If you're even just a casual football fan, you've probably noticed that the 2020 NFC East division is embattled in a clash for the ages—just with the NFL equivalent of featherweights, not heavyweights. The Philadelphia Eagles currently lead the division at 3-4-1 and they've only reached that record thanks to wins over the one-win New York Giants and the two-win Dallas Cowboys in consecutive weeks. To be fair to the Eagles, they've been banged up this season, shredded by injuries along the offensive line and throughout quarterback Carson Wentz's supporting cast.
If you're even just a casual fantasy football player, you've probably noticed the impact of one of Philadelphia's late additions, wide receiver Travis Fulgham, in recent weeks. In the five games since being added to the Eagles' active roster, Fulgham has logged 29 receptions for 435 yards and four touchdowns—an incredible pace given Fulgham started training camp on the Detroit Lions, was cut and added to the Green Bay Packers and then subsequently cut again just nine days later. Fulgham's torrid stretch came after a stop on the practice squad in Philadelphia but it now seems to be unstoppable given the volume of targets the big-bodied receiver currently commands each game.
After a three-target debut against the San Francisco 49ers (which featured a game-winning touchdown reception late in the game), Fulgham has averaged 10.25 targets per game over the last four weeks and illustrates a clear chemistry with Wentz.
How does this seemingly happen every year?
Each and every year this seems to happen with a talent—someone who crashes the party and becomes a staple of an offense seemingly overnight. This year's version is Fulgham.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound wide receiver was a sixth-round pick by the Detroit Lions in the 2019 NFL Draft after a successful career at Old Dominion. And even as the Eagles aim to get healthier this season, you'll have a hard time convincing me that Fulgham won't continue to be a centerpiece. Yes, Philadelphia has played the last month without a healthy tight end duo of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert—and one game without both of them. Goedert appears on the way now and Ertz is expected back this season, but WR DeSean Jackson has a broken ankle after returning for just a brief moment in time in Week 7 against the New York Giants, leaving a void that must be filled in the Eagles' offense. First-round rookie Jalen Reagor figures to help, but Philadelphia's usage of Reagor has, to date, been fairly one-dimensional. He ran almost exclusively "go's" and "crossers" through his first two games.
Fulgham's usage hasn't been as limited, but the mix of opportunity amid other injuries, a more diverse route tree, and momentum all ignore what is seemingly the most important variable in determining whether or not Fulgham's level of play has peaked or we'll see him continue it throughout the rest of the season: Carson Wentz appears to trust him.
Wentz seems to look to Fulgham when he needs a play—whether that's because of the success the duo had when Fulgham first touched the field against San Francisco or otherwise. Five receptions on third down in a shootout loss to the Steelers, a frantic 4th-and-9 against the Baltimore Ravens in the final minutes amid a 22-point performance in the final quarter, a third-down red-zone target against the Cowboys for another score... Fulgham gets plenty of looks in the red zone and has the catch radius and ball skills to win contested targets like they hoped they'd get from wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside when they drafted him. There's a clear role carved out for this kind of player in the Eagles' offense and ultimately their franchise quarterback has developed that "go up and get it" rapport with Fulgham.
And because of that chemistry and the physical gifts of Fulgham, who is a late bloomer who only really picked up football late after spending his childhood overseas and serving as a three-sport athlete throughout his high school years before walking on at Old Dominion, Wentz's aggressive style as a passer figures to be the primary catalyst for continued high-volume targets for Fulgham throughout the rest of the season.
Wentz has always seemed to vibe with the bigger bodies in the passing game. The Eagles' top three receivers per season by targets since Wentz entered the league are as follows:
2016: Jordan Matthews (117), Zach Ertz (106), Dorial Green-Beckham (74)
2017: Alshon Jeffery (120), Zach Ertz (110), Nelson Agholor (95)
2018: Zach Ertz (156), Nelson Agholor (97), Alshon Jeffery (92)
2019: Zach Ertz (135), Dallas Goedert (87), Alshon Jeffery (73)
2020: Greg Ward (45), Zach Ertz (45), Travis Fulgham (44)
Nelson Agholor and Greg Ward are the only two targets to check in below 6-foot-2—and Ward is in first because he's played in all eight games this season while Fulgham missed the first three games of the season and Ertz has missed two (and counting). Fulgham, at 6-foot-2, is shorter than every other top-three target not named Ward or Agholor since Wentz entered the league. And sure, you'd have merit to point out that Wentz hasn't taken every snap for the Eagles since they drafted him No. 2 overall in 2016—he missed three games in 2017 in the regular season and five games in 2018—but the overriding fact is Wentz, with his aggressiveness as a passer, appears to gravitate toward big-bodied players who can win at the catch point on his high-risk throws.
With so much promise flashing in Fulgham's game right now, it is very difficult to see him getting faded even with the return of Reagor and the improved health of Goedert. And with how much production he's giving the Eagles, there's little reason to think Philadelphia won't welcome him back with a featured role in 2021, too.