DeSean Jackson suffered a re-injury to the abdomen issue that had previously kept him out since week 2 during Sunday’s game against the Bears.
Now, Doug Pederson says the Eagles will now have to look into adding a wide receiver to the roster while Jackson is further evaluated.
The wide receiver position has caused the Eagles problems all season, and those issues were thought to be going away with Jackson’s return last week. However, the problem is now amplified after Jackson felt discomfort in the area of his previous injury following just a handful of snaps in the first quarter against Chicago.
Pederson said surgery was on the table for Jackson, but the 32-year-old wide receiver was the one who ultimately opted against being operated on, and instead chose to try rehabbing the injury instead. Now, after aggravating the injury, Jackson may be set to miss even more time.
Here are some options at wide receiver that the Eagles could sign while Jackson is out.
When all else fails, it seems like the Eagles can always fall back on bringing in Jordan Matthews, who was released by the San Francisco 49ers on October 26th.
Matthews was drafted by the Eagles in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, and played with the team through 2016, before being dealt to Buffalo the following season. Matthews ended up back in Philadelphia in 2018 after just one season in Buffalo but departed for San Francisco earlier this year.
Over his first two seasons in Philadelphia, Matthews proved to be a productive target at wide receiver. In his rookie season, Matthews posted 67 catches, 872 yards, and 8 touchdowns despite only starting 10 games. In 2015, Matthews started 13 games and saw his numbers rise, hauling in 85 receptions, 997 yards, and 8 touchdowns.
However, Matthews’ best use came in 2016, when he quickly developed as the most trusted weapon at wide receiver for newly-drafted quarterback Carson Wentz. The two developed a quick rapport, though Matthews’ numbers did take a bit of a dip. During that season, Matthews caught 73 passes for 804 yards and 3 touchdowns. Matthews and Wentz both became very close friends, but their time together was quickly cut short after Matthews was traded to Buffalo in a package that brought cornerback Ronald Darby to Philadelphia.
Just two years later, Matthews returned to the Eagles after Mike Wallace suffered a fractured fibula. Matthews’ numbers weren’t great, as he was behind Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Nelson Agholor on the pecking list, but he was able to provide some form of a deep threat for Wentz over the course of the season.
Now, just over a year later, the Eagles find themselves in a similar situation. If the Eagles are looking for consistency and something dependable, Matthews is the perfect guy, especially since he’s familiar with the system. Matthews won’t bring a ton of flash to the offense, but the Eagles may not need that, though it is dependent on just how much time Jackson misses.
Michael Crabtree is an interesting case. Crabtree was the 10th-overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2009 draft, but a decade later, he was cut by the Arizona Cardinals after just two games this season.
There’s no denying the talent of Crabtree — he posted two 1,000-yard seasons over a five-year span (2012 and 2016), something other potential candidates like Matthews have never done — but that production hasn’t quite been there over the past few years.
In 2017, with the Raiders, Crabtree caught 58 passes for 618 yards and 8 touchdowns. A year later, with the Ravens, Crabtree posted fairly similar numbers, catching 54 passes for 607 yards and 3 touchdowns.
At 32-years-old, the question does have to be asked if Crabtree would be able to make much of a difference in the Eagles offense (though he surely would provide more of a boost than Mack Hollins). Another thing that has to be asked is if Crabtree would be willing to have a sizable role for just a small period of time since he likely would take a back seat behind Jeffery, Agholor, and eventually Jackson when he returns. Crabtree would have to learn the playbook on the fly, as well, which means if there was ever a time for the Eagles to bring him in, it’d likely have to be this week, during the team’s bye week.
On the flip side of things, Crabtree has shown the ability dating back to his years in San Francisco of being a team’s number one wide receiver. Though he never made the Pro Bowl or an All-Pro team, Crabtree was a vital part of a 49ers offense led by Colin Kaepernick that played stride for stride with the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom”.
Crabtree is a bit more of a tough sell than Matthews given his age and lack of knowledge of the Eagles’ playbook, but there is upside here if the Eagles were to bring him in.
If you’re looking for speed, look no further than JJ Nelson, who posted the fastest 40-yard dash time in his draft class, running a 4.28-second 40. That mark, at the time, was just .04 seconds shy of the combine record help by Chris Johnson, who ran a 4.24-second 40-yard dash.
Nelson was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft by the Arizona Cardinals. In his rookie season, Nelson caught 11 passes for 299 yards, averaging a whopping 27.2 yards per reception. He kept a similar pace in the two following seasons, using his speed to average 16.7 yards per reception in 2016 and 17.5 yards per reception in 2017.
In 2018 with the Cardinals, Nelson’s production took a big hit, though. Nelson caught just seven passes, well short of the 34 he posted just two years prior, and only averaged 9.1 yards per reception. In 2019, Nelson was active for two games with the Raiders but was released by the team on October 10 after suffering a knee injury.
However, Nelson is now healthy and has begun working out for teams over the last few weeks. If Jackson is going to miss games, Nelson certainly would provide the speed that the team is looking for, and could serve as the ever-important deep threat for Wentz.
Bruce Ellington is a bit more of a dart throw, but he does possess some traits that could be sought after by the Eagles. One is speed: Ellington posted a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, but he did unofficially run one as high as 4.31 seconds.
Ellington has jumped around the league a bit in the first five years of his career. Ellington was selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft by the San Francisco 49ers, and was with the team through 2016, though he didn’t play in the final season due to a season-ending hamstring injury. Ellington landed with the Texans in 2017, appearing in 11 games with the team, including six starts. In 2018, Ellington played just seven combined games, four with the Lions and three, again, with the Texans.
Ellington was signed by the Patriots earlier this season before being cut, and they did bring him in again for a workout during the summer, but never agreed to a deal. Over his career, Ellington has just 79 receptions for 769 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Similar to Matthews, Ellington primarily plays out of the slot, which means Agholor would be shifted to the outside if he were brought in. There isn’t a ton to go crazy about regarding Ellington, but if the Eagles want to take a chance on a guy who could add some speed to their offense, this is at least something worth taking a look at.
Davis was selected by the Redskins in the sixth round of the 2017 draft and spent the majority of his rookie season on the team’s practice squad before being called up late in the season. A year later, Davis suffered a season-ending leg injury before week 1, stopping any chance of him having a breakout campaign.
Things started to look up for Davis in 2019, though — many believed he had a very strong training camp and was deserving of making the Redskins’ 53-man roster. Davis posted three receptions for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns in the preseason, but was cut from the team and once again placed on the practice squad. David was eventually called up for the teams game against the Giants in week 4, catching one pass for 11 yards, but was then cut from the active roster.
With Davis being on the Eagles’ practice squad for about a month now, he’s likely up to speed with the playbook and is comfortable in the current system.
If Jackson isn’t set to miss a significant amount of time, the Eagles may be more inclined to make a smaller move at wide receivers, such as adding one of the three that they currently have on their practice squad. If the Eagles turn to that, Davis may be the readiest to produce right now.