By Al Thompson
The Eagles enter week seven with a disappointing 1-4-1 record. In any other division, the Birds would be at or near the basement and deservedly so.
But this is the 2020 NFC East, which is not much different than the 2019 East the Eagles won with a 9-7 record. The Birds even got a home playoff game.
So it should be no surprise that the Eagles are in second place, trailing the Dallas Cowboys by just a half-game after the Cowboys dropped a 38-10 verdict to the Arizona Cardinals.
The Eagles lost on Sunday to the Baltimore Ravens. They came back from a 24-6 deficit with 4:25 left in the third quarter to pull within two points at 30-28 after a Carson Wentz sneak into the end zone from the 1-yad line with 1:55 left in the fourth.
A two-point conversion after the Wentz score could have sent the game into overtime, but the Eagles botched it.
It was the second week in a row Wentz led the Eagles to remarkable comebacks only to fall just short.
It is also a cause for hope since the Birds have played well while missing most of their starters on offense.
Defensive end Brandon Graham, safeties Rodney McLeod and Jalen Mills and Wentz have all said they are not panicking because they have been through this before.
Coach Doug Pederson was asked how important that is when discussing the outlook of the season with the young players.
“It’s extremely huge because sometimes in this league, young players are learning, right?” Pederson said during his video conference Monday. “They are trying to figure this thing out. Every team you play is good. Everybody has good players. It’s a credit to those veteran leaders on the football team. That’s why I make these guys captains every year and put them in leadership roles because they are the guys that I lean on in times like this to rally the troops, right, to bring the young guys along.”
Pederson went on to talk about how players, who come from winning programs, have a hard time adjusting to the fact that you’re going to lose games in the NFL.
“Some of these young guys have had a lot of success, in college, go back to high school, and now they are faced with a little adversity, or maybe it is an injury or something of that nature,” Pederson said. “This is where veteran players who have been through it, and as recently as the last couple of seasons with us, know how to deal with it, know how to handle it and know how to pull these guys along. I think it’s valuable to have the experience that our guys have had. Listen, nobody wants to go through a season with the amount of injuries that have piled up on us right now. But you saw it yesterday. There’s no quit in these guys. There’s always a constant battle till the end, and that’s encouraging moving forward.”
One of those young players is wide receiver Travis Fulgham, a second-year player out of Old Dominion.
Fulgham played five seasons for the Monarchs, redshirting his freshman season. Although he initially joined the team as a walk-on, he earned a scholarship by the end of fall camp during his first year. As a senior, Fulgham led Conference USA with 1,083 receiving yards and 17.2 yards per catch and was named second team All-Conference USA.
Fulgham did not have much team success at Old Dominion. In his four seasons there, the Monarchs posted a 22-25 overall record with just one winning season.
Fulgham was drafted in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions.
Fulgham bounced around the team’s practice squad and active roster and did not catch a pass in the limited time he was active. He was released by the Lions on Aug. 9.
Fulgham was claimed off waivers by the Green Bay Packers. He was waived on Aug. 19.
The Eagles picked him up off waivers on Aug. 20. From the day he arrived, Fulgham has been impressive in practice.
After injuries to first-round pick Jalen Reagor and DeSean Jackson and the continued disappointment of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Fulgham got his chance against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football. He caught two passes that night, including a Pro Bowl-caliber 42-yard touchdown pass that was critical in the Eagles’ 25-20 victory.
Fulgham followed up that game with 10 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown in a 38–29 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The next week, against the Ravens, Fulgham posted six receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Fulgham was asked about playing well in back-to-back games and what that does for his confidence.
“It means a lot that Carson trusts me now and we continue to build on it,” Fulgham said. “I just wish I could’ve made more plays for the team, and we just need to do more to get the win.”
Wentz was asked if he now has a real connection with Fulgham, whose touchdown against the Ravens was a Hail Mary play in the end zone that he just went up and fought for.
“Absolutely. He’s a baller,” Wentz said. “I said last week, I see it in practice. It’s good to just see these guys get their chance and make plays. … There was zero blitz a handful of times today and I just looked to him.”
The Eagles have a stretch of games over the next five weeks that include two games against the Giants and matchups against the slumping Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns.
The Birds could make a run. That run will depend on how well the Wentz-Fulgham connection continues to grow. ••
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii