PHILADELPHIA - It's no secret that the Eagles would have preferred to play more 11 personnel (three receivers) under Doug Pederson but the group as a whole just didn't warrant it, especially with the presence of both Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert at tight end and the injury issues to DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery during the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
With a new coaching staff in place, the addition of first-round pick DeVonta Smith, the third premium pick in three years at wideout by the Eagles, along with the expected trade or release of Ertz the goal again remains the same - get more speed on the field to stress opposing defenses.
The presence of Smith, who is coming off a national championship and a Heisman Trophy-winning performance during his final season at Alabama, figures to make the goal a little easier with the domino effect of Jalen Reagor, the 2020 first-round pick, slotting in as an outside WR in 12 personnel and then either moving into the slot or staying outside in 11.
The preference would be moving Reagor inside to the slot with either Travis Fulgham or J.J. Arcega-Whiteside filling the No. 3 role. If the larger receivers falter the Eagles will go back to Greg Ward, who is strictly a slot WR from an efficacy standpoint.
The WR3 role will be an open competition come August and others like Quez Watkins and John Hightower will have opportunities as well but you have to start somewhere.
In the OTAs open to the media, it seemed like Fulgham was where the Eagles' began and the others will be trying to prove they are better options than the lengthy 6-foot-2, waiver-wire pickup who looked like one of the best WRs in the NFL for a month last season before regressing back into the pumpkin of well, a waiver-wire pickup.
"The four weeks showed me a lot, it showed everybody a lot," WR coach Aaron Moorehead said.
From Fulgham's coming-out party on Oct. 11 in Pittsburgh until Nov. 1, the Old Dominion product piled up 27 receptions on 41 targets for 378 yards and three touchdowns. Over a full 16-game season that would amount to 108 catches for 1,512 yards and 12 TDs, ridiculous production for an organization that hasn't mustered even a 600-yard receiver since 2018.
From Fulgham's four-week run to the end of the season, however, the numbers were 9 receptions in 23 targets for 104 yards and no TDs. His playing time also plummeted.
“With that [production], it also comes with the responsibility of understanding that defenses will start scheming towards you to stop you," Moorehead said.
The Steelers certainly weren't game-planning for Fulgham and by Nov. 15 the New York Giants certainty were with James Bradberry and Co. shutting Fulgham down to one reception in five targets.
"For a young player, it took a little bit for him to understand that sometimes," said Moorehead. "Then, he got nicked up a little bit and didn’t complain, but he had to play through it. As the season got going, it wore on him a little bit.”
The adjustments made toward Fulgham will have to be adjusted. The mere presence of Smith should make things easier because that's the player - even though he's a rookie - that the Bradberrys of the world will be tasked with stopping first.
Moorehead believes Fulgham can be the guy who showed those serious playmaking skills over that one month for good reason.
"The guy has it," said the WR coach. "We all saw it."
All NFL players have talent, however. Consistency is generally what sets the starters apart.
"I’m looking forward to seeing Travis and what he does this year," said Moorehead. "I think the guy, as you saw him progress last year, he kind of hit a little bit of a rut, got out of it. That was the thing to me that was so impressive … He started understanding what the responsibility was, and what the expectation was."
Moving forward the teacher wants the student to take the challenge and define himself.
"There are plenty of players in this league who have played four weeks and gone really well, and you don’t hear from them for a while," said Moorehead. "Is that what’s going to define you? Or … is it going to be a little blip?
"I think that if Travis can continue to grow physically, mentally, and all those things, he can get himself to be that guy. If he does, to be honest, our receiving corps can be really, really, really good."
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 email@example.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.