Alshon Jeffery Has Not Made Travis Fulgham Become Forgotten

15 December 2020 Opinion Philadelphia Eagles

Photo courtesy of CBS Sports

Headed into Week 15 of the Eagles’ season, Travis Fulgham still leads the team in receiving yards. He is also tied with Greg Ward Jr. for the most touchdown catches with four. Dallas Goedert has recently surpassed Fulgham in receiving yards per game; Fulgham averages 46.7 yards while Goedert averages 49.7 yards.

Diminishing Snap Count & Production

The trend for Travis seems to be headed in the wrong direction as his snap percentage has been slowly decreasing. Fulgham has not had a game with a 60% or higher snap percentage since the Eagles Week 11 contest against Cleveland. He began his Eagles career in Week 4 where he was on the field for 61% of the offensive snaps. Fulgham was a staple of the offense from Weeks 5 through 11, averaging a 89% snap count. It was downhill from there as he was present for 51% of snaps in Week 12, 41% in Week 13, and 18% most recently against New Orleans.

Fulgham tallied 41 targets, 27 receptions, 378 yards, and all four of his touchdowns from Week 5 to Week 8. Since the Week 9 bye, Fulgham has accumulated 16 targets, four receptions, and 32 yards. Needless to say, his production has taken a serious decline; this is due to many contributing factors.

Alshon Jeffery, the Eagles highest paid WR, came back from injury following the Week 9 bye. However, the narrative that Alshon has been eating away at Fulgham’s snaps is not necessarily true. Jeffrey has averaged a 37.2% snap rate and has one game with a rate over 50%.

Who is Stealing Snaps?

The Eagles use 12-personnel at a very high rate compared to the rest of the NFL because of their excess amount of talent at Tight End. They are currently running with two Receivers and two Tight Ends at a 24.7% clip; neither Fulgham nor Alshon are involved during these plays. It isn’t coincidental that during the first two weeks of Zach Ertz returning from injury, Fulgham has seen his two lowest snap counts. Against New Orleans, the Eagles ran 62.3% of their offensive plays with Goedert and Ertz on the field together. The most common formation now consists of Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward Jr., Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, and Miles Sanders, all of which we have allotted more money and draft value than Fulgham.

Per Mike Kaye, Travis Fulgham signed a two-year deal off of the practice squad so he will be back in 2021. However, Alshon and Ertz are being paid the third and fourth highest Eagles’ salaries in 2020, so we might as well get the maximum usage from them.

Fulgham’s Real Struggle

So why does Alshon receive more snaps than Fulgham when the offense is not running 12-personnel? The answer is simple: Fulgham cannot beat man to man coverage. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, on Fulgham’s targets this season he has had 6.2 yards of pre-snap cushion (51st) and created 2.3 yards of separation (120th). The Eagles are also the second most blitzed offense in the NFL, and most teams prefer to play man coverage behind the blitz; this has caused Travis to struggle. He is particularly good against zone coverage, and teams with a strong front four pass rush tend to play more zone due to being able to get to the QB with less bodies. This explains his success against Pittsburgh, as they lead the league in sacks and QB pressures. Another statistic worth noting: Fulgham leads the Eagles Receivers and Tight Ends in drops with three.

Fulgham’s burst onto the scene surprised many, and opposing defenses were not prepared for him. As more film became available and his tendencies were evaluated, teams began to expose Fulgham’s inability to beat man to man coverage. This ultimately illustrated why he was a practice squad player over the last year and a half. Luckily he will have a full NFL offseason to improve his LOS release and smooth over his route tree. The future is promising for Travis Fulgham, but it’s safe to say his 2020 breakout campaign has likely ceased.

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