Expect more playing time for J.J. Arcega-Whiteside as the season goes on.
That’s the word from Doug Pederson, who said he’s happy with JJAW’s performance Sunday and plans to expand his role moving forward, even though last year's second-round pick didn’t have a catch and was never targeted in the Eagles’ 27-17 loss in Washington.
“He continues to be a part of the game plan," Pederson said Friday. “His role will increase I think each and every week. He’s done an outstanding job for us. … He’s always involved, and he’s going to continue to have targets each and every week.”
JJAW played 28 snaps Sunday, fourth most among Eagles receivers behind Jalen Reagor (40), DeSean Jackson (37) and Greg Ward (30).
It’s only one game, but Sunday’s game followed last year’s pattern, which saw JJAW play 486 snaps and catch just 10 passes.
“I did have a conversation and let him know, ‘Hey, look, we hope that’s not the case. You had a great camp, you played well,'" receivers coach Aaron Moorehead said. "He’s done so much better than where he was at last year at this time. Where he was at at the end of the season last year, you watch the tape from some of those games late in the season last year compared to what he’s been doing right now? It’s like night and day. So I did reassure him, ‘Hey, you’re in our plans, you’re in our plans to have targets, but unfortunately last game it didn’t happen,’ so hopefully he gets a chance this week to get some targets and I’m confident that J.J.’s going to go out there and make some plays for our offense.”
Arcega-Whiteside is healthier than last year and looks fitter. He’s spoken about how much more confident he is now than as a rookie.
But in the opener, it didn’t translate into production.
“It was unfortunate, the touchdown to Zach Ertz was actually targeted to J.J. and the defense defended it and we had to go somewhere else with the football,” Pederson said. “That’s what happens in the course of a play and we target certain guys, but if that guy’s not available, we have to reload and go somewhere else with the football.”
Arcega-Whiteside, crossing from right to left in the end zone, appeared to have a step on former teammate Ronald Darby on the Ertz touchdown, but Ertz was wide open. So that was a no-brainer.
Including the Seattle playoff game, JJAW has now played 526 career snaps and has 10 catches for 169 yards and one touchdown.
Among Eagles with more receptions in their first 17 career games are Thomas Tapeh, Greg Lewis, Vyto Kab, Bryce Brown, Chad Hall, Josh Parry and Reno Mahe.
“We’ve asked him to do some things even in the run game as far as a blocker and he’s really taken on that role and even on special teams,” Pederson said.
Arcega-Whiteside didn’t play on special teams Sunday.
Pederson said he’s confident the Eagles will be able to get Arcega-Whiteside going soon.
“He’s approached everything a lot differently this year, which is positive, because he’s prideful and he wants to play,” Pederson said. “So we’re doing everything we can to make sure he’s on the field.”
Here’s a look at all the wide receivers the Eagles have drafted since 1970 to catch fewer passes in their first 17 career games:
9 … Melvin Hoover (sixth round in 1982)
7 … Riley Cooper (fifth round in 2010)
5 … Billy McMullen (third round in 2003)
3 … Shelton Gibson (fifth round in 2017)
1 … Jeff Sydner (sixth round in 1992)
1 … Billy Walik (11th round in 1970).