy that the team is now moving on from this offseason… not a great look.
4.) That terribly mistimed jump against the Cleveland Browns this past year.
Of course you remember this one, it was only a couple months ago when Carson Wentz and company were attempting to make a miraculous comeback against the Browns. With about 2 minutes left and down 12, the game was close to over already. But when Wentz lofted a ball to the 6’3 Jeffery hoping his large catch radius would help out, Alshon jumped just about a week 2 soon, and wouldn’t have cleared a street curb. The pass ended up in the hands of Cleveland’s Denzel Ward, ending the Eagles hopes at a comeback with one of the uglier looking plays in a season of ugly plays.
3.) His impact on the next generation of Eagles Wide Receivers.
By the time the 2020 season rolled around for the Eagles, Alshon already had built himself a reputation in Philadelphia of not being the best locker room guy. But don’t tell that to Doug Pederson or some of the birds young wide receivers. In a press conference on December 24th of this past year, Pederson heaped praise on the veteran wide out for “how he has really mentored these young wide receivers” and also that he appreciates how Jeffery “Is so unselfish, he doesn’t have to have every ball thrown his way”. Not only did the unselfishness description raise an eyebrow for many Eagles fans due to some reports from previous seasons that will be touched on in another moment, but the fact that a player that had been a lightning rod for criticism over the past couple seasons was now mentoring the next generation of players does not inspire confidence in the culture the team is building. Some might be crossing their fingers that Jeffery’s influence on the Eagles younger players was overstated, but even after he is cut, it is very possible his impact on the locker room will live on.
2.) The Josina Anderson leaks.
A lot of people might have thought this would be the worst moment during Alshon Jeffery’s tenure as an Eagle, and I must admit, it was difficult to not give this the top spot. This was the first smoke from the now burnt out bonfire of the Carson Wentz era in Philadelphia. Back in November of 2018, less than a year removed from the team’s Super Bowl win, an “anonymous source” went to reporter Josina Anderson to complain about the number of targets tight end Zach Ertz was getting, as well as other issues with the Eagles’ offense. From the jump, many people drew conclusions from the close relationship between Anderson and Jeffery during the WR’s time in Chicago. Then, in October of 2019, Anderson once again referenced an anonymous source from inside the locker room as saying the Eagles need to simplify their game plan and that “Even Peyton Manning knew when to check it down”. Strike two against the locker room leak. Unfortunately for the source *cough cough ALSHON*, the Eagles don’t play baseball, and sometimes you don’t get a 3rd strike before you are labeled a locker room issue. This was one of those cases, as the rumors began to circulate about a fracture among the players that would fester throughout the following season. It is not hard to draw a map from these leaks to the dumpster fire that the team has become today.
1.) The 2018 NFC Divisional Round drop.
It looked like another installment of Foles magic. The Eagles had come off of a miraculous double doink win in Chicago, punched New Orleans in their mouth in Louisiana, and had an opportunity to withstand a Drew Brees comeback with a late drive in the 4th quarter. They were only down 6. A TD would give them the lead, and they only had 27 yards to pay dirt. Then, a wide open Alshon Jeffery had a pass from Nick Foles go right through his hands and into the chest of Saints CB Marshon Lattimore. The dream was over. The chance for a repeat, gone right through Jeffery’s hands. Up until that moment, the Eagles were still a top tier organization with a Super Bowl caliber roster. But that was the last second where this era of Eagles football truly had a chance. That drop was crushing, one of the worst moments in Eagles’ playoff history, and it was the beginning of the end for the aging Super Bowl holdovers. Now, facing an impending rebuild, it is hard to look back at this moment and not hurt more thinking about how much different things could have been if Jeffery makes that catch.
Now, in fairness, and for all his faults, Alshon Jeffery was a large part of the Eagles’ Super Bowl in 2017. He made some of the biggest plays in that Super Bowl, including the opening touchdown of the game on an incredible jump ball catch. No amount of locker room leaks, dropped passes, or target complaints will ever take that away. So while #17 deserves thanks for those moments, ultimately his legacy in Philly will be tarnished by the bad moments that have lingered since.