Alshon Jeffery wore a shirt on his flight home from Dallas with a Brian Dawkins caricature that read, “BLEED GREEN.” The Eagles arrived back in Philadelphia in the early hours Monday morning, and Jeffery spent Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center at the Sixers-Jazz game.
When Jeffery left the Chicago Bears after five seasons to sign a one-year deal with the Eagles in March, it was unknown how the former Pro Bowler would fit with the Eagles or how long he would stay. Jeffery is preparing to face his former team on Sunday with at least one of those questions answered.
He leads the Eagles with 567 receiving yards and has six touchdowns after scoring four in the last three games. As to the second question, Jeffery didn’t want to talk about his contract or his future, but he said he hopes to stay and how much he enjoys playing here.
“Man, I love it here in Philly,” Jeffery said. “Philly is a great city, great town. Everyone has welcomed me with open arms. I love it here.”
From all indications, the Eagles are happy with Jeffery, too. He’s given them a big, physical target on the outside that commands attention from opposing defenses. The Eagles like to spread the ball around, so no receiver has topped 100 yards in a game yet this season and Jeffery isn’t even on pace for a 1,000-yard season.
But quarterback Carson Wentz has benefited from Jeffery’s presence, and their connection has only improved in recent weeks during this touchdown streak. He caught four of seven targeted passes against the Cowboys, including an impressive, contested fourth-down touchdown over the middle of the field.
“He’s made some huge plays, a couple huge plays in that Dallas game, and that’s why he’s here,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “Those exact plays that he made in that game, we want to keep seeing that.”
Coach Doug Pederson saw Jeffery and Wentz’s chemistry start to click in October, including a 53-yard touchdown catch against San Francisco as an example of what Jeffery brings to the offense. Jeffery beat press coverage off the line and outmuscled the cornerback for the catch. Pederson said after that game that the play showed “what Alshon was brought in here to do.”
The contested catches are a Jeffery staple. Wentz and Jeffery weren’t connecting on them as often earlier in the season. But Wentz still wants to give Jeffery a chance on those passes. He said with Jeffery, he thinks the percentage is better than 50-50. Jeffery agreed. He thinks it’s 80-20, with a catch 80 percent of the time and an incompletion the rest.
Jeffery is letting his personality show, too. He has been an active member of the Eagles’ touchdown celebrations, and he was animated during the second half of the Cowboys game. (The gist of the explicit message was that teams shouldn’t mess with the Eagles, and that they were the best.)
At least publicly, Jeffery is playing down the Bears game. He enjoyed his time there, but he said he’s in Philadelphia, the Eagles are winning, and it’s just the next game. Reich said when a player plays against a former team, there’s always emotion to guard against it. Reich experienced it as a player. The Bears haven’t allowed a 100-yard receiver since Week 3, so Jeffery will be challenged against a defensive system he knows well. But looking at the Bears offense, they could use a player like Jeffery — no receiver has more than 330 yards there.
At the conclusion of the Bears’ three-win 2016 season, Jeffery told reporters, “I guarantee you we’re going to win the Super Bowl next year.” Asked about the comment on Tuesday, Jeffery interjected with a smile.
“I never said a team, though,” Jeffery said.
Alshon Jeffery’s Statistics
|Receptions||38||2nd (Ertz, 45)|
|Yards/Reception||14.9||3rd (Hollins 17.9; Clement 15.3)|
|Yards/Game||56.7||2nd (Ertz, 59.6)|
|TD Receptions||6||t-1st (Ertz, 6)|
He has a chance to do so with the Eagles. Jeffery never made the postseason in Chicago. He said winning is what matters to him at this point — more than his statistics, more than his role in the offense. He was bullish on Wentz even before he signed at Philadelphia. At his news conference after signing, Jeffery said he thought Wentz could me an MVP. That was before Wentz became a popular pick. Jeffery said if Wentz wins, he’s “going to get a little credit.”
As a coveted free agent, Jeffery had options. He chose one year with the Eagles, and what he envisioned is coming to fruition.
“Just seeing what they were doing early in the season, I thought a few pieces here or there, the sky’s the limit,” Jeffery said.
Jeffery deferred discussion about his future to his agent and the Eagles front office. He said he’ll discuss it when the time comes. Right now, he’s preparing to face his former team as the top receiver on a Super Bowl contender. And when that time does come, what’s happening this year can help the Eagles’ case.
“I think just winning, that’s the most important,” Jeffery said. “Winning championships. A lot of players make a lot of money, but some of them never make the playoffs, never get to experience a lot of things.”
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