Around this time last year, then Eagles rookie wide receiver Shelton Gibson was struggling both in training camp and preseason. The fifth-round pick had trouble adjusting to the NFL and drops, which did not help his case to move up Philadelphia’s wide receiver depth chart.
The Eagles’ top three wide receivers at the time were Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor. This meant that there was an opportunity for Gibson to win either the fourth or fifth wide receiver jobs.
However, it was not in the cards for the former West Virginia Mountaineer as his fellow rookie classmate Mack Hollins got the fourth spot and Marcus Johnson won the fifth spot on the depth chart.
Gibson only played in five games in 2017 and did not register a reception until the regular season finale against the Dallas Cowboys.
In that Week 17 matchup, he had two receptions for 11 yards. Outside of his limited offensive production, Gibson also saw time on the field as a gunner on special teams, playing 44 snaps.
It was a disappointing rookie campaign for Shelton Gibson, who should have played a role within the Eagles’ offense.
What was that role you may ask? It was to be another vertical deep threat for head coach Doug Pederson and then offensive coordinator Frank Reich
At West Virginia University, the 5-foot-11 wide receiver was a playmaker on both offense and special teams. He displayed straight-line speed that not many defensive backs could keep up with.
Over his three-year career with the Mountaineers, Gibson had 84 receptions for 1,898 yards and 17 touchdowns. His best season came as a junior in 2016, where he had a career-high 43 receptions and 951 yards for eight touchdowns.
Another underrated aspect of Gibson’s game coming out of college was his ability to track the ball while in the air. If you are going to be a solid NFL wide receiver that depends on his ability to stretch the field, you need to know where the ball is.
Therefore, he could’ve easily pushed veteran Torrey Smith for that role last season.
Fast forward to this summer and Gibson is a totally different player. He is catching everything and making an impact in the preseason.
In two preseason games, he already has seven receptions for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
Against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1, Gibson had a coming out party, blowing by cornerback Dashaun Phillips for a 63-yard touchdown. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld put the football where it needed to be and allowed him to use his speed to make a play.
After that game, Pederson explained what the difference was between this year and last year for Shelton Gibson. He led off with the word confidence.
“The biggest thing is just confidence. He obviously had a chance to play in games last year, special teams. But I think that gives him a confident feel going into the season,” he said. “He did some good things tonight. He’s one of the guys that’s competing and competing for a roster spot.”
The second-year wide receiver agreed with what his head coach said. It is all about having confidence out on the field.
“It’s just confidence, man; it’s just confidence – going out there and playing and having fun instead of just going out there to impress the coaches. No, just go out there and have fun.”
It sure seems like Gibson is having fun on the field and it is showing. The game looks easier for him as he was able to beat another opposing cornerback with his speed in last week’s game against the Patriots.
He also had a nice touchdown reception in the red zone against New England, shaking free veteran defensive back Jason McCourty.
While we can harp on Gibson’s offensive production this preseason all day, his work on special teams has been good too. The 5-foot-11 wideout did an excellent job in the kick return game last Thursday.
Gibson returned four kicks for 121 yards, which averages out to 30.3 yards per return.
If the Eagles get something out of Shelton Gibson on special teams, it will give them a major boost. When you have a player with his speed and playmaking ability, he needs to be on the field often.
Nevertheless, it has been fun to watch the former Mountaineer have success this summer. Let’s just hope he can continue it into the regular season.