The level of interest the Eagles had in wide receiver Terrelle Pryor last March isn’t clear.
They definitely kicked the tires and talked to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. But ultimately, they decided to take what was behind Door No. 2 – Alshon Jeffery.
Through the first six weeks of the season, neither Jeffery nor Pryor has set the world on fire. At least not yet.
Jeffery, who signed a one-year, $9.5 million deal with the Eagles with another $4.5 million in attainable incentives, has put up respectable numbers in his first six games in midnight green – 24 catches (17 for first downs), 13.2 yards per catch, nine third-down receptions and two touchdowns.
But they are well below the prolific numbers he put up in his two best NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears in 2013 (89 catches, 1,421 yards, seven touchdowns, 63 first downs) and 2014 (85 catches, 1,133 yards, 10 touchdowns, 60 first downs).
Pryor, who had 77 catches for 1,107 yards and four touchdowns with the Cleveland Browns last year, signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Washington Redskins less than a day after the Eagles agreed to terms with Jeffery.
The 6-6, 240-pound ex-quarterback has been targeted a team-high 29 times, but is fourth in receptions with 16, behind running back Chris Thompson (18), tight end Jordan Reed (18) and slot receiver Jamison Crowder (17).
He has yet to have a game with more than 70 receiving yards, and has been a non-factor on third down (two catches) and in the red zone (one catch for four yards and zero TDs).
Six of his 16 catches came in the Redskins’ 30-17 Week 1 loss to the Eagles, but for only 66 yards. In the four games since then, he has just 10 receptions.
“He’s still learning the position and learning our system,’’ said Redskins coach Jay Gruden, whose 3-3 team will face the 5-1 Eagles again on Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field. “I think all of the outside receivers’ numbers probably aren’t where they’d like them to be. But that’s the result of Chris Thompson doing well and Jordan and [No. 2 tight end] Vernon Davis doing well.
“I’ve always said we’re not a fantasy football group. The quarterback is going to throw the ball to the open guy. So far, it hasn’t been probably as much as they would like.’’
As for Jeffery, the Eagles have zero regrets about their decision to sign him. He and Torrey Smith have dramatically upgraded Carson Wentz’s receiving corps. Jeffery is second on the team in receptions to tight end Zach Ertz, second to Ertz in first-down catches, tied for second with Nelson Agholor behind Ertz in third-down catches, and he already has two red-zone touchdowns, which is second only to, yep, you guessed it, Ertz, who has four.
Jeffery’s chemistry with Wentz, like Pryor’s with Kirk Cousins, is a work in progress. But it seems to be improving every week.
“He has an upside that we still haven’t seen yet,’’ said five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Quick, the Eagles’ longtime radio analyst. “That still hasn’t materialized yet with those two [Jeffery and Wentz]. But I think it will.
“They still have a lot of growing to do. As that partnership grows and matures, I think you’re going to see a lot more plays from those two.’’
Jeffery has been productive in the two key areas that Pryor hasn’t – third down and the red zone. Seven of his nine third-down receptions have resulted in first downs, including two on third-and-11 and another on third-and-8.
And his three red-zone receptions and two red-zone touchdowns are on pace with his career-best 2014 red-zone numbers with the Bears when he finished with nine catches and six scores inside the 20.
“I don’t have any question they made a better choice [signing Jeffery over Pryor],’’ Quick said. “He’s not only a more productive player, but his personality is a better fit for this locker room. Alshon, he’s not a guy that talks a whole lot. He goes to work, goes about his business.
“I see Pryor and his size and the measurables that everybody seems to be enamored with when they first see this guy. But when you look at the history, I think he’s already been in something like five different uniforms.
“When I watch his route-running, he’s just not quite there yet. They have a good receivers coach down there. They’ve got [former Giants wide receiver] Ike Hilliard. He’s as good as you’ll find in terms of teaching him how to run routes and use that big body.
“Physically, he has a lot of assets. But he has not been able to make that physical body do what it potentially could do in this league.’’
Pryor repeatedly fought attempts early in his career to switch from quarterback to wide receiver, which has delayed his development as a pass-catcher. He finally made the move three years ago after it dawned on him that it was his only shot at making an NFL roster.
Quick said the one area the 6-4, 230-pound Jeffery needs to get better at is dealing with press coverage.
“He’s not clearly beating guys in press coverage on a regular basis,’’ he said.
The Eagles’ other free agent acquisition at wide receiver – Smith – was brought in to improve the vertical aspect of the Eagles’ passing game. But so far, it’s been mostly a lot of near-misses.
Wentz has completed just 9 of 29 throws of 20 yards or more, though he is 4-for-7 in the last two games.
Wentz has targeted Smith on 10 of those 29 deep balls. He’s completed just two of them to him. The lone highlight was a 59-yard touchdown in the Eagles’ 34-7 Week 5 win over Arizona.
“I think Torrey has more to give,’’ Quick said of the seventh-year vet, who has a team-high four drops. “He still has the ability to get down the field. The two of them just have to start clicking at some point.
“Once they get one, once they get two, then it’ll start to grow. They’ll start to get comfortable and it’ll start to click. Carson will be able to throw the ball down the field 40 to 50 yards and make connections.’’