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Here's why wide receiver is no longer a weakness for Eagles, even without DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery

Martin Frank
Delaware News Journal

A position that was considered a major weakness not too long ago – or before Travis Fulgham – is now considered a strength and will likely get even stronger as soon as this Sunday with the possible return of first-round draft pick Jalen Reagor.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson wouldn't say for sure if Reagor will play Sunday when the Eagles will face the Dallas Cowboys.

Reagor was one of five players on injured reserve who had their 21-day practice windows activated, meaning that the Eagles have 21 days to either activate them off IR or leave them there for the rest of the season.

Reagor took part in practice Wednesday, working as a punt returner on special teams, as well as wide receiver drills. 

The others with practice windows are offensive lineman Jason Peters, safety Rudy Ford, linebacker T.J. Edwards and tight end Dallas Goedert.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor (18) in action during an NFL match against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Football Team on Sunday, September 13, 2020 in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Daniel Kucin Jr.)

Reagor played two games before tearing a ligament in his thumb that required surgery. He had 5 catches for 96 yards, including a 55-yard reception, during that time.

"We've seen the explosiveness that he can bring, and how he can change the game in a heartbeat," quarterback Carson Wentz said.

Reagor is working his way back just as DeSean Jackson is going on injured reserve. Jackson is expected to miss several weeks with an ankle injury suffered on a punt return with 2 minutes left in the fourth quarter last Thursday night against the Giants.

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Earlier in the season, Jackson's ankle injury would have been devastating to the Eagles' wide receiver corps.

And it was when Jackson suffered a hamstring injury against the Bengals on Sept. 27. Just like it was last season when Jackson's only full game was the opener, a game in which he had TD receptions of 51 and 53 yards. He ended up having core muscle surgery after playing in three games total.

In addition, Alshon Jeffery has yet to play this season, and likely won't this week now that a calf injury was added after he was recovering from foot surgery last December. Jeffery, who had practiced the previous three-plus weeks, did not practice Wednesday.

In their absence, Fulgham has become the Eagles' go-to receiver.

He ranks second in the NFL with 357 receiving yards since Week 4, when he was promoted from the practice squad to the Eagles active roster. He trails only Robby Anderson of the  Carolina Panthers, who has 362 yards.

Fulgham’s 357 yards are the most by any player in their first four games as an Eagle since Terrell Owens had 364 yards in the 2004 season.

"To me, I never considered (wide receiver) a weakness because I got to see what we had in practice," Wentz said. "I think it was more just having time to work together and building that relationship, building that chemistry. Being able to do that in game situations has been extremely valuable to us at this point."

Rookie John Hightower has also taken advantage of the opportunity with the injuries at wide receiver.

He has had a reception of at least 50 yards in back-to-back games. None of the top wide receivers of all time, including Jerry Rice, Owens, Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald, Julio Jones, ever accomplished that feat as rookies.

"I feel like I’m getting into the groove a little bit with the game speed and all that," Hightower said. "It's definitely been a good experience. Definitely value every play you get. Don’t take anything for granted ... because you never know when you’ll be up."

Pederson said the young players succeeding, particularly at wide receiver, has infused energy into the team.

"I do believe that it lifts everybody," Pederson said. "It's been real exciting to see our young players have such an impact on our first seven games, and really I think, quite frankly, they're going to have an impact the rest of the season, as they get more and more play time."

Where's Peters playing?

Pederson was asked where Peters would play when he returns – at left tackle, where he was since the season began, or right guard, where he was playing during training camp.

Peters, who's 38, was re-signed as a right guard in July to replace Brandon Brooks, but moved back to left tackle when Andre Dillard suffered a season-ending injury on Aug. 27.

But Jordan Mailata replaced Peters when Peters suffered his toe injury and has played well there for the most part.

"Right now, it's a matter of him getting out there and feeling comfortable with the offensive line," Pederson said about Peters. "We haven't (committed) one way or the other, but he can definitely help us at left tackle, and he has the right guard experience. We'll see where he can best help us."

Injury updates

RT Lane Johnson (ankle)  RB Miles Sanders (knee), DT Malik Jackson (quad), OL Jack Driscoll (ankle), LB Nate Gerry (ankle) and CB Craig James (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday.

Pederson said Johnson, Sanders and Jackson are considered day-to-day. 

Johnson has left each of the last three games he has played in (he missed the Oct. 18 game against Baltimore) with either his ankle flaring up, or most recently, his knee.

Pederson said he plans to be careful with his players, considering that the Eagles are off next week, but then added this about Johnson: "If Lane feels comfortable in playing and getting out there, then listen, I'm not going to be the one that stands in his way."

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.