As we near the start of the Eagles’ 2020 training camp, we’re taking a closer look at some key position battles to watch this summer. We already took a look at the No. 2 cornerback spot, running back and linebacker.
Up today: Receiver
Names to know
DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Greg Ward Jr., JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Jalen Reagor, Marquise Goodwin, John Hightower, Quez Watkins
What to watch
The wide receiver position was in desperate need of repair after last season and you can argue the Eagles didn’t do enough this offseason to fix it in the short-term. But they did use their first-round pick on a receiver and then drafted two others, so help is on the way … eventually.
The Eagles will probably keep five or six receivers on their 53-man roster and you’ll notice I listed eight players above. Right now, the Eagles have 13 receivers on the 90-man roster but I think five are longer shots to make the team: Manassah Bailey, Deontay Burnett, Robert Davis, Shelton Gibson, Marcus Green.
So we’re going to focus on those top eight.
There are questions hovering over the two returning veterans. Is Jeffery going to be healthy for the start of the season? He had a Lisfranc injury last year and that’s not easy to come back from. Put aside all the perceived locker room issues and Jeffery is still an aging and declining player coming off injury. The Eagles probably can’t rely on him. But they also can’t really get rid of him because of his guaranteed contract so it behooves them to get anything from him they can. And Jackson is still on the team after sharing anti-Semitic messages on Instagram earlier this month. If he’s healthy, he’ll be a big part of the team, but can he stay healthy? We’ll find out soon. He’s a 33-year-old speed receiver so that’s not a given.
Reagor is coming into his rookie season learning the Z position, which will initially mean backing up Jackson. But he has the ability to get involved in other ways, so I expect the coaching staff to figure out plays for him. He should play significant time as a rookie. He also has the ability to take snaps inside.
Ward might never be a star, but he ended up being the Eagles’ most reliable receiver in 2019. At the very least, that should cement his roster spot this year. And he will likely be the slot receiver in 2020.
And even though JJAW is coming off a terrible rookie season, the Eagles aren’t going to give up on the second-round pick that quickly. I think he’s a roster lock in 2020.
So that means the final roster spots could come down to Goodwin and the two later-round rookies. If Goodwin is healthy, he could offer the Eagles some DeSean insurance if Jackson misses any significant time. The Eagles got Goodwin for almost nothing in a trade and then got him to agree to a pay cut, so there’s no guarantee he’s on the roster, but if he’s healthy he has a good shot.
I’m taking a guess but I think Jeffery will start the season on the PUP list. That Lisfranc recovery can take a long time and if he’s not going to be ready, it won’t be worth keeping a roster spot for him. Eventually, he can return.
Because of the number crunch, I think there’s a good shot that the Eagles won’t be able to keep both late-round rookies, so for now I’ll give the edge to the higher draft pick.
So here’s what I have now before camp: DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward, Marquise Goodwin, John Hightower.
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