Who was the Eagles' mystery wide receiver?


OK, let's be honest.

When you saw Carson Wentz complete a deep ball against the Giants down the left sideline to No. 16 early in the fourth quarter Sunday, you had no clue who it was.

You knew it wasn’t Bryce Treggs, Chad Hall or DeAndre Carter. You were pretty sure Mack Hollins hadn’t come back. It definitely wasn’t Seyi Ajirotutu.

So who was it?

Meet Deontay Burnett.

Burnett first set foot in the NovaCare Complex on Dec. 12. He spent 12 days on the practice squad.

After four practices, he was promoted to the active roster on Dec. 24.

And on Sunday  — just 17 days after he first met his teammates and coaches  — he caught that 41-yard pass from Wentz on the first play of the fourth quarter to set up what would ultimately be the winning field goal in a game that sent the Eagles to the playoffs.

It was the longest catch by an Eagles wide receiver since Week 2 and unless you were watching the game with a roster you probably had no idea who caught it.

Burnett’s story isn’t unlike Greg Ward’s or Boston Scott’s.

A young kid just waiting for an opportunity. And being ready when it finally comes.

Just came in and tried to learn as much as I could as fast as I could,” Burnett said. “Learning from guys like Greg Ward, Rob Davis, Josh (Perkins) and J.J. (Arcega-Whiteside). And Nelson (Agholor), he’s been a big part of helping me. Just getting together with Carson, trying to pick his brain about football as much as possible so I’ll be ready when my number’s called. And I got my chance and made the most of it.

Burnett just turned 22 and has already been with the Titans, Jets and 49ers.

He caught 10 passes for 143 yards in brief action with the Jets last year, then spent some time on the 49ers’ practice squad this year before getting cut.

It can’t be easy getting cut three times before your 22nd birthday. But that’s life as an undrafted free agent.

You just got to keep your head up and stay focused and keep your eye on the bigger picture,” he said. “In the back of your mind, you always know you're talented and you always believe in yourself, you’ve just got to keep the faith and keep the vision.

Burnett’s 41-yarder came with the score tied at 17 on an remarkable play by Wentz, who rolled far to his right and then fired an off-balance dart to Burnett, who had Giants corner Antonio Hamilton beat toward the right sideline.

Burnett caught the ball tumbling toward the sideline, and four plays later Jake Elliott hit the 50-yard field goal that gave the Eagles the lead for good.

One thing in this offense is you’re always alive and with a guy like Carson, he’s looking at everyone,” Burnett said. “He has elite arm talent. That was the biggest thing during the week, realizing how fast the ball gets to you. It was a great play by him.

And the longest reception by an Eagles wide receiver since Agholor’s 43-yarder in Atlanta back in Week 2.

By a guy who wasn’t even here three weeks ago.

“We noticed Deontay right away when going against our defense in practice, much like Greg Ward,” Doug Pederson said. “He was making plays, he was showing up.”

Burnett finished with two catches for 48 yards as the Eagles clinched the NFC East title.

Quite an Eagles debut.

On Sunday, he’ll be out there lining up in a playoff game less than a month after becoming an Eagle.

“Just keep going, keep fighting, playing for the team,” he said. “It’s football. I’ve been playing it since I was 6 years old. To be here on the biggest stage of them all? It’s a blessing. I never doubted myself.”

He spent training camp with the Jets and even caught a 27-yard pass in the preseason game against the Eagles, beating Trae Elston. Then a couple months with the 49ers. And now making plays for the Eagles.

On a team filled with improbable stories, Burnett’s may be the most improbable one yet.

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