Closing the Case on Travis Fulgham's Disappearance from the Eagles Offense

From waiver-wire pickup to hot hand to the pay-no-mind list, Travis Fulgham's strange 2020 season could be a launching point for 2021
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PHILADELPHIA - The curious case of Travis Fulgham has finally been solved.

Or perhaps more accurately stated, the reasons for the meteoric rise of the young receiver in the Eagles' 2020 offense and the subsequent disappearance were confirmed by the man himself after practice on Wednesday.

Fulgham's month-long stay at the top of the NFL's receiving chart was strange to begin with considering he was an August waiver-wire pickup, but the numbers were hard to argue with.

Starting with an Oct. 11 game at Pittsburgh and continuing for a month, Fulgham caught 27 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns. Projected over the former 16-game schedule, that pace would produce eye-popping numbers of 108 receptions for 1,492 yards and 12 TDs, a mirage in an Eagles' desert that didn't produce even a 600-yard wideout in either 2019 or 2020.

"It was great because before, I thought I can do it," Fulgham said of his magical run. "Now I know I can do it. That was the only difference."

The Fulgham flame was essentially extinguished by a cocktail of things, including the failure to adapt to defenses beginning to game plan for the hot hand, less-than-optimal practice habits, and the final ingredient which incensed the fan base: Doug Pederson defaulting to Alshon Jeffery once the veteran got healthy.

"It was kind of Alshon came back healthy, and that was his spot," Fulgham said. "I kind of just went back into my role, I guess. ... It was rough. But it’s a team sport. I can’t be selfish. I had to move on, continue practicing, and fill my role."

Those are the remarks many will harp on because Jeffery quickly turned from Super Bowl hero to villain in Philadelphia and no one wanted to see the descending wideout who clearly lost a step he couldn't afford to lose after foot surgery back on the field last season other than Pederson, a coach who was often loyal to a fault when it came to his guys.

Jeffery is still looking for a job while Fulgham's seems secure at the moment.

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Behind the scenes, Pederson would often explain his game plans when it came to the passing part of things starting with 86 [Zach Ertz] and 17 [Jeffery].

The direct causal connection between Jeffery returning and Fulgham being benched is ignoring other factors, however.

After his hot streak, Fulgham still played 88 percent of the offensive snaps at the New York Giants and 96 percent at Cleveland and produced a total of two receptions for 16 yards in those games.

Opposing defensive coordinators had started taking notice and Fulgham and Pederson's offense didn't have the answers.

"I wouldn’t say it was too much of a change, but it was nothing I can’t handle," Fulgham said. "But definitely if they’re shading over to my side, I have to run routes a little differently."

Only after those two performances did Fulgham's playing time start to trend in a negative direction but he still had opportunities without production, 52 percent of the snaps against Seattle and 40 percent at Green Bay.

Travis Fulgham after Wednesday's practice

Travis Fulgham after Wednesday's practice

Later, both Pederson and receivers coach Aaron Moorehead, who has since bridged the Pederson and Nick Sirianni eras, intimated that they weren't seeing the results in practice that they wanted to see.

Fulgham insisted he's become a better practice player since the Pederson critique.

"Yes, absolutely," he said. "Every day in practice, you want to give 100 percent effort, and that’s what I plan to do."

Fulgham is on pace to be penciled in as one of the starting receivers in 11 personnel (three WR looks) in Sirianni's offense and seems to have inched ahead of the slow-starting Jalen Reagor as the projected WR2 after seven days of camp.

"I’m ready," said Fulgham. "If they want to throw me the ball 10 times a game, I’m ready to do that."

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John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.