As Nelson Agholor proved last season, some young players need to bake a little longer in the oven than others before they're ready for the NFL dinner table.
Coming out of Southern Cal, Agholor was considered by scouts to be one of the most "NFL-ready" wide receivers in the 2015 draft. Then he spent his first two seasons with the Eagles looking like a deer in headlights before his 62-catch, eight-touchdown breakout season last year. Moral of the story: don't rush to judgment on players.
Shelton Gibson wasn't a first-round pick like Agholor. He went in the fifth round of last year's draft. Coming out of West Virginia, where Dana Holgorsen's offensive playbook is a fraction of the size of Doug Pederson's, nobody suggested Gibson was "NFL ready.''
The 5-11, 191-pounder was one of the top wideouts in the pass-happy Big 12, catching 17 touchdown passes and averaging an impressive 23 yards per catch in his final two seasons with the Mountaineers.
The Eagles' personnel troika of Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas, and Andy Weidl loved Gibson's college production and NFL potential but understood he was going to be a bit of a project.
And he was.
Gibson played in just five games as a rookie, mostly as a gunner on punt coverage. He played just 17 offensive snaps — 13 in Week 17 against the Cowboys — catching two passes for 11 yards.
"A lot of people said I should've gone back to school for another year,'' Gibson said. "But I didn't care what round I went in. I got with a great organization. I got a year of experience in their system. I have a Super Bowl ring. I'm glad I made the decision I made.
"I'm so much farther ahead right now than I would have been if I stayed in school. I'm still learning stuff. But I know what [offensive coordinator Mike Groh] wants from me.
"I'm getting my toes into the ground. Not hesitating. I know what I'm looking at, what I have to do. I know how I'm supposed to catch the ball. I know if it's going to be a back-shoulder throw or whatever.''
Pederson was pleased with the progress – on the field and in the position room – that he saw from Gibson in the spring OTAs and has been happy with what he's seen from him in the first days of training camp.
"I think he's improved,'' the Eagles coach said. "I think it's just confidence, just playing. He played a special-teams role for us towards the end of last year. It gave him a little bit of confidence.
"Then he really embraced the offseason. He's studied. He's worked hard. He's done a nice job. And he's off to a good start in this year's camp."
Gibson had a couple of nice catches in Sunday's training-camp practice at NovaCare, including a deep ball from Nick Foles that he caught with cornerback Ronald Darby and safety Malcolm Jenkins draped on him.
The Eagles carried six wideouts on their 53-man roster last season and probably will again if Pederson continues to use "11″ personnel — three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back — as much as he did last season.
The Eagles used "11″ personnel on 65.1 percent of their offensive plays last year. That was a dramatic increase over 2016, when they used it 56.3 percent.
Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, free-agent addition Mike Wallace, and Mack Hollins are roster locks.
Gibson is one of several candidates for the fifth or, probably, sixth wide-receiver spots, which also includes veterans Kamar Aiken and Markus Wheaton and Gibson's roommate, Greg Ward.
The 6-2, 216-pound Aiken, who started seven games for the Indianapolis Colts last season, signed with the Eagles right before the start of training camp. He has 143 career receptions in six NFL seasons and caught 75 passes with Baltimore in 2015.
The 5-11, 185-pound Wheaton had 97 catches with the Steelers in 2014 and '15, but he was slowed by injuries the last two years and played just 285 snaps in 2016 and '17.
Gibson's special-teams experience should give him a leg up in a roster battle. He said he is in a much better place mentally than he was last year.
"When I first came in, I had the wrong mindset," he said. "I was trying to impress so much, when I just should've been focusing on playing hard and getting better every day. I wasn't taking it as seriously as I needed to.
"I needed to learn how to be a pro. Just being on the team and seeing how a lot of the older guys conduct themselves taught me a lot."
Gibson and Ward embraced Agholor's work ethic, getting to the NovaCare Complex before 6 every morning during the offseason.
"It would be dark when we'd get here and dark when we'd leave," he said. " But that's just what it takes. And when you see yourself progressing, you say, 'Hey, I'm going to keep doing this. It's paying off.' "
Gibson has seen what hard work did for Agholor, how it helped him overcome his early struggles and doubts and develop into one of the league's top red zone and third-down receivers.
"Nellie asked me, 'Are you doing everything you can to be great?' '' Gibson said. "I hesitated. I said, 'No.' I told myself after that day that I would never do that again. So now, I'm working my tail off and just trying to stay focused on football as much as I can.
"I have so much talent. I got sick of people saying, 'He's got potential.' The truth is, I still haven't done anything. That 'potential' is all on me.
"It's up to me to bring it out. I'm working my behind off, and it's starting to show. Hopefully I can keep it going and just get better, because there's no telling what I can do.''