While some injuries in the NFL are simply bad omens, others allow unheralded talent to step up and answer the call.
That could be the case with Russell Shepard, an undrafted rookie wide receiver who could be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles to open up the 2013 regular season. With the recent losses of Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn, a door has opened for Shepard that could lead to big things for the first-year pass-catcher.
Shepard first began turning heads during spring practices, when the über-athletic offensive weapon began to put his talents on display for the Eagles coaching staff.
Despite his standing as an undrafted rookie out of LSU, Shepard was consistently catching coaches’ attention and appeared to be a phenomenal fit for new head coach Chip Kelly’s offense. With experience as a receiver, running back, quarterback and return specialist, Shepard has the potential to be an immediate difference-maker.
With Maclin and Benn now out of the picture, Shepard has been filling in during training camp as the Eagles’ No. 2 wide receiver across from star playmaker DeSean Jackson. Even with the recent return of team pariah Riley Cooper, there’s a good chance that the rookie could push him down the Eagles’ receiver depth chart with his versatility and electrifying ability with the ball in his hands.
At this point in his young NFL career, Shepard is still extremely unpolished and will need plenty of extra work between now and the regular season. However, if he can shine during the preseason and show Kelly and Co. that he can create sparks, Shepard could make a serious run at a starting spot with the Eagles.
Rarely do undrafted rookies have prominent roles in the NFL, but Shepard appears to be in the right place at the right time.