As I watched the Seahawks pull off a last-second over the Vikings on Sunday Night Football, I was left with a sinking feeling in my stomach.
This guy’s greatness is going to torture Eagles fans for a decade.
In this case, I wasn’t thinking about Russell Wilson — even though he’s got my MVP vote through five weeks. This was about D.K. Metcalf, who isn’t just great but he’s clutch too. On that final drive, Wilson kept going back to his second-year phenom. Wilson threw up a prayer to Metcalf on 4th-and-10 for a 39-yard gain, hit him for a 15-yarder and eventually found him in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown.
“The great ones don’t shy away from big opportunities,” Metcalf said to reporters after his game-winning touchdown. “Great players make great plays in big-time moments. I want to be considered one of the greatest, and in order to do that I’ve got to have a lot of weight on my shoulders in the big-time moments. I want the ball to come to me.”
Metcalf is already one of the most dynamic receivers in the NFL.
And, as we all know, the Eagles could have had him.
So after watching Metcalf’s brilliance, I thought about J.J. Arcega-Whiteside from earlier that afternoon. I thought about how he finally got his first catch of the 2020 season as time ran out in the first half. I thought about how he played just a handful of snaps (eight) and couldn’t get on the field before a fifth-round draft pick or a guy the Eagles brought in during training camp. I thought how good he was this summer at practice and how it just hasn’t translated.
Instead of getting a guy who looks poised to be an All-Pro, the Eagles got the guy who can’t get on the field.
And it’s going to haunt this fanbase for a decade.
This feels like Earl Thomas vs. Brandon Graham all over gain. But I don’t have much confidence that JJAW will ever become BG.
Earlier this season, Reuben Frank listed the 10 biggest Eagles wide receiver blunders in franchise history. Times where the Eagles got a guy instead of the guy. He listed JJAW-Metcalf at No. 10. It has the potential to make a steep climb quickly.
In last year’s draft, the Eagles took Arcega-Whiteside out of Stanford with the 57th overall pick and the Seahawks took Metcalf out of Ole Miss seven picks later at No. 64. It’s worth noting that two other receivers — Parris Campbell at 59 and Andy Isabella at 62 — went between them. It’s also worth noting that eight other receivers not named D.K. Metcalf were drafted before him last year.
But that doesn’t take the sting away.
Because the Eagles wanted a big-bodied receiver who could make spectacular plays and they took the wrong one.
It’s almost painful to put their career stats next to each other:
Metcalf: 80 catches, 1,396 yards, 12 touchdowns
JJAW: 11 catches, 206 yards, 1 touchdown
Metcalf had more yards in his first two games this season than Arcega-Whiteside had his entire rookie season. In the first five games of this season, Metcalf has gone over 90 yards in each of them.
Of the nine receivers taken in the first two rounds last year, Arcega-Whiteside is dead last in catches and eighth out of nine in yards. The only guy behind him in receiving yards is Campbell, who has played in 11 fewer games.
It’s even worse when you look at what they’ve done in Year 2:
Metcalf: 22 catches, 496 yards, 5 touchdowns
JJAW: 1 catch, 37 yards
As Metcalf has taken an even bigger step forward after his impressive rookie season and is turning into an All-Pro before our eyes, Arcega-Whiteside has regressed to the point that I’m wondering if the Eagles even keep him on the roster when DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery and Jalen Reagor return from their injuries.
In fairness to the Eagles’ front office, no one thought JJAW was going to be this bad. Because when you go back and watch him at Stanford, he made plays. And there were some health concerns about Metcalf. But we all knew that Metcalf was a physical freak and had a ton of upside. He was more well-known largely because of the viral shirtless photo that made him look like the Hulk. So when the Eagles took JJAW, fans weren’t as upset as they were hopeful the front office would prove them wrong. And that hasn’t happened.
The Eagles won’t face Metcalf and the Seahawks until Week 12 this season but you remember what happened the last time they played him. In the playoff game in January, Metcalf went off for 7 catches, 160 yards and a touchdown, the biggest game of his career to date.
Just when I thought I had put Metcalf-JJAW out of my mind, I saw this story from my esteemed colleague out in Seattle as I was scrolling through Twitter.
And … he has a point. Wilson is still just 31 and in his prime. These two have plenty of time to form a dynamic duo for years to come.
I’m not quite ready to write off Arcega-Whiteside but it’s hard to have any faith that he’ll turn things around. And as much fun as it is to watch Metcalf play football — he’s worth-the-ticket-price good — every time you do, you’re going to think about what could have been.
That feeling doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon.