Manasseh Bailey has a shot at the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad.
The Philadelphia Eagles came into the offseason with the goal of infusing youth and speed at the wide receiver position, and they did just that. They drafted speedsters Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins and traded for former Olympian Marquise Goodwin. It’s safe to say there’s a lot of competition at wideout for the 2020 season.
One of the forgotten names heading into training camp belongs to undrafted free agent Manasseh Bailey, a wide receiver from Morgan State University. He actually started out as a linebacker and transitioned to the wide receiver position in his sophomore season. That turned out to be a wise decision. He led Morgan State in receiving yards for the next three seasons and led the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns in 2017 and 2019.
As a sophomore, Bailey racked up 37 receptions for 610 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games and followed that with 24 receptions for 425 yards and four touchdowns in 11 games as a junior. His 12-game senior season stands out though as he hauled in 54 receptions for 996 yards and ten touchdowns while earning third-team All-MEAC honors. He then posted a 4.39 forty-yard dash time. He isn’t the typical undersized, fast receiver. He’s listed at six-foot-one and weighs in at 195 pounds.
While he didn’t face elite competition too often at an FCS school, he played well against some of the better schools Morgan State faced. Against James Madison, a team that went 14-2 and lost in the FCS championship, Bailey posted four catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns. The next week versus Army, an FBS school, Bailey hauled in six passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns against a secondary that included Eagles undrafted free agent cornerback Elijah Riley. It’ll be tough to translate that to the NFL but it’s encouraging to see that type of production against two of the best teams on the schedule.
Here’s what Philadelphia Eagles fans should expect from Manasseh Bailey in 2020.
With a crowded wide receiver room, Bailey won’t make the 53-man active roster. On top of the four new guys the Birds added, you have to consider that they also have veteran wideout DeSean Jackson, Greg Ward Jr. who produced after his promotion to the active roster, second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who will get a chance to bounce back, and veteran Alshon Jeffery who is going to return to the field at some point during the season. There are also practice squad guys like Deontay Burnett and Robert Davis who have been in the building for a little while and made some plays at the end of 2019.
Bailey does have a decent shot at making the practice squad. Not only does his speed set him apart, but so does his ability to contribute on special teams. First off, he was used as a return man a decent number of times at Morgan State. During his career, he returned 17 kicks for 236 yards which isn’t earth-shattering, but if he can get a few blocks, with his speed, there’s always a chance for a house call. He also returned two punts for 42 yards but one of those returns was a 26-yard touchdown.
He didn’t just show flashes as a return man though. He also blocked three kicks during his career, two of which were in his most recent season. That will definitely give him an extra edge for a practice squad spot. Not to mention, Craig James and Rudy Ford did a lot of the work as gunners on punts last year but with how crowded the secondary is, they might be out of luck when it comes to cuts this season. Maybe Philadelphia will want to keep Bailey around as depth for a role as a gunner and groom him on the practice squad for the next few seasons. It’s safe to say that Eagles fans won’t see him in a regular-season game at the Linc in 2020 though.
What can we expect from Manasseh Bailey during Philadelphia Eagles training camp?
Expect to see Bailey get a lot of snaps if the two scheduled preseason games still happen. Head coach Doug Pederson doesn’t like to risk injuries to starters during the preseason and the shortened schedule means that we probably won’t see any starters until week one. Bailey will get a fair chance to prove why he deserves a spot on the practice squad over the other young receivers.
Expect the Eagles to move him around on special teams and try him out at gunner, punt returner, and kick returner. They’ll definitely need to give him a shot at blocking some punts or field goals too. Also, don’t be surprised if he has a Marken Michel type of play in this year’s preseason with a big catch on a deep pass. The 23-year-old had at least one catch of 70 yards or more in each of his last two seasons, two of which were 87 and 90-yard receptions.
It’s worth noting how the Birds kept Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson when they first arrived due to their ability to play special teams. Bailey is certainly an intriguing player to keep an eye on for the future, especially with the practice squad players that the Eagles have groomed in recent history. His speed alone puts him at an advantage since we saw how much the Eagles valued that this offseason. Bailey is definitely a guy who we won’t see until later down the road though.