Despite Loss, Fulgham's Star Shines Even Brighter
Travis Fulgham barely had time to unpack his suitcase before the Green Bay Packers placed him on waivers midway through training camp.
The Packers, who’d been awarded Fulgham off waivers nine days earlier courtesy of the Detroit Lions, decided to move on from the 2019 sixth-round pick despite a limited sample size.
No stranger to being subjected to the waiver wire, Fulgham didn’t have to wait long before catching on with another team. In the hours that followed, the Old Dominion product learned that the latest team to acquire his services would be the Eagles.
Though he possessed intriguing athletic traits and fulfilled a need as a big-bodied pass target, Fulgham was afforded less than two weeks to dazzle his new coaching staff. It appeared the last grains of sand had inevitably passed through the hourglass for his prospects of latching onto the Eagles’ 53-man roster.
It became evident in this case, albeit partially, that the third time would not be the charm.
While Fulgham found himself on the outside looking in on cut-down day, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound wide receiver was impactful enough in minimal practice reps to resurface on the Eagles' practice squad.
However, just like he did his rookie season in Detroit, Fulgham remained steadfast and determined. When a series of injuries sidelined Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside ahead of last week’s prime-time matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, it fostered the perfect storm.
With few other options, the Eagles elevated Fulgham to join a motley crew of pass-catchers that included Greg Ward, John Hightower, and Deontay Burnett.
Fulgham, who played in three games for Detroit as a rookie, never logged a reception until his debut against the Niners, where his acrobatic 42-yard game-winning touchdown was among his only two receptions but accented his natural body control and ball-tracking ability. Wentz entrusted his young receiver to make a play under a national spotlight, and Fulgham delivered – without much practice.
“Repped that play once,” Wentz said. “It was just cool. We broke the huddle, and I told him to be ready.”
But there was more to the connection than a go-ahead touchdown. You could sense that Fulgham had earned his quarterback’s trust long before that heave just by listening to Wentz talk.
Lauded for his consistency in practice since arriving in late-August, Fulgham’s length and catch radius widens the window for his quarterback. At the same time, his high-point skills and ability to win in contested-catch situations add to his appeal.
Fulgham, who entered last week’s contest with minimal expectations, became an overnight sensation. In one game, the twice-discarded pass-catcher managed to raise the bar for receiver play in Philadelphia.
While Fulgham’s emergence from seemingly nowhere incited intrigue, his follow-up performance against the Steelers on Sunday removed any doubt about his legitimacy.
With Jackson and Jeffery absent again, Wentz targeted Fulgham early and often against the Steelers. When it seemed as if nothing was open downfield, and a drive was inescapably doomed, Fulgham would break free and work back toward the ball for his battered quarterback. When Wentz pulled the trigger and aired it out, Fulgham was often on the receiving end. In all, Fulgham registered 10 receptions for 152 yards and a touchdown on 13 targets – the second-most yards by an Eagles receiver in a game since the start of 2016, Wentz's rookie season.
For perspective, 2019 second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has just 11 catches across 20 career games. Greg Ward entered Sunday’s game leading the Eagles in receiving yards (146). Fulgham has totaled 209 yards and two touchdowns over two games.
Only four receivers on this Eagles roster have earned the trust of Carson Wentz: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Greg Ward, and now Fulgham. The Eagles’ newest weapon joined exclusive company by continually putting himself in a position to make plays due to precise route-running, aggressively attacking the football, and mastering subtleties.
Although the receiver room is expected to get a bit more crowded in the coming weeks, Fulgham’s role should remain unchanged. The second-year receiver has compellingly out-classed his peers, adds a unique dimension, and plays the game with a distinct edge.
Some receivers go through the motions while others are content to reach the pros. Fulgham has approached every rep as if it’s his last because if he’s learned anything during his brief career – circumstances can change overnight. – Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor to InsideTheBirds.com.