The Philadelphia Eagles entered this years training camp in a tremendous situation at wide receiver. They had their starters in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin in place. Behind them was a solid group of receivers, some young and some veteran, to battle for the slot position.
One player who wasn’t an initial thought of making the team, let alone being in the running for a starting job, is LSU product Russell Shepard.
Shepard went undrafted out of LSU, but with Jeremy Maclin and B.J. Cunningham sidelined due to injuries, and Riley Cooper temporarily(?)away from the team to receive counciling, the rookie has been working with the first-team offense as the No. 2 receiver opposite DeSean Jackson. And according to CSNPhilly.com’s Reuben Frank, it’s a position Shepard just might take all the way into the regular season.
“Damaris Johnson has tremendous speed and a year of experience, but he may be a little too small to be out there on a full-time basis with Jackson,” Frank noted. “Arrelious Benn is a former second-round pick and has experience, but he’s battled injuries for a couple years now and has only been through one full practice so far this camp. Jason Avant is a dependable veteran, but at this point in his career is best suited to the slot.
“Right now, it’s Shepard’s job to lose.”
It wasn’t until recently, within the last 5-7 years, that a rookie would step in an immediately become a starter, especially an undrafted rookie. However, the norm around the league is for younger, quicker, and stronger athletes to take the field. And if the right rookie in the right system can make an impact right out of gate.
But an undrafted rookie?
Shepard wasn’t a full-time starter at LSU, and there were swirling questions regarding his mental toughness. But it looks as though Shepard is motivated now and he has enough athleticism to get open and make some plays at the next level. If Shepard is indeed the player who is named the No. 2 receiver, keeping in mind Chip Kelly said the starters can change at any time, it means just one of two things — Shepard is just that much better than anyone expected or the Eagles are in worse shape than anyone expected — even with the injuries.
Eagles Pulse will be keeping a close on on how he performs Friday when the Eagles open their preseason against the New England Patriots. The two teams begin their head-to-head practice on Monday also.