After finally turning a corner, Eagles' Shelton Gibson hopes to keep it going

After finally turning a corner, Eagles' Shelton Gibson hopes to keep it going

It was something Eagles wide receiver Shelton Gibson started doing while in college at West Virginia. 

It was a little way for him to keep his focus. 

Gibson would scribble the words "What are you going to do to be great today?" on a notepad and put it on the dashboard of his car to serve as a near-constant reminder. 

"And every time you get into your car, you see it," Gibson said Thursday. "You sit there in the car and you think. Where am I driving to right now? Am I driving to go to the field or am I driving to go see a girl or something?"

The notepad will be back on the dash over the next month and a half before training camp, as the fifth-rounder tries to keep his momentum going in the right direction after a solid last two days of the mandatory minicamp. 

Those last two days were very much needed.

Before the penultimate practice, this spring hadn't exactly gone to plan for Gibson. By his own admission, he was struggling greatly, and it was pretty evident for those who watched him play during OTAs. He dropped pass after pass, wasn't running crisp routes and looked like he just wasn't ready to be in the NFL. 

"It's definitely tough. It's never going to be easy," Gibson said. "This game is about how you can bounce back. There's always a learning curve. Whether it's your first year of high school or your first year in college or in the NFL, you always have a learning curve."

But something happened recently that turned everything around for Gibson — at least he hopes. During Wednesday's practice, he caught a ball in heavy traffic during a team portion of practice. A few minutes later, he made another tough catch. Then Thursday, he didn't seem to be in over his head anymore. 

Gibson said receivers coach Mike Groh gave him a different way to learn his plays. Instead of just learning his "X" receiver position, Groh gave him a new way to write down the plays and learn all the receiver spots, from one side of the field to the other. 

This new method helped Gibson understand the offense better and helped him slow everything down. 

"It's just like, I gotta slow it down," he said. "I always play fast and even when I run out there 100 miles per hour, if I'm doing the wrong assignments, then that's not a good thing. Even with catching the ball, I was so thrown off by 'oh I have to run right here, am I in the right split, running the right depth' and then I just get lost. That's what I was saying, I just have to sit down, slow down and focus." 

Gibson isn't the first player to come to spring practices and struggle and he certainly won't be the last. But as a receiver, his problems were much more noticeable than from players at other positions. 

Head coach Doug Pederson said the best way to help a struggling rookie is to "define a specific role" for that player; let them focus on what they need to do. After that, they can give them specific plays that they know. 

"So with young players," Pederson said, "you can start building their confidence back that way if you just get real specific with them and limit some of the action that they are seeing but also give them plays, again, both sides of the ball that they are comfortable executing."

Gibson admitted that during the OTAs and even the first day of minicamp, he wasn't playing with his typical confidence and it showed on the field. 

"When I first came in here," he said, "I was all over the place, just thinking a lot."

Finally, over the last two days, Gibson started to make some progress, but it came as the entire team is heading out on break. He was invited by Wentz to go to North Dakota with the rest of the skill position players and plans on attending (see story)

Until then, it'll be on Gibson to stay on himself. He said right now is the hardest part.  

"People go home and you lose that waking up every day at 6 a.m. and going to work and training every single day and working on your stuff, your craft," he said. "You go home and see your friends and you want to go see a movie that's coming out tomorrow or anything like that. Or are you going to go home and work? My intention is to go home and work." 

Wentz to host Eagles' skill players in beautiful summer destination of North Dakota

Wentz to host Eagles' skill players in beautiful summer destination of North Dakota

North Dakota is not tropical. Its beaches line lakes instead of the ocean. When vacation destinations are discussed, it does not come to mind for most — unless you're an Eagles skill position player who wants to get closer with the man responsible for giving you the football.

Eagles minicamp ended Thursday, meaning team activities are done until training camp begins July 24. But Carson Wentz said Wednesday he plans to host his offensive targets in his home state at some point in the next five weeks. Before beginning the long grind of a season that they'd like to see last through the end of the calendar year, the retooled Eagles offense will have time to be one with nature and one with each other.

"Beautiful summers up there, believe it or not," Wentz said. "It'll be fun to get together with those guys."

Fun is part of it. It's no secret that the Eagles' quarterback is an outdoorsman, and some fishing and hiking will undoubtedly take place. Jordan Matthews would like to try a bison burger. Rookie wideout Shelton Gibson used to fish a lot. Zach Ertz wasn't thrilled about the travel time from California, but said he will be in Fargo, a city Wentz "raves about," for the first time this summer.

"Wherever there's going to be a quarterback to throw, that's where I'll be," Ertz said.

Nelson Agholor, who seems to have reinvented himself from the drop-prone receiver he was last year (see observations), said he will be there too. Other skill players, like new wideouts Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery, were not available for questions in the locker room Thursday.

Agholor, Ertz and Matthews were part of an Eagles group that went to San Diego with all three of the team's quarterbacks last summer. But even though North Dakota is different from coastal California, the goal of the trip remains the same.

"I think [the help that comes out of these trips is] huge. Not only on the field but off the field, and kind of just growing as well. Building that chemistry," Ertz said. "During these offseason programs and during camp, you never get to really hang out with anyone because everything is so football-focused. But when you get that downtime to relax and just hang out with the guys, I think it's really refreshing."

Coach Doug Pederson has made similar bonding efforts. He took the team paintballing last week, and was happy to see the man at the helm of his offense take charge in forming what he called a "band of brothers." 

"I think it just shows the leadership that Carson has and the type of rapport he has with the receivers and the confidence he has in his guys," Pederson said. "It's something that's exciting as a coach, to know your guys are getting together these next couple weeks and working on their craft."

For someone new to town like Gibson, that last part is key. He hasn't worked with the first team all that much and would've understood if Wentz wanted to spend his time off with other veteran newcomers whom he'll be throwing to more often, such as Smith and Jeffery. But, no, everyone is included.

And Matthews, the longest-tenured receiver on the team, recognized that more time together and more reps together can only be positive.

"Are you gonna win the Super Bowl out there? Probably not. But at the same time, does it hurt? No. It's always good to build that team camaraderie," Matthews said. "... I'm just looking forward to going there and spending time with the guys and when it's time to work, get to work."

Pederson said he was proud of the work that the team has put in, but that the coming five-week gap shouldn't signal an end. Especially for the rookies, who have come in and learned new material, he sees this time off as an opportunity to refresh, but still retain everything that's come their way since signing on with the team.

"I mentioned to them that training camp's going to be tough and physical and I want them to be prepared mentally and physically," Pederson said. "... Again, if they're with teammates, take care of each other, be smart, make good choices and good decisions, and get their minds and body ready for July."

Fantasy or reality? Fantasy football projections for 2017 Eagles

Fantasy or reality? Fantasy football projections for 2017 Eagles

As each day passes, we are not only one day closer to the beginning of the NFL season but also one day closer to your fantasy football draft. 

With some new weapons on offense, will Eagles like Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffery and LeGarrette Blount help you to a championship?

Mike Clay, a fantasy football expert for ESPN who is known for making player and record projections, posted his estimations for the Eagles in 2017 on Twitter. The document gives you a good idea of what one of the industry leaders in fantasy football expects from the Eagles this season.

The 4,260 yards Clay projects for Wentz would easily break Donovan McNabb’s franchise record for passing yards in a season and the 1,049 receiving yards would make Jeffery well worth the investment the team made in him in the offseason. 

If you’re expecting a surprise season from Nelson Agholor, however, maybe you should look away. Clay predicts just four catches and 52 yards for the much-maligned wide receiver.

In addition to some solid individual numbers, Clay’s prediction of 8.8 victories is ahead of what he projects for the Dallas Cowboys (8.6) as the best total in the NFC East.